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Milady of York

The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor

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Wonderful recap, Doglover! Sandor's complex characterisation is definitely what stands out in considering his AGOT introduction and portrayal, and sets up a very intriguing conflict to play out in A Clash of Kings regarding his role in the Lannister court. That his loyalty is firmly shifted to Sansa by the end of the book is not an insignificant occurrence and reveals that despite the attitude he projects in working for the Lannisters, Sandor is a man who holds a fundamental sense of right and wrong and is capable of a great depth of feeling. A critical point to highlight from his development in this book is that the process of Sandor's healing from the trauma inflicted by his brother is underway. Many readers still imagine him participating in a "Cleganebowl" style act of vengeance against Gregor, yet from very early on, Martin establishes that Sandor's fear/hatred of Gregor does not manifest in the traditional form of actively seeking to kill his brother, but rather has resulted in a self alienating and detrimental outlook on the world. To begin to heal from this, Sandor needed to bear witness to his trauma, and, critically, to receive the benefit of an empathetic listener in Sansa Stark. That the entire court knows of his "desire" to kill Gregor, but only one person truly knows the reason why, illustrates how this was a fairly toxic environment for Sandor when it comes to his emotional development and well-being up to the point where he fosters a connection with Sansa.


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Great recap Doglover!





Sandor, completely lacking in ambition, has contemplated owning his own lands, but in relation to having a woman and family, which would give such holdings meaning. This is paralleled with Jaime’s own lack of ambition, giving up claim to Casterly Rock for Cersei.




I thought after all this time I was familiar with almost everything concerning Sandor, but this reread has really highlighted a couple of things that weren't that clear before.



The first is, I think, how early on we can see the first paralells between Jaime's and Sandor's story arcs. Both with their "beastliness", their Lannister alignment and also that they have this curious lack of ambition with regards to power and landowning. Jaime values Cersei over Casterly Rock, or at least Casterly Rock itself loses its value when it comes without Cersei. Similarly, we see Sandor link an estate with a wife and family. (If I may speculate for a moment, I wonder if these sentiments are symptoms of a wish for a home and a family since both Jaime and Sandor are essentially robbed of a healthy and loving normal family life as children. Joanna dies early on leaving only wroth Tywin behind, while Sandor's childhood is marred by Gregor the Monster). We also have the early paralell of Jaime and Sandor both being set up as child murderers (Bran and Mycah respectively) and on both occasions it was with Cersei and Joffrey involved as the beneficiaries of these hideous actions, making them all the worse.



The second is how early and thoroughly the criticism of knighthood is introduced in almost every scene Sandor is involved in. This is also another theme that bleeds over heavily into Jaime's and Brienne's arcs and I think these three characters are the ones mostly centred around the problem with knighthood as an institution and also what war and violence wreak on people and the very fabric of society. In general, we see issues with knighthood as an ideal being worthless when the leadership of the country diverge from these ideals. As illustrated by several posts on the Kingsguard, they may essentially end up guarding a monster and enabling monstrous deeds, exemplified by the raping of Rhaella and the execution of Rickard and Brandon Stark, instead of adhering to the ideals of knighthood. It becomes an adhering to the letter of the law instead of the spirit of the law, in a way. Then if we add to that the culture of silence brashcandy pointed out, then we end up with disgruntled non-knights like Sandor, drunken sods like Ser Dontos, worthless toads like Ser Boros Blount and knightly monsters like Gregor Clegane. One would think out of these four, Sandor would be the more worthy, yet he is the only non-knight among them. This illustrates that knighthood is not bestowed based on worthiness, or how well the knights adhere to the ideals of knighthood, but simply because they can smack something fairly hard with a sword and not fall off their horse while doing so.



It also gets contrasted with Bran's and Maester Luwin's conversation regarding northerners generally not being knights and that a knighthood on its own says nothing about a man's worth, nor about his skill in a fight.




I also really loved this little tidbit here which I had completely forgotten about, which I believe Milady pointed out:







The a dog mimics its master motif is presented very early in AGOT, funnily enough by Sansa herself in her first chapter, where she says:


“Sansa couldn’t help but smile a little. The kennelmaster once told her that an animal takes after its master. She gave Lady a quick little hug. Lady licked her cheek. Sansa giggled.”


So the little lady got her first lesson on dogs from Winterfell's kennelmaster, Farlen, no less. She'll later apply this knowledge to a certain huge hound, most notably in the scene on Maegor's rooftop, where she'll compare Sandor to a dog that'll bite anyone who tries to pet him but will loyally defend his masters from any threat. I think that's a really accurate and very poignant way of summing up his service with his lion masters, and also puts into perspective why he starts to break away once the collision of core values with them aligns with the appearance of someone willing to bring forth his better side.



Always a treat to find these little things hidden away.


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What an excellent recap you wrote, DogLover! I pretty much agree with the thoughts expressed by the two ladies above me on how the reread has brought back a few details long forgotten as well as made us re-examine old ones. And it’s a nice touch to wrap up the exploration of Sandor’s introduction and onset of his transformative journey with a mention of where the inspiration for him originated from: Bretan.





And LongRider notes “During the walk back from the tourney, Sandor tells Sansa the story of his burns. It's noted during the telling how dark it is and how, except when he holds the torch near his face he can't be seen. It's been mentioned by fans before that Sandor is many times seen coming from the darkness into the light and that motif may have it's start here.”





Going back to the coming out from the darkness motif, the scene where he tells Sansa how he got his burns isn't the start but the second instance. The first is earlier in the same chapter, AGOT Sansa II, wherein we find this passage:



Sandor Clegane seemed to take form out of the night, so quickly did he appear. He had exchanged his armor for a red woollen tunic with a leather dog’s head sewn on the front. The light of the torches made his burned face shine a dull red. “Yes, Your Grace?” he said.



For a man of his height and build, he is lightning fast, so no wonder he can startle anyone out of their skin with this cat-quick way of moving. I bring this up because of a detail that popped up during the reread: that this lurching into/out of shadows is a common literary technique used for atmospheric and symbolical purposes, and in Sandor’s arc it’s not a random pattern but seems to have been built up round his interactions with Sansa specifically, and to an extent is linked to secrets, his and hers. In the book we’ve just finished, there are two scenes as mentioned where this pattern happens and in both cases it’s Sansa who is actor and narrator, and in the book we’re going to start now, there’s three instances: at the Serpentine, on Maegor’s rooftop and in her bedchambers. Again, we shall see that in all three there’s secrets shared, it’s always she who sees him materialising out of nowhere in the dark, as if she functioned as the cause and reason to bring him out from the shadows where he dwells anonymously comfortable and ignored by all into the light, to open up and speak, “show himself/his face” in other words, which is significant because this device is often found in Gothic and Gothic-inspired plotlines to signify isolation (being in the shadows), so stepping out of it into the light would metaphorically indicate putting an end to that. Another quite intriguing interpretation that could also apply here is the Jungian one that ascribes to shadows the meaning of destructiveness or destructive tendencies as well as unrealised or stunted potential, in which case coming out of the dark indicates a shift from such paths.




The first is, I think, how early on we can see the first paralells between Jaime's and Sandor's story arcs. Both with their "beastliness", their Lannister alignment and also that they have this curious lack of ambition with regards to power and landowning. Jaime values Cersei over Casterly Rock, or at least Casterly Rock itself loses its value when it comes without Cersei. Similarly, we see Sandor link an estate with a wife and family. (If I may speculate for a moment, I wonder if these sentiments are symptoms of a wish for a home and a family since both Jaime and Sandor are essentially robbed of a healthy and loving normal family life as children. Joanna dies early on leaving only wroth Tywin behind, while Sandor's childhood is marred by Gregor the Monster). We also have the early paralell of Jaime and Sandor both being set up as child murderers (Bran and Mycah respectively) and on both occasions it was with Cersei and Joffrey involved as the beneficiaries of these hideous actions, making them all the worse.



Thought-provoking observation, Lyanna. It's indeed quite plausible that these experiences informed their posterior outlook in adulthood, especially in the case of Sandor. Lady Joanna died early, but whilst she lived seems to have been a loving mother to her twins, and after her departure, Jaime still had his sister to console each other, to grieve and pray together for their mother in the sept (as he recalls once). And also, there was Aunt Genna, who appears to have filled their mother's place at least for a time to judge by Jaime and Cersei's childhood recollections of her, like when Genna tried to calm down Cersei over the Rhaegar failed promise and what she tells Jaime in AFFC. So, he did experience being loved by women, both maternally, fraternally, and romantically/physically, though the latter is all kinds of dysfunctional in his case. For Sandor, the tune is bleaker: no mother from very early, orphaned earlier than the Lannisters, we know nothing of his sister and how long she lived, no mentions of an auntie to act as surrogate and pinch his cheeks, etc. So if one sort of womanly love he has experienced, it's the merely physical one.


Also, now that we are moving onto the next book, I've updated the chapter listing in the OP with the ACOK chapters to read along.

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Thank you, ladies. :)





Wonderful recap, Doglover! Sandor's complex characterisation is definitely what stands out in considering his AGOT introduction and portrayal, and sets up a very intriguing conflict to play out in A Clash of Kings regarding his role in the Lannister court. That his loyalty is firmly shifted to Sansa by the end of the book is not an insignificant occurrence and reveals that despite the attitude he projects in working for the Lannisters, Sandor is a man who holds a fundamental sense of right and wrong and is capable of a great depth of feeling. A critical point to highlight from his development in this book is that the process of Sandor's healing from the trauma inflicted by his brother is underway. Many readers still imagine him participating in a "Cleganebowl" style act of vengeance against Gregor, yet from very early on, Martin establishes that Sandor's fear/hatred of Gregor does not manifest in the traditional form of actively seeking to kill his brother, but rather has resulted in a self alienating and detrimental outlook on the world. To begin to heal from this, Sandor needed to bear witness to his trauma, and, critically, to receive the benefit of an empathetic listener in Sansa Stark. That the entire court knows of his "desire" to kill Gregor, but only one person truly knows the reason why, illustrates how this was a fairly toxic environment for Sandor when it comes to his emotional development and well-being up to the point where he fosters a connection with Sansa.





I'm glad you brought this up, brash, as the justice vs. vengeance motif is also significant to Sandor's narrative. If Cleganebowl were ever to happen, it would certainly be a regression in Sandor's arc and an impediment to the healing process. And as you noted earlier, when Ned sentences Gregor to death, he's careful to send men who don't have a personal axe to grind with Gregor, as Loras Tyrell does. Both Robert and Petyr assume that Sandor would feel deprived of the opportunity to seek vengeance by killing Gregor himself, even finding it a source of amusement, underscoring their indifference and the dysfunctional relationship between Sandor and those he serves. However, since Ned is carrying out justice, something Sandor was robbed of, the sentence certainly must have resonated with him.




Ragnorak compared the Southron and Northern approaches to carrying out justice, the south relying on an executioner, and the north following the First Men tradition with the one who passes the sentence also swings the sword. Cersei passed the sentence on Mycah, except rather than justice, it was actually vengeance. Sandor is assigned the role of executioner, a striking example of the toxic relationship so detrimental to Sandor's psyche. This act is something Sandor will also have to come to terms with.


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A CLASH OF KINGS

Summary

Sandor I: The King's NameDay Tourney

· Sansa I

· Tyrion I

· Arya IV

Sandor is on duty during Joffrey’s name day tourney – a rather different event than the previous one Sansa attended:

The last tourney had been different, Sansa reflected. King Robert had staged it in her father’s honor. High lords and fabled champions had come from all over the realm to compete, and the whole city had turned out to watch. She remembered the splendor of it: the field of pavilions along the river with a knight’s shield hung before each door, the long rows of silken pennants waving in the wind, the gleam of sunlight on bright steel and gilded spurs. The days had rung to the sounds of trumpets and pounding hooves, and the nights had been full of feasts and song. Those had been the most magical days of her life, but they seemed a memory from another age now. Robert Baratheon was dead, and her father as well, beheaded for a traitor on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor. Now there were three kings in the land, and war raged beyond the Trident while the city filled with desperate men. Small wonder that they had to hold Joff’s tournament behind the thick stone walls of the Red Keep.

Unlike the previous tourney, the Hound has no intention of competing, and remains on guard for any disturbances that might threaten the king’s life. Despite his lack of participation, Sandor is still called into action when he supports Sansa’s lie about the reason why the king should not have Dontos executed. Right after Tommen jousts, Tyrion and his Vale clansmen, assorted freeriders, and small regiment of Lannister soldiers arrive in the city. There we see the enmity between Sandor and the Imp reigniting quickly, as they exchange barbs:

The dwarf went to one knee before the king. “Your Grace.”
“You,” Joffrey said.
“Me,” the Imp agreed, “although a more courteous greeting might be in order, for an uncle and an elder.”
“They said you were dead,” the Hound said.
The little man gave the big one a look. One of his eyes was green, one was black, and both were cool. “I was speaking to the king, not to his cur.”

Tyrion tells Joffrey that he has brought him “his wits” to be of help in the city, and Sandor makes one final warning to the dwarf before leaving:

Sandor Clegane lingered behind a moment. “I’d guard that tongue of yours, little man,” he warned, before he strode off after his liege.

After offering his condolences to Sansa and promising he is only a little lion who will not savage her, Tyrion proceeds to the small council where he meets with Cersei and is informed about the events in the court concerning the Starks and changes to the small council and Kingsguard.

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Analysis

The Tournament of Gnats

By the time Joffrey’s miserable and mediocre name-day tourney is finished, Sansa has cause to privately lament that she is not betrothed to the kindly Prince Tommen, who is nothing like his tyrannical older brother and king. Despite the fact that we are not privy to the Hound’s POV, we can safely wager that his feelings are much the same on the matter in preferring to serve and protect a king who holds the qualities he observes in Tommen during the tourney. This consensus, although not allowed to be mutually expressed to one another, is revealed in the actions and statements Sandor and Sansa both have to make to try to temper Joff’s excesses; and together they emerge as a covert team or a sort of co-parenting unit, one that highlights two aspects of the fatherhood theme in relation to Sandor: the position he currently holds as Joff’s primary role model and protector/supervisor in contrast to the capacity he possesses to occupy a functional and supportive role in a child’s life.

To explore the first feature of the theme, Tyrion’s arrival to the city and his subsequent conversation with Cersei shines light on how the Hound came to be named to the Kingsguard, and in particular Joffrey’s feelings about his sworn shield:

“His Grace has a unique way of winning the hearts of his subjects,” Tyrion said with a crooked smile. “Was it Joffrey’s wish to dismiss Ser Barristan Selmy from his Kingsguard too?”
Cersei sighed. “Joff wanted someone to blame for Robert’s death. Varys suggested Ser Barristan. Why not? It gave Jaime command of the Kingsguard and a seat on the small council, and allowed Joff to throw a bone to his dog. He is very fond of Sandor Clegane. We were prepared to offer Selmy some land and a towerhouse, more than the useless old fool deserved.”

There may have been larger game playing tactics along with some nepotism thrown in for good measure on Cersei’s end, but it was fundamentally Joffrey’s desire to see his “dog” elevated that determines Sandor’s appointment to the fabled Kingsguard. Joffrey, in all his immature, twisted, power-drunk glory, wanted to see the Hound attain the white cloak. From the moment we are introduced to them at Winterfell, the Hound is a notable role model in Joff’s life: ostensibly challenging Ser Rodrik on his behalf, neutralising his annoyance about Summer’s howling, and making jokes against Tyrion to his nephew’s amusement. Factor in the neglect and strained relationship that is visible between Robert and Joffrey and it’s evident that the Hound acted as a surrogate father to Joffrey, earning the boy’s admiration the longer he spent in his company. At the feast during the Hand’s tourney, Joff shows his confidence in the Hound when questioned by Sansa:

“Ser Loras is a true knight. Do you think he will win tomorrow, my lord?”

“No,” Joffrey said. “My dog will do for him, or perhaps my uncle Jaime. And in a few years, when I am old enough to enter the lists, I shall do for them all.”

Fast forward to Joffrey’s name-day tourney, and the Hound is now occupying a very different position from the one he played in the event to honour Ned Stark. He won the championship’s honour on that day after spectacular displays of skill and chivalry – unhorsing Jaime Lannister and saving Loras Tyrell’s life – and even enjoyed the love of the commons for the first time in his life. At the name-day tourney he is now charged with guarding Joffrey in a humble box erected within the walls of the Red Keep, and more to the point, his relationship with the boy has undergone a significant structural change, as the once crown-prince at the Hand’s tourney is now king, with all the reckless power and privilege it affords to abuse others, while Sandor is no longer his “mother’s dog, in truth” but one of the KG expected to be completely loyal to the king and obey his commands.

This compulsion and the looming conflict it presents to the Hound’s service was previewed in Sansa’s closing chapter of AGOT, when Sandor gives her advice on how to mitigate Joff’s abuses, and later commits high treason by covering up the girl’s murderous intent atop the battlements. By the end of AGOT, Sandor is no longer invested in acting as Joff’s surrogate father, as he even denies the boy the petty thrill of a joke at Robb Stark’s expense. However, this significant transferal of Sandor’s loyalty is yet unknown and Joff’s identification and idealisation of the Hound continues with our first sign of it coming from Sansa’s observation when she is being escorted by Ser Arys Oakheart to join the king’s celebrations:

“Shall we go?” Ser Arys offered his arm and she let him lead her from her chamber. If she must have one of the Kingsguard dogging her steps, Sansa preferred that it be him. Ser Boros was short-tempered, Ser Meryn cold, and Ser Mandon’s strange dead eyes made her uneasy, while Ser Preston treated her like a lackwit child. Arys Oakheart was courteous, and would talk to her cordially. Once he even objected when Joffrey commanded him to hit her. He did hit her in the end, but not hard as Ser Meryn or Ser Boros might have, and at least he had argued. The others obeyed without question . . . except for the Hound, but Joff never asked the Hound to punish her. He used the other five for that.

As their interaction during the tourney bears out, Joffrey’s relationship with the Hound is characterised by the following features:

1. a twisted pride in having a fearsome warrior like the Hound as his protector:

The king laughed. “My dog has a fierce bark. Perhaps I should command him to fight the day’s champion. To the death.” Joffrey was fond of making men fight to the death.

2. Looking to Sandor for validation of his own abilities:

“My lady mother said it was not fitting, since the tourney is in my honor. Otherwise I would have been champion. Isn’t that so, dog?”

3. An intrinsic valuing of Sandor’s judgment and opinion:

As a brace of Lannister guardsmen led him off, the master of revels approached the box. “Your Grace,” he said, “shall I summon a new challenger for Brune, or proceed with the next tilt?”

“Neither. These are gnats, not knights. I’d have them all put to death, only it’s my name day. The tourney is done. Get them all out of my sight.”

What this all suggests, and to answer the crucial question of why Joffrey does not ask Sandor to hit Sansa, is that he is attempting to impress the Hound with the abusive power he can wield over his betrothed; in other words, to prove what he considers is an integral part of his manhood – dominating women - to his idealised father figure. Joff does not see the Hound as just another KG member, but as an authority figure whose approval he seeks, therefore asking Sandor to beat Sansa would defeat the psychological pleasure he gains if he were to ask Sandor to perform as the rest of his guards do.

To further explicate this point, there is Sansa’s thought that she feels safer when Cersei is around to help restrain her son, revealing the one person at this stage besides the Hound who can effect some control and regulation over Joffrey’s behaviour. If Joff is locked in a dysfunctional endeavour to impress his father figure via abusive displays of power, his relationship to his mother is even more problematic, as she is the one who blocks his aspirations towards manhood, reinforcing the insecure and cowardly aspects of his identity out of love and her obsessive fears over his safety. Fearing his mother’s condemnation on the one hand, and constantly seeking approval from designated father figures (Robert, Sandor) on the other, Joff’s warped psychology comes into being.

As the name-day tourney progresses, no one is more attuned to signs of Joff’s changing moods than Sansa and the man who has equipped her with vital knowledge of how to protect herself against the king. Sansa’s application of the Hound’s advice is evident from the opening lines of this chapter, when her careful attire and polite speech is successful in placating the king:

Joffrey waved a curt dismissal while he studied Sansa from head to heels. “I’m pleased you wore my stones.”
So the king had decided to play the gallant today. Sansa was relieved. “I thank you for them . . . and for your tender words. I pray you a lucky name day, Your Grace.”
“Sit,” Joff commanded, gesturing her to the empty seat beside his own.

We are afforded a close description of Sandor’s appearance, with a significant observation on Sansa’s part:

In the back of the royal box, Sandor Clegane stood at guard, his hands resting on his swordbelt. The white cloak of the Kingsguard was draped over his broad shoulders and fastened with a jeweled brooch, the snowy cloth looking somehow unnatural against his brown roughspun tunic and studded leather jerkin. “Lady Sansa,” the Hound announced curtly when he saw her. His voice was as rough as the sound of a saw on wood. The burn scars on his face and throat made one side of his mouth twitch when he spoke.

The suggestion, of course, is that the KG cloak is at odds with Sandor’s identity, and emphasises that he too, like Sansa, is not exempt from wearing certain apparel which has more to do with performing a prescribed role for Joffrey, rather than indicative of any genuine loyalty or affection. The qualities that distinguish Sandor’s masculinity are not vested in knighthood or the donning of a white cloak, but rather in his warrior prowess and the constructive fathering potential he displays towards Tommen in conjunction with Sansa’s mothering qualities that form a central component of her feminine attributes.

When Sansa asks whether or not he intends to compete during the tourney, Sandor’s reply is frank, showing that he values his skills and takes his participation in such events seriously:

He had been the champion in her father’s tourney, Sansa remembered. “Will you joust today, my lord?” she asked him.
Clegane’s voice was thick with contempt. “Wouldn’t be worth the bother of arming myself. This is a tournament of gnats.”

The Hound’s designation soon proves correct, first to Joff’s amusement and then increasing agitation as one competitor after the next performs poorly and the king takes it as a personal insult. Sandor attempts to ameliorate Joff’s growing aggravation by being forthright about the competition:

“I warned you,” said the Hound. “Gnats.”

The incident with Dontos proves to the final straw for Joffrey, however, and Sansa’s challenge to his ruling enrages him even further. It is here that Sandor is faced with a choice: he could let Sansa deal with the consequences of her instinctive defence of the hapless knight, after all, he’s a man who has no respect for the institution, and certainly no reason to care what happens to a perpetual drunkard like Dontos; or, he could summon his most unaffected tone, and backup the lie she tells Joffrey in desperation:

“You’re lying,” Joffrey said. “I ought to drown you with him, if you care for him so much.”
“I don’t care for him, Your Grace.” The words tumbled out desperately. “Drown him or have his head off, only . . . kill him on the morrow, if you like, but please . . . not today, not on your name day. I couldn’t bear for you to have ill luck . . . terrible luck, even for kings, the singers all say so . . .”
Joffrey scowled. He knew she was lying, she could see it. He would make her bleed for this.
“The girl speaks truly,” the Hound rasped. “What a man sows on his name day, he reaps throughout the year.” His voice was flat, as if he did not care a whit whether the king believed him or no. Could it be true? Sansa had not known. It was just something she’d said, desperate to avoid punishment.

The uttering of this direct lie to the king in Sansa’s defence cements the Hound’s shifting loyalties, and provides us with yet another example of the non-knight acting in the true spirit of chivalry at a tourney, only this time in word, not deed. In doing so, he also provides critical assistance to Sansa in helping her to save Ser Dontos, as disarming Joff’s suspicion allows her to make the follow-up recommendation to employ Dontos as a court fool rather than a knight.

If the collaboration between the Hound and Sansa in the name-day lie was more haphazard and accidental , their mutual support of Tommen’s jousting comes across as a lot more deliberate; not in the sense of it being planned, but in both of them being on the same “wavelength” regarding their embodiment of parental qualities. Sandor makes the first intervention in the children’s dispute over Tommen’s right to joust when he supports Myrcella’s reasoning:

“We’re children,” Myrcella declared haughtily. “We’re supposed to be childish.”
The Hound laughed. “She has you there.”
Joffrey was beaten. “Very well. Even my brother couldn’t tilt any worse than these others. Master, bring out the quintain, Tommen wants to be a gnat.”

Knowing all too well the trials of having a tyrannical older brother to contend with, Sandor is placed in an empathetic relation to Tommen’s plight. To make the parallel even more apparent, Tommen’s fall off his horse and Joff laughing the “longest and loudest” recalls the scene at the Hand’s tourney when Sandor enjoyed his brother’s (deserved) humiliation by the Knight of Flowers. In contrast, Joffrey’s laughter at Tommen is wholly spiteful and mean-spirited, and while Sansa boldly challenges the king’s reaction, Sandor reveals his admiration for the boy’s determination:

Sansa found herself possessed of a queer giddy courage. “You should go with her,” she told the king. “Your brother might be hurt.”
Joffrey shrugged. “What if he is?”
“You should help him up and tell him how well he rode.” Sansa could not seem to stop herself.
“He got knocked off his horse and fell in the dirt,” the king pointed out. “That’s not riding well.”
“Look,” the Hound interrupted. “The boy has courage. He’s going to try again.”

According to Chava Simon in Fatherhood - The Unsung Voice of Masculinity:

Fathering taps a reserve of meaningful male experiences in the following ways:
It reveals feelings and ideas that show that important aspects of masculinity are
constructed in caring and empathic ways; it shows that this is an essential part of
men’s lives; and that their participation in the lives of their sons and daughters
significantly contributes to their own well-being, as it contributes significantly
to the young-adult children’s lives.

The Hound has scarcely been given the chance to experience a functional family life or to explore a positive paternal relationship with a child, neither in his own childhood nor when he has to become the sworn shield of a profoundly disturbed Joffrey. However, this snapshot of his emotional support of Tommen does highlight that Sandor Clegane is capable of parenting in a manner that promotes a child’s well-being. The more he moves away from the destructive association with the Lannisters, the more these aspects of his masculinity can be evinced in complex, self-fulfilling ways.

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By the time Joffrey’s miserable and mediocre name-day tourney is finished, Sansa has cause to privately lament that she is not betrothed to the kindly Prince Tommen, who is nothing like his tyrannical older brother and king. Despite the fact that we are not privy to the Hound’s POV, we can safely wager that his feelings are much the same on the matter in preferring to serve and protect a king who holds the qualities he observes in Tommen during the tourney. This consensus, although not allowed to be mutually expressed to one another, is revealed in the actions and statements Sandor and Sansa both have to make to try to temper Joff’s excesses; and together they emerge as a covert team or a sort of co-parenting unit, one that highlights two aspects of the fatherhood theme in relation to Sandor: the position he currently holds as Joff’s primary role model and protector/supervisor in contrast to the capacity he possesses to occupy a functional and supportive role in a child’s life.

Wonderful, Brash! I really love that you’ve chosen to highlight the fatherhood theme for this chapter, with emphasis on the cooperative teaming up between Sansa and the Hound.

From this chapter grouping, the first thing that caught my attention is at the opening of Sansa I, where she assesses the Kingsguard in its entirety and each man’s character, mentioning Sandor when thinking of why she prefers Oakheart to follow her, as he’s courteous and doesn’t hit her too hard, she also includes this comment:

“I fear not, my lady. The council is meeting, some urgent business.” Ser Arys dropped his voice. “Lord Tywin has gone to ground at Harrenhal instead of bringing his army to the city as the queen commanded. Her Grace is furious.” He fell silent as a column of Lannister guardsmen marched past, in crimson cloaks and lion-crested helms. Ser Arys was fond of gossip, but only when he was certain that no one was listening.

So the initial passages set up the tone for the whole chapter with regard to the Hound in relation to his fellow royal guards. This line serves to underscore an essential lack of courage in Oakheart as he cannot confront the Lannisters even on minor stuff like trading rumours about what’s practically widespread news by now. Ser Arys can’t allow himself be heard by the crimson cloaks telling the king’s betrothed a bit of harmless gossip, and that contrasts with Sandor’s attitude ahead in that he doesn’t fear speaking his mind when he has to regardless of who’s within earshot. Arys also will participate in the Tourney of Gnats, alongside other Kingsguard, and he feels confident to win, apparently not caring that there is small honour in defeating warriors of such low calibre.

Second thing that I found noteworthy was this:

In the back of the royal box, Sandor Clegane stood at guard, his hands resting on his swordbelt. The white cloak of the Kingsguard was draped over his broad shoulders and fastened with a jeweled brooch, the snowy cloth looking somehow unnatural against his brown rough-spun tunic and studded leather jerkin. “Lady Sansa,” the Hound announced curtly when he saw her. His voice was as rough as the sound of a saw on wood. The burn scars on his face and throat made one side of his mouth twitch when he spoke.

It’s quite intriguing, and something I’m definitely going to explore more in-depth in the future, that the only times they address each other by their first names in all the books, it’s done so formally and including their nobiliary title: “Ser Sandor” / “Lady Sansa.” I’ve wondered if the Hound was really announcing her arrival, as she thinks, or if he was greeting her. He’s no herald, and in any case it should’ve been Oakheart the one to announce her to the king as it was his duty to escort her that day.

Sandor seems to be in a good mood this day, contrary to Joffrey, who from the first glimpse is shown sitting bored with one leg up, even before the jousting begins. His exchanges with Joff both on his own and in support of Sansa and Myrcella and Tommen are comedic material once one realises there’s a subtle undercurrent of mockery there. For instance, take the first exchange:

“It’s almost as good as if some wolf killed your traitor brother. Maybe I’ll feed him to wolves after I’ve caught him. Did I tell you, I intend to challenge him to single combat?”

“I should like to see that, Your Grace.” More than you know. Sansa kept her tone cool and polite, yet even so Joffrey’s eyes narrowed as he tried to decide whether she was mocking him. “Will you enter the lists today?” she asked quickly.

The king frowned. “My lady mother said it was not fitting, since the tourney is in my honor. Otherwise I would have been champion. Isn’t that so, dog?”

The Hound’s mouth twitched. “Against this lot? Why not?”

He had been the champion in her father’s tourney, Sansa remembered. “Will you joust today, my lord?” she asked him.

Clegane’s voice was thick with contempt. “Wouldn’t be worth the bother of arming myself. This is a tournament of gnats.”

That Sansa is mentally disparaging him is evident as this is her standpoint, but Sandor is doing much the same in his own way. To the question on whether the king would have been champion, right, Sandor, right? His reply to Joffrey could be understood as: of course you would have, all of them are so bad that even you could defeat them. And Joffrey is the one that got disarmed by a pint-sized skinny girl and that needed several blows with a Valyrian blade that supposedly can cut through iron like butter to destroy an old book.

The king laughed. “My dog has a fierce bark. Perhaps I should command him to fight the day’s champion. To the death.” Joffrey was fond of making men fight to the death.

“You’d be one knight the poorer.” The Hound had never taken a knight’s vows. His brother was a knight, and he hated his brother.

This one also carries a small dose of sarcasm, in that he’s telling Joffrey that his wish wouldn’t bring him any long-winded entertainment since Sandor can make short work of anyone, and he is too proud of his own skills to stoop to fighting “gnats.” Also of note are Sansa’s amusing syllogisms: Sandor didn’t take knightly vows. Gregor is a knight. Sandor hates his brother. Ergo, Sandor is no knight.

And before the third highlight of the chapter, there’s this tidbit that precedes Myrcella’s actions:

But on their second pass Ser Meryn swung the point of his lance to strike Ser Hobber in the chest, driving him from the saddle to crash resoundingly to the earth. Ser Horas cursed and ran out to help his battered brother from the field.

The Redwyne twins and the youngest Lannisters behave just like normal loving siblings, but Joffrey’s reaction in both cases is indifference for others’ safety mixed with schadenfreude. The appalling organisation of the tourney is verily an insult for someone of his rank, and makes me wonder who organised it, with how much time in advance as well as whether the crown’s empty coffers did factor in, because war or no war, a fat purse would’ve likely attracted competitors of higher calibre. Dontos’ appearance, though he was too drunk to realise it at the time, was indeed also a breach of protocol and a personal insult to the king, but the penalty he had in mind was excessive and arbitrary. It’s the memory of her father’s beheading what prompts Sansa to intervene without a plan in mind, and her improvisations were indeed a dangerous gamble. She uses two arguments, one, that the king cannot do it, which enrages him, and then invents the tale of the curse of the namedays, which Joffrey shows signs of not believing either. Until:

“The girl speaks truly,” the Hound rasped. “What a man sows on his name day, he reaps throughout the year.” His voice was flat, as if he did not care a whit whether the king believed him or no. Could it be true? Sansa had not known. It was just something she’d said, desperate to avoid punishment.

Unhappy, Joffrey shifted in his seat and flicked his fingers at Ser Dontos. “Take him away. I’ll have him killed on the morrow, the fool.”

It was Sandor who saved Dontos’ life by supporting her lie, because it’s only after he says she’s right that Joffrey relents, “unhappy” as the text stresses. Sansa can capitalise on this to secure Dontos’ life for good by convincing Joff to turn him into a fool. Incidentally, considering this and Joff’s tendencies, Sandor and Sansa possibly saved more lives that day with their lie. See what the king says when he decides to cancel the tourney:

“Neither. These are gnats, not knights. I’d have them all put to death, only it’s my name day. The tourney is done. Get them all out of my sight.”

Then we have another example of how much Sandor’s word counts for Joffrey, when Tommen refuses to be deprived of a chance at jousting, he uses all the arguments his childish mind can muster: I am supposed to ride, I want to ride, Mother said. And to all three arguments Joffrey retorts snarkily. Not even Word of Cersei counts with him, but then…

The Hound laughed. “She has you there.”

Joffrey was beaten. “Very well. Even my brother couldn’t tilt any worse than these others. Master, bring out the quintain, Tommen wants to be a gnat.”

Sandor says Myrcella is right, and that’s all it is required for Joffrey to give in, and he later will defuse a potential argument between the king and his betrothed by distracting them with a remark on the boy’s courage. You’ve analysed this part much better than I could, so I’m only going to point out this small detail: Tommen’s “opponent” appears to be outfitted like a Baratheon, but Tommen himself is dressed like a Lannister and his war cry is “Casterly Rock!”, with the only allusion to his putative father’s House being the half portion with a stag on his sigil.

When Tyrion arrives, the rivalry between him and the Hound that we’d seen back in AGOT reignites, as you noted. But before we get to the last line where Sandor repeats his advice at Winterfell, let’s revisit the whole sequence:

One:

The dwarf went to one knee before the king. “Your Grace.”

“You,” Joffrey said.

“Me,” the Imp agreed, “although a more courteous greeting might be in order, for an uncle and an elder.”

“They said you were dead,” the Hound said.

The little man gave the big one a look. One of his eyes was green, one was black, and both were cool. “I was speaking to the king, not to his cur.”

Two:

“We share that view, sweet child.” Tyrion turned to Sansa. “My lady, I am sorry for your losses. Truly, the gods are cruel.”

Sansa could not think of a word to say to him. How could he be sorry for her losses? Was he mocking her? It wasn’t the gods who’d been cruel, it was Joffrey.

Three:

“I am sorry for your loss as well, Joffrey,” the dwarf said.

“What loss?”

“Your royal father? A large fierce man with a black beard; you’ll recall him if you try. He was king before you.”

“Oh, him. Yes, it was very sad, a boar killed him.”

“Is that what ‘they’ say, Your Grace?”

Joffrey frowned.

Four:

“A great many people are sorry for that,” Tyrion replied, “and before I am done, some may be a deal sorrier… yet I thank you for the sentiment. Joffrey, where might I find your mother?”

“She’s with my council,” the king answered. “Your brother Jaime keeps losing battles.” He gave Sansa an angry look, as if it were her fault. “He’s been taken by the Starks and we’ve lost Riverrun and now her stupid brother is calling himself a king.”

The dwarf smiled crookedly. “All sorts of people are calling themselves kings these days.”

Five:

Joff did not know what to make of that, though he looked suspicious and out of sorts. “Yes. Well. I am pleased you’re not dead, Uncle. Did you bring me a gift for my name day?”

“I did. My wits.”

“I’d sooner have Robb Stark’s head,” Joff said with a sly glance at Sansa. “Tommen, Myrcella, come.”

So, first, upon arriving Tyrion calls his king and superior out on his manners because he didn’t greet him enthusiastically, and then insults a Kingsguard to his face over a question. Secondly, he expresses pretended sympathies over a "traitor" to she who is Joffrey’s hostage and plaything, putting her in an awkward position as whatever she replies could potentially earn her a beating if it displeased the king. Thirdly, he mocks the king on his “loss” of a father and when Joffrey replies with what he knows, he slyly implies that Joff’s been lied to regarding the boar story. Fourthly, he again taunts the king by subtly questioning his suitability to his face (“all sorts of people…”), and finally, when Joffrey is already with his feathers sufficiently ruffled, he concludes telling him he has no present for his nameday, making a joke instead. In sum, in a very short period, minutes really, Tyrion has been provoking Joffrey verbally, heedless of how dangerous it can be to throw verbal barbs at this unstable and capricious monarch. Placed in that context, doesn't this bit of advice make more sense, then?

Sandor Clegane lingered behind a moment. “I’d guard that tongue of yours, little man,” he warned, before he strode off after his liege.

The Hound wasn’t just being confrontational towards him, therefore; the Imp really never learnt to guard his tongue, and that made things between him and Joffrey/Cersei worse from Sandor's perspective.

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Great recap brashcandy!

The Hound wasn’t just being confrontational towards him, therefore; the Imp really never learnt to guard his tongue, and that made things between him and Joffrey/Cersei worse from Sandor's perspective.

Indeed. On a reread it stands out how needlessly rude Tyrion is. Of course, we know he is correct about Joffrey, but it's also unecessary to anger Joffrey immediately, especially since Joffrey is no longer the crown prince, but the king. It also comes across as if Tyrion is needlessly hostile to Sandor here, up to and including referring to him as "cur" which is definitely an insult and Sandor's commentary was only that Tyrion was believed dead and while a bit pointed, the returning snark from Tyrion was not warranted. Tyrion's commentary is clearly based on previous animosity and also with Tyrion most likely lumping Sandor in with the "Cersei and Joffrey faction", even if we as readers have seen evidence that Sandor's loyalty is not at all that clear cut.

It's also obvious how much better Sandor is at managing Joffrey, since Tyrion really struggles despite all his brain power.

The incident with Dontos proves to the final straw for Joffrey, however, and Sansa’s challenge to his ruling enrages him even further. It is here that Sandor is faced with a choice: he could let Sansa deal with the consequences of her instinctive defence of the hapless knight, after all, he’s a man who has no respect for the institution, and certainly no reason to care what happens to a perpetual drunkard like Dontos; or, he could summon his most unaffected tone, and backup the lie she tells Joffrey in desperation:

“You’re lying,” Joffrey said. “I ought to drown you with him, if you care for him so much.”
“I don’t care for him, Your Grace.” The words tumbled out desperately. “Drown him or have his head off, only . . . kill him on the morrow, if you like, but please . . . not today, not on your name day. I couldn’t bear for you to have ill luck . . . terrible luck, even for kings, the singers all say so . . .”
Joffrey scowled. He knew she was lying, she could see it. He would make her bleed for this.
“The girl speaks truly,” the Hound rasped. “What a man sows on his name day, he reaps throughout the year.” His voice was flat, as if he did not care a whit whether the king believed him or no. Could it be true? Sansa had not known. It was just something she’d said, desperate to avoid punishment.

The uttering of this direct lie to the king in Sansa’s defence cements the Hound’s shifting loyalties, and provides us with yet another example of the non-knight acting in the true spirit of chivalry at a tourney, only this time in word, not deed. In doing so, he also provides critical assistance to Sansa in helping her to save Ser Dontos, as disarming Joff’s suspicion allows her to make the follow-up recommendation to employ Dontos as a court fool rather than a knight.

This is even more amusing in the light of Sandor's "swords and strong arms rule the world and the weak should get out of the way" speech he holds to Sansa later at the top of the Red Keep. Once we get there, it could be interesting to contrast his behaviour here with what he is saying there. His words contradict his actions, or in this case, his words contradict his...well, words. :P

EDIT: I love how Joffrey is referring to Jaime as "your [Tyrion's] brother Jaime". Perhaps it's just me, but out of the Cersei/Jaime brood, I always got the feeling that Joffrey is Cersei's favourite child and the one most aligned with her in views and behaviour, while Tommen seems more aligned with Jaime. Not sure about Myrcella yet.

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(snip)

The Hound has scarcely been given the chance to experience a functional family life or to explore a positive paternal relationship with a child, neither in his own childhood nor when he has to become the sworn shield of a profoundly disturbed Joffrey. However, this snapshot of his emotional support of Tommen does highlight that Sandor Clegane is capable of parenting in a manner that promotes a child’s well-being. The more he moves away from the destructive association with the Lannisters, the more these aspects of his masculinity can be evinced in complex, self-fulfilling ways.

Thank you for the insightful analysis Brash, and I'm very glad you examined this scene through the lens of parenthood. I'd only given the relationship between Sandor and Joffrey a cursory thought with regards to Sandor's paternal abilities and maybe, designs.

Now I'm compelled to wonder to what extent Sandor chose to remain with the royal family to try to deal with his own family problems by attempting to take a similar situation and make it play out differently. As Joffrey's shield, Sandor is in a place where he can be an involved pseudo-parent who's developed the skills to curtail the cruel tendencies of the boy king. How much did he hope to be able to prevent the emergence of another Gregor, this time an unchecked ruler of kingdoms? He certainly was protective and supportive of the king's younger siblings and did not hesitate to restrain or manipulate Joffrey or withhold praise and support of his cruelty, traits that by all appearances seem to be in complete opposition to his own father's.

It's interesting to me that only when it's clear that his influence is not enough to stop Joffrey's evil and cowardice, that Sandor finally breaks his ties with the family he’s supported and been supported by nearly his entire life, and when he does so, he perhaps takes on different children as a father figure: The Stark sisters.

I think Sandor came to the realization that he could not contain Joffrey any longer, much less change his nature, with Tyrion antagonizing him and Cersei unwilling to confront her child, and saw Mrycella go to Dorne, safe, from her elder brother at least, and Tommen protected and isolated enough, with a goodness that hadn’t waned. Sansa was the one who truly needed protection, and she had accepted his influence, as harshly worded as it sometimes was, and was doing constructive and positive things with it.

As early as the royal trip to Winterfell we can see the different ways people translate and respond to “Sandorspeak,” the harsh but oft-misunderstood language of mercy, criticism of hypocrisy and any system that was not a meritocracy, fairness, and sometimes love.

“…Are you training women…?”

- These boys would really be better served training in realistic conditions.

And so Rodrik interpreted correctly. In a few days the Starks were practicing with live steel.

But when Sandor expresses his wish that Bran be quicker about dying, Joffrey acted to hire an assassin to finish the job. I don’t think this was Sandor’s wish, but for the boy not to suffer.

When he can no longer prevent those who would cause suffering from doing so, he aligns with others who more closely follow his values.

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Wonderful, Brash! I really love that you’ve chosen to highlight the fatherhood theme for this chapter, with emphasis on the cooperative teaming up between Sansa and the Hound.

From this chapter grouping, the first thing that caught my attention is at the opening of Sansa I, where she assesses the Kingsguard in its entirety and each man’s character, mentioning Sandor when thinking of why she prefers Oakheart to follow her, as he’s courteous and doesn’t hit her too hard, she also includes this comment:

“I fear not, my lady. The council is meeting, some urgent business.” Ser Arys dropped his voice. “Lord Tywin has gone to ground at Harrenhal instead of bringing his army to the city as the queen commanded. Her Grace is furious.” He fell silent as a column of Lannister guardsmen marched past, in crimson cloaks and lion-crested helms. Ser Arys was fond of gossip, but only when he was certain that no one was listening.

So the initial passages set up the tone for the whole chapter with regard to the Hound in relation to his fellow royal guards. This line serves to underscore an essential lack of courage in Oakheart as he cannot confront the Lannisters even on minor stuff like trading rumours about what’s practically widespread news by now. Ser Arys can’t allow himself be heard by the crimson cloaks telling the king’s betrothed a bit of harmless gossip, and that contrasts with Sandor’s attitude ahead in that he doesn’t fear speaking his mind when he has to regardless of who’s within earshot. Arys also will participate in the Tourney of Gnats, alongside other Kingsguard, and he feels confident to win, apparently not caring that there is small honour in defeating warriors of such low calibre.

While Arys has the grace to admit that there wouldn't be much glory in unhorsing these "green boys," it does stand in marked contrast to Sandor's own stance, where he will not even compete since victory would be a foregone conclusion. Sandor might express his distaste in blunt speech, but it credits him as having a regard for honourable and fair competition (and an esteem for his skills), just as he wouldn't kill a man in his sleep as will be noted later on. Arys makes for an even more intriguing comparison with Sandor on the motif of soiled/bloody cloaks and the "knight takes queen" analysis that you explored in the last AGOT chapter. As we know, Arys eventually goes to Dorne with Myrcella and becomes involved with Arianne Martell, where she will convince him to take part in the plot of crowning the Baratheon princess. Arys' POV chapter is entitled "The Soiled Knight" and there we see him struggling with feelings of shame and guilt over his lust/love for Arianne, and bringing dishonour to his duty as a Kingsguard:

“Your hands are shaking,” she pointed out. “They would sooner be caressing me, I think. Must you be in such haste to don your clothes, ser? I prefer you as you are. Abed, unclad, we are our truest selves, a man and a woman, lovers, one flesh, as close as two can be. Our clothes make us different people. I would sooner be flesh and blood than silks and jewels, and you . . . you are not your white cloak, ser.”

I am,” Ser Arys said. “I am my cloak. And this must end, for your sake as well as mine. If we should be discovered . . .”

For Arys, his whole identity is wrapped up being a KG, and even though he thinks back in shame of the beatings he had to give Sansa at Joffrey's command, the white cloak is still the epitome of honour and valour for him. Of course, Sandor's position is very different, as he recognizes the essential impurity of the white cloak, and will eventually discard it in disgust. From this chapter on, Sandor's regard for his status as KG is pretty much null and void, and the cloak will be repeatedly utilised in his personal service to Sansa.

EDIT: I love how Joffrey is referring to Jaime as "your [Tyrion's] brother Jaime". Perhaps it's just me, but out of the Cersei/Jaime brood, I always got the feeling that Joffrey is Cersei's favourite child and the one most aligned with her in views and behaviour, while Tommen seems more aligned with Jaime. Not sure about Myrcella yet.

Yes, I agree on Joffrey being most aligned to his mother, and Cersei's coddling and excusing a lot of Joff's depravities play a huge part in why the boy is as he is. She freaks out at the mere suggestion that Tyrion will take a firmer hand on Joff, but in general all the Lannisters have been completely negligent and inept in containing the monster Joff becomes.

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Thank you for the insightful analysis Brash, and I'm very glad you examined this scene through the lens of parenthood. I'd only given the relationship between Sandor and Joffrey a cursory thought with regards to Sandor's paternal abilities and maybe, designs.

Now I'm compelled to wonder to what extent Sandor chose to remain with the royal family to try to deal with his own family problems by attempting to take a similar situation and make it play out differently. As Joffrey's shield, Sandor is in a place where he can be an involved pseudo-parent who's developed the skills to curtail the cruel tendencies of the boy king. How much did he hope to be able to prevent the emergence of another Gregor, this time an unchecked ruler of kingdoms? He certainly was protective and supportive of the king's younger siblings and did not hesitate to restrain or manipulate Joffrey or withhold praise and support of his cruelty, traits that by all appearances seem to be in complete opposition to his own father's.

It's interesting to me that only when it's clear that his influence is not enough to stop Joffrey's evil and cowardice, that Sandor finally breaks his ties with the family he’s supported and been supported by nearly his entire life, and when he does so, he perhaps takes on different children as a father figure: The Stark sisters.

I think Sandor came to the realization that he could not contain Joffrey any longer, much less change his nature, with Tyrion antagonizing him and Cersei unwilling to confront her child, and saw Mrycella go to Dorne, safe, from her elder brother at least, and Tommen protected and isolated enough, with a goodness that hadn’t waned. Sansa was the one who truly needed protection, and she had accepted his influence, as harshly worded as it sometimes was, and was doing constructive and positive things with it.

Thanks, Gambol, I'm happy you found the analysis enlightening :) Your contextualising of Sandor's pseudo-parental responsibilities within the framework of his own broken family is a worthy consideration in our analysis of the fatherhood theme. Coming from a home where his brother tried to kill him and his father covered it up, one might expect Sandor to be completely apathetic to the training of young children, yet, as you note, from those Winterfell chapters that establish so many of the themes that play out in the series, we see him aligned with the concern of properly raising minors. Neglected by two fathers in Robert and Jaime, Joffrey really only has Sandor to act as a close companion, and Sandor has developed the correct strategies for controlling Joff, whose progress from entitled crown prince to abusive tyrant comes quicker than anyone might have suspected. I'm tempted to draw a parallel here to Sansa's influence over Sweetrobin in the Eyrie, and her ability to find the right mix of manipulation and flattery that enables her to check SR's troublesome tendencies which were nurtured and encouraged by Lysa. But SR is no Joffrey, and while Sansa's mothering of the boy has resulted in considerable improvement of his nature, Sandor could work no such miracles with Joff in the long run.

Concerning this parental role as applied to Sansa and Arya, it becomes much more realised in his relationship with the younger sister, as his feelings for Sansa will soon reveal themselves as not very fatherly, but there's no doubt that after Ned's death, he's the only one who genuinely cares for Sansa's well-being in the city and selflessly attempts to help her. As for the moment Sandor realised Joff was evil and irredeemable, it's hard to say; one could argue that his discomfort with Lannister service truly began around the time of the Mycah incident. Regardless, I think his conversation with Sansa on the night of the Hand's tourney represents a watershed moment for Sandor, and their continued interaction challenges the worldview he developed as a form of self-protection.

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A wonderful analysis, braschcandy! I too am thrilled you explored the father theme so thoroughly and beautifully. It wasn’t until I read this chapter the first time I read the series that Sandor materialized as someone who has the capacity to act as a positive father figure. As you perfectly articulated, the covert interaction between Sansa and Sandor really cements the two as co-parenting figures, as well as highlights how adept Sandor is at manipulating Joffrey and Joffrey’s own admiration of Sandor.






Analysis



The Tournament of Gnats



By the time Joffrey’s miserable and mediocre name-day tourney is finished, Sansa has cause to privately lament that she is not betrothed to the kindly Prince Tommen, who is nothing like his tyrannical older brother and king. Despite the fact that we are not privy to the Hound’s POV, we can safely wager that his feelings are much the same on the matter in preferring to serve and protect a king who holds the qualities he observes in Tommen during the tourney.






Very true! Sandor’s comment that Tommen is a brave boy is a sincere one, whereas the comment he will make later that Joffrey is a brave boy after hearing he attacked unarmed and starving commoners with his crossbow drips with contempt and sarcasm. Interesting that Sandor and Sansa both recognize Tommen’s inherent goodness and bravery, yet, Cersei mistakenly perceives Tommen as weak and soft, while keeping her head firmly in the sand with regard to Joffrey's extreme shortcomings.




What this all suggests, and to answer the crucial question of why Joffrey does not ask Sandor to hit Sansa, is that he is attempting to impress the Hound with the abusive power he can wield over his betrothed; in other words, to prove what he considers is an integral part of his manhood – dominating women - to his idealised father figure. Joff does not see the Hound as just another KG member, but as an authority figure whose approval he seeks, therefore asking Sandor to beat Sansa would defeat the psychological pleasure he gains if he were to ask Sandor to perform as the rest of his guards do.


An interesting take, one that I hadn’t considered before. I just assumed Joffrey intuitively knew he would be crossing a line with Sandor. However, taking into consideration your own analysis of Joffrey’s relationship with both Cersei and Sandor, as well as future events that we’ll explore soon enough (specifically the deteriorating relationship between Sandor and Joffrey as Sandor shifts further away from Joffrey), this is spot on.



Knowing all too well the trials of having a tyrannical older brother to contend with, Sandor is placed in an empathetic relation to Tommen’s plight. To make the parallel even more apparent, Tommen’s fall off his horse and Joff laughing the “longest and loudest” recalls the scene at the Hand’s tourney when Sandor enjoyed his brother’s (deserved) humiliation by the Knight of Flowers. In contrast, Joffrey’s laughter at Tommen is wholly spiteful and mean-spirited, and while Sansa boldly challenges the king’s reaction, Sandor reveals his admiration for the boy’s determination.


I noticed this parallel for the very first time upon this reread: Joffrey very inappropriately mimicking Sandor’s own amusement of Gregor’s tourney defeat, as Tommen deserved the concern Sansa and Myrcella show and the encouragement Sandor provides.



We also start to see a pattern develop between Sandor and Sansa: just as Sansa emboldened Sandor to stand up to his brother after offering an empathetic response to his testimony of trauma, Sandor emboldens Sansa’s assertiveness toward her abuser after he corroborates her “killing a man on your name day is bad luck” story, knowing full well it was completely made up.





The Hound wasn’t just being confrontational towards him, therefore; the Imp really never learnt to guard his tongue, and that made things between him and Joffrey/Cersei worse from Sandor's perspective.








Indeed. On a reread it stands out how needlessly rude Tyrion is. Of course, we know he is correct about Joffrey, but it's also unecessary to anger Joffrey immediately, especially since Joffrey is no longer the crown prince, but the king. It also comes across as if Tyrion is needlessly hostile to Sandor here, up to and including referring to him as "cur" which is definitely an insult and Sandor's commentary was only that Tyrion was believed dead and while a bit pointed, the returning snark from Tyrion was not warranted. Tyrion's commentary is clearly based on previous animosity and also with Tyrion most likely lumping Sandor in with the "Cersei and Joffrey faction", even if we as readers have seen evidence that Sandor's loyalty is not at all that clear cut.



It's also obvious how much better Sandor is at managing Joffrey, since Tyrion really struggles despite all his brain power.






Exactly! Sandor just expended a good deal of emotional energy keeping Joffrey under wraps all day, and in comes Tyrion to undo all of it in a matter of minutes. Honestly, for as intelligent as Tyrion is supposed to be, he really comes off as an obnoxious smartass who never thinks before he speaks.



EDIT: I love how Joffrey is referring to Jaime as "your [Tyrion's] brother Jaime". Perhaps it's just me, but out of the Cersei/Jaime brood, I always got the feeling that Joffrey is Cersei's favourite child and the one most aligned with her in views and behaviour, while Tommen seems more aligned with Jaime. Not sure about Myrcella yet.


Great point, Lyanna Stark. I also interpret this as Joffrey distancing himself from Jaime since Jaime let him down. So, rather than identify him as his uncle, he refers to him as Tyrion’s brother. If Jaime had brought him glory and honor, Joffrey would certainly refer to him as his uncle, similar to how parents act when a child misbehaves or does something impressive: he’s your child, he takes after you, you know/that’s my girl!


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Nice analysis Brashcandy!

“You’re lying,” Joffrey said. “I ought to drown you with him, if you care for him so much.”
“I don’t care for him, Your Grace.” The words tumbled out desperately. “Drown him or have his head off, only . . . kill him on the morrow, if you like, but please . . . not today, not on your name day. I couldn’t bear for you to have ill luck . . . terrible luck, even for kings, the singers all say so . . .”
Joffrey scowled. He knew she was lying, she could see it. He would make her bleed for this.
“The girl speaks truly,” the Hound rasped. “What a man sows on his name day, he reaps throughout the year.” His voice was flat, as if he did not care a whit whether the king believed him or no. Could it be true? Sansa had not known. It was just something she’d said, desperate to avoid punishment.

The uttering of this direct lie to the king in Sansa’s defence cements the Hound’s shifting loyalties, and provides us with yet another example of the non-knight acting in the true spirit of chivalry at a tourney, only this time in word, not deed. In doing so, he also provides critical assistance to Sansa in helping her to save Ser Dontos, as disarming Joff’s suspicion allows her to make the follow-up recommendation to employ Dontos as a court fool rather than a knight.

This reminds me a lot of Lady Gwynhyfvar’s excellent essay on Lancelot, the knight of the cart. Like Lancelot, Sandor Clegane forsakes his own personal code of honour (no lie) to rescue his queen figure.

I find it also interesting that a good portion of the narrative here stresses the differences between Sandor and the other knights. Sandor does it by saying it is a tournament of gnats and not worse it. But Sansa does most of the comparisons herself and they’re all in favour of Sandor Clegane. He does not gossip, he does not beat her, he won a prestigious tournament etc. I had always assumed that Sansa compares other men to Sandor only after his departure from King’s Landing. But it actually starts as earlier as the beginning of ACOK. By that point, she has already learnt that a man does not need a ser in front of his name to act as a true knight. Looking at it this way, the white cloak being at odd with the rest of Sandor’s clothes might also symbolise his own ambiguity towards his status as a “knight”: he is ruthless and uncourteous (roughspun clothes), yet he is ready to abase himself (by lying) to rescue Sansa (white cloak).

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Thanks DL and Mahaut!






An interesting take, one that I hadn’t considered before. I just assumed Joffrey intuitively knew he would be crossing a line with Sandor. However, taking into consideration your own analysis of Joffrey’s relationship with both Cersei and Sandor, as well as future events that we’ll explore soon enough (specifically the deteriorating relationship between Sandor and Joffrey as Sandor shifts further away from Joffrey), this is spot on.






Yeah, I do think there's something to it when we consider their relationship on the whole, not to mention the precedent that Joff set in Winterfell in sending the catspaw to kill Bran in a twisted desire to impress his father. He likes to brag a lot about getting the Hound to do things like fighting to the death, and so on, but it's clear that the relationship to his sworn shield is one he values in whatever way that Joff can value anything, and Sandor is not simply another Kingsguard in his eyes. Not having him hit Sansa is just another way of recognizing that distinction and choosing others to do the dirty work while he fancies himself and Sandor enjoying the spectacle together.







I noticed this parallel for the very first time upon this reread: Joffrey very inappropriately mimicking Sandor’s own amusement of Gregor’s tourney defeat, as Tommen deserved the concern Sansa and Myrcella show and the encouragement Sandor provides.



We also start to see a pattern develop between Sandor and Sansa: just as Sansa emboldened Sandor to stand up to his brother after offering an empathetic response to his testimony of trauma, Sandor emboldens Sansa’s assertiveness toward her abuser after he corroborates her “killing a man on your name day is bad luck” story, knowing full well it was completely made up.





Great points, and it's possible that Joff was also mimicking King Robert's raucous laughter at Jaime when he was knocked off the horse by Sandor. I imagine Sandor left the tourney that day quite impressed by the gumption Sansa showed in following up the Dontos debacle by continuing to challenge Joff on his treatment of Tommen. Her saving Dontos tends to get all the attention in analyses, but her standing up for Tommen shows a particular concern that she's not willing to back down from. It's another moment that would have shown Sandor just how genuine Sansa is about her belief in the values of true knighthood, and that she's willing to even risk her own skin in defending others.







I find it also interesting that a good portion of the narrative here stresses the differences between Sandor and the other knights. Sandor does it by saying it is a tournament of gnats and not worse it. But Sansa does most of the comparisons herself and they’re all in favour of Sandor Clegane. He does not gossip, he does not beat her, he won a prestigious tournament etc. I had always assumed that Sansa compares other men to Sandor only after his departure from King’s Landing. But it actually starts as earlier as the beginning of ACOK. By that point, she has already learnt that a man does not need a ser in front of his name to act as a true knight. Looking at it this way, the white cloak being at odd with the rest of Sandor’s clothes might also symbolise his own ambiguity towards his status as a “knight”: he is ruthless and uncourteous (roughspun clothes), yet he is ready to abase himself (by lying) to rescue Sansa (white cloak).





Agreed :) Sansa will make the perfect observation regarding this symbolism a few chapters down when she receives Sandor's cloak after the beating in the throne room: "The coarse weave was scratchy against her skin, but no velvet had ever felt so fine." In Arys' POV in AFFC, he is worried about the clothing he has to wear in order to meet Arianne in secret, and speaks of feeling naked without the white cloak hanging from his shoulders. Sandor dresses in plain fabrics with little to no detailing, and his cloak isn't made of fine shiny silk, yet none of this has any meaning on his innate worth, and it's something Sansa comes to increasingly appreciate in the false glamour environment of the Red Keep.


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Indeed. On a reread it stands out how needlessly rude Tyrion is. Of course, we know he is correct about Joffrey, but it's also unecessary to anger Joffrey immediately, especially since Joffrey is no longer the crown prince, but the king. It also comes across as if Tyrion is needlessly hostile to Sandor here, up to and including referring to him as "cur" which is definitely an insult and Sandor's commentary was only that Tyrion was believed dead and while a bit pointed, the returning snark from Tyrion was not warranted. Tyrion's commentary is clearly based on previous animosity and also with Tyrion most likely lumping Sandor in with the "Cersei and Joffrey faction", even if we as readers have seen evidence that Sandor's loyalty is not at all that clear cut.

It's also obvious how much better Sandor is at managing Joffrey, since Tyrion really struggles despite all his brain power.

Precisely! Sandor told what they all had heard in court about him: that Tyrion had perished. And this doesn't come across as a deliberate provocation as stating the obvious, really, if we consider also that Bran and the whole of Winterfell heard the same ("Mother had killed Tyrion the Imp and hung his body from the walls of Riverrun."), nor is Sandor's remark any different to how Ser Kevan reacted when he saw Tyrion arrived at the Crossroads Inn, expressing surprise at seeing him appear alive when he didn't expect him, nor did the others. Also, to reinforce that he was merely expressing surprise, he told Arya much the same at the Hollow Hill when he recognised her, "Don't you know you're dead?", because he knew she was given up for lost and probably dead.

Knowing all too well the trials of having a tyrannical older brother to contend with, Sandor is placed in an empathetic relation to Tommen’s plight. To make the parallel even more apparent, Tommen’s fall off his horse and Joff laughing the “longest and loudest” recalls the scene at the Hand’s tourney when Sandor enjoyed his brother’s (deserved) humiliation by the Knight of Flowers. In contrast, Joffrey’s laughter at Tommen is wholly spiteful and mean-spirited, and while Sansa boldly challenges the king’s reaction, Sandor reveals his admiration for the boy’s determination:

Sansa found herself possessed of a queer giddy courage. “You should go with her,” she told the king. “Your brother might be hurt.”

Joffrey shrugged. “What if he is?”

“You should help him up and tell him how well he rode.” Sansa could not seem to stop herself.

“He got knocked off his horse and fell in the dirt,” the king pointed out. “That’s not riding well.”

“Look,” the Hound interrupted. “The boy has courage. He’s going to try again.”

Very true! Sandor’s comment that Tommen is a brave boy is a sincere one, whereas the comment he will make later that Joffrey is a brave boy after hearing he attacked unarmed and starving commoners with his crossbow drips with contempt and sarcasm. Interesting that Sandor and Sansa both recognize Tommen’s inherent goodness and bravery, yet, Cersei mistakenly perceives Tommen as weak and soft, while keeping her head firmly in the sand with regard to Joffrey's extreme shortcomings.

This scene also casts doubt on the accuracy if not veracity of Cersei's thoughts in AFFC, when she says:

It was rather a pity that the Hound had gone rabid. Tommen had always been frightened of Sandor Clegane’s harsh voice and burned face, and Clegane’s scorn would have been the perfect antidote to Loras Tyrell’s simpering chivalry.

Here, Cersei is either off the mark or giving us another example of how deluded she is about her children's true nature. Whilst it's possible that Tommen was at some point scared by the Hound for his ferocious appearance, especially when younger, since small children tend to be naturally wary of people outside their caretakers, and maybe also because the Hound was always beside Joffrey, who has a penchant for bullying his little brother, nowhere in the text have we seen any proof that Tommen is afraid of Sandor. Rather the contrary, like in this tourney, and the quality Sandor praises in him is precisely the one his own mother doubts he possesses. It's very entertaining how convinced Cersei is that her son would be so frightened by the Hound that it'd be enough for him to scowl in the boy's direction for him to behave, when in reality Tommen doesn't fear to stand up to his elder brother and has been able to earn Sandor's sympathy and support all by himself with his way of being.

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This scene also casts doubt on the accuracy if not veracity of Cersei's thoughts in AFFC, when she says:

It was rather a pity that the Hound had gone rabid. Tommen had always been frightened of Sandor Clegane’s harsh voice and burned face, and Clegane’s scorn would have been the perfect antidote to Loras Tyrell’s simpering chivalry.

Here, Cersei is either off the mark or giving us another example of how deluded she is about her children's true nature. Whilst it's possible that Tommen was at some point scared by the Hound for his ferocious appearance, especially when younger, since small children tend to be naturally wary of people outside their caretakers, and maybe also because the Hound was always beside Joffrey, who has a penchant for bullying his little brother, nowhere in the text have we seen any proof that Tommen is afraid of Sandor. Rather the contrary, like in this tourney, and the quality Sandor praises in him is precisely the one his own mother doubts he possesses. It's very entertaining how convinced Cersei is that her son would be so frightened by the Hound that it'd be enough for him to scowl in the boy's direction for him to behave, when in reality Tommen doesn't fear to stand up to his elder brother and has been able to earn Sandor's sympathy and support all by himself with his way of being.

Not to mention the evidence from the tourney itself, when Tyrion makes his grand entrance surrounded by the most gruesome and scary looking group of warriors, and Tommen gallops boldly up to his uncle, is lifted up by a clansman, all the while showing no alarm or distress.

A column of riders emerged from beneath the portcullis with a clink of steel and a clatter of hooves. Clegane stepped close to the king, one hand on the hilt of his longsword. The visitors were dinted and haggard and dusty, yet the standard they carried was the lion of Lannister, golden on its crimson field. A few wore the red cloaks and mail of Lannister men-at-arms, but more were freeriders and sellswords, armored in oddments and bristling with sharp steel . . . and there were others, monstrous savages out of one of Old Nan’s tales, the scary ones Bran used to love. They were clad in shabby skins and boiled leather, with long hair and fierce beards. Some wore bloodstained bandages over their brows or wrapped around their hands, and others were missing eyes, ears, and fingers.

In their midst, riding on a tall red horse in a strange high saddle that cradled him back and front, was the queen’s dwarf brother Tyrion Lannister, the one they called the Imp. He had let his beard grow to cover his pushed-in face, until it was a bristly tangle of yellow and black hair, coarse as wire. Down his back flowed a shadowskin cloak, black fur striped with white. He held the reins in his left hand and carried his right arm in a white silk sling, but otherwise looked as grotesque as Sansa remembered from when he had visited Winterfell. With his bulging brow and mismatched eyes, he was still the ugliest man she had ever chanced to look upon.

Yet Tommen put his spurs into his pony and galloped headlong across the yard, shouting with glee. One of the savages, a huge shambling man so hairy that his face was all but lost beneath his whiskers, scooped the boy out of his saddle, armor and all, and deposited him on the ground beside his uncle. Tommen’s breathless laughter echoed off the walls as Tyrion clapped him on the backplate, and Sansa was startled to see that the two were of a height. Myrcella came running after her brother, and the dwarf picked her up by the waist and spun her in a circle, squealing.

Myrcella herself is made of stern stuff, not crying when she is sent away to Dorne, and adjusting to this new culture with gusto.

.

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This scene also casts doubt on the accuracy if not veracity of Cersei's thoughts in AFFC, when she says:

It was rather a pity that the Hound had gone rabid. Tommen had always been frightened of Sandor Clegane’s harsh voice and burned face, and Clegane’s scorn would have been the perfect antidote to Loras Tyrell’s simpering chivalry.

Here, Cersei is either off the mark or giving us another example of how deluded she is about her children's true nature. Whilst it's possible that Tommen was at some point scared by the Hound for his ferocious appearance, especially when younger, since small children tend to be naturally wary of people outside their caretakers, and maybe also because the Hound was always beside Joffrey, who has a penchant for bullying his little brother, nowhere in the text have we seen any proof that Tommen is afraid of Sandor. Rather the contrary, like in this tourney, and the quality Sandor praises in him is precisely the one his own mother doubts he possesses. It's very entertaining how convinced Cersei is that her son would be so frightened by the Hound that it'd be enough for him to scowl in the boy's direction for him to behave, when in reality Tommen doesn't fear to stand up to his elder brother and has been able to earn Sandor's sympathy and support all by himself with his way of being.

Does that really cast doubt? That he praises Tommen at one point doesn't mean Tommen is necessarily aware of it, or that praise on this particular occasion reflects any prior actual interactions. We get no real sense of the Hound's interactions with the younger children either way, but he looks rather scary, and he doesn't have a terribly friendly demeanor. I don't have a problem believing that Tommen might be scared of him based on those things. Cersei is far from the best witness, of course, so that's also a consideration.

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Does that really cast doubt?

Yes, it really does. If Tommen is not scared of the strange men arriving with his uncle, men that Sansa compares to "monstrous savages out of Old Nan's tales," and can gallop fearlessly into their midst, it really sheds doubt on the idea that he would be scared of the Hound, someone whom Tommen would grown up around, and would have gotten to know as Joff's protector. Even Sansa eventually comes to not fear Clegane the longer she is around him. It's much more believable that Cersei, as usual, misjudges her children, especially as we see she thinks Tommen is weak because he doesn't display a lot of the willful traits Joff did. And when you consider the larger context of the discussion, with the Hound being able to act as a positive influence on Tommen, Cersei's words take on a greater irony, as so many of her statements tend to do.

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Very interesting development there. This makes it...




... the third tourney where Sansa is involved. And we know something interesting or terrible always happens in the tourneys she is attending. At the Hand's Tourney, there was Gregor and the crime he committed, plus what he almost did to Loras before being stopped by Sandor. At Joff's nameday tourney that we currently discuss, he almost executes Ser Dontos, whose salvation comes from Sansa and Sandor teaming together, and in the end he is responsible for taking her where she is now.



This tourney at the Vale was organised with an idea that came from her, to choose the Winged Knights, which reminds me a bit of how Aegon I wanted to choose the Kingsguard before Visenya convinced him otherwise. We haven't seen it under way yet, but given the precedents, this makes one wonder what could possibly happen that's interesting and/or terrible during this one. Rescues, or more specifically saving someone's life, seems to be the overall theme in Sansa's tourneys, which is in itself intriguing with regard to what will happen in this one.



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