Jump to content

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Milady of York

The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor

Recommended Posts

I'll try to write something about the Hound's iconic helmet as soon as I find time. It's going to be mostly speculation based on it's description and the description of other helmets used in the series. A huge part will be about the (assumed) physical limitations of his helmet.

Couple short points to remember for the future, which could have already applied to the recent chapters and shouldn't be overlooked.

The Hound (and in that particular instance that name is important) wears most likely a hounskull (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hounskull), with the dog-like features pronounced.

The name is already interesting, consisting of the hound - and the skull. It refers to a dead (or undead) dog.

Furthermore, the original german name is Hundsgugel (or Hundsgugl). The Hund is again the hound or dog, while the Gugel was a type of hood. Something to hide your face with. Which ties into Robin Hood, an assumed name where Robin of Locksley hides his true identity, according to the best-known stories. And the Gugel is indeed what the Merry Men wear in most depictions.

So, based on it's name, the helmet could refer to a dead or undead dog, which may show up in the Feast chapters again. Or a way for Sandor to hide under the mask of the Hound.

The name isn't the only hint. The hounskull is a very weird helmet, closing the gap between the great helm and finally develops into the great bascinet before being replaced by sallets or armets. The most noticeable feature beyond it's dog-snout are the eyeslits. Very small and actually quite far from the eyes. It's probably the helmet which limits the vision the most. Only somebody straight ahead could be seen.

Not to the side. Actually, many hounskulls were fixed to the shoulders and didn't allow to turn the head, instead the wearer had to turn his entire body. Does the Hound ever turn his head in the books? A question for the Re-Read.

Upwards is alright. But not downwards. That's literally impossible. The Hound can't even bend forward to watch somebody smaller. That ties into the joke about Tyrion not being noticeable. With the visor closed, the Hound got no chance at all. Absolute zero. But not only Tyrion is too small, that applies to Sansa and Arya as well, them being children, female children at that. The Hound can't notice the girls, they are literally beneath his notice. Hound as the guy wearing the helmet.

Some other noticeable helmets is Gregor Clegane's great helm with that stone fist. It's an older style of helmet. Without a visor. And it's actually bolted to the breastplate. Sandor may be able to raise his visor or take of his helmet, but Gregor isn't.

Also Oberyn's helmet. It's strongly implied to be a hounskull with the visor removed, the hounskull one of very few helmets to allow that. How will that play out? Two men consumed by vengeance directed against the Mountain wearing the same helmet, one with a visor, the other without.

A question for the future.

Just one thought for the future: The Mountain and the Hound are the only two characters to have their helmets described regularly. They are identified by their helmets, way more than by any other characteristic.

Well, Gendry does as well, but he never wears it and looses it soon after. And even he is nicknamed for his helmet while he had it.

Welcome to the reread, Bright Blue Eyes! I was hoping you'd join us one day. I'd had the chance to read some of your interventions in the past and appreciated your knowledge of military matters, arms and armour.

As you noted, many people have spoken of the impracticality of this helm in particular, and that got me into long and mostly speculative musings over the characteristics and shape of this helm, wondering if a bascinet-style helm with engravings on the side to match the right and left cheeks of a hound was the most likely type, and I recall that an artist I once asked about how he'd drawn the hound's head helm for an illustration told me he'd based it on a so called pig-faced helmet from the 13th century because that's what he had understood from the textual description. Now I see your conclusions are quite similar to his, and I'd love for you to expand more on this issue of the hound's-head helm, please, for the enlightenment of those of us that don't know much about the subject.

Interesting point you make on Sandor and Gregor being the ones that get their helms described in greater detail. Some other helms are described too, but sort of like in passing: Rhaegar's dragon wings, Renly's golden antlers, etc. And one common motif in all those helms is that they allude to their wearer's House sigil. Of the Cleganes, the elder is the head and the one that wears the family colours and banner, whereas the younger never does besides on his shield with the three dogs, and this difference always piqued my curiosity, for you'd expect the eldest would be the one using the sigil symbolism, yet that's not the case: his great helm carries no hound-related identification, just a stone fist that has nothing to do with his House from an heraldic viewpoint. And Sandor is the one closely linked to his House's animal: he has the Hound as a nickname, he's known for his dog-like loyalty even by people who underestimate him, he's proud of his kennelmaster grandfather, he likes dogs better than people unlike Gregor, of whom even dogs are terrified, and he sort of has his own "personal sigil" variation (in a manner of speaking, since it's not an official personal sigil, he still uses the official Clegane one) that singles out one lone hound from the three, like in the hound's head stitched to his red tunic and his hound's head helm. He even is insulted by being called a "dog," "mongrel" and "cur"! I would argue that this intricate association and adoption of the hound animal as part of himself is another way he has of deliberately differentiating himself from his despised brother in ways other than behaviour.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

~~~~snip~~~~

Indeed, the Mycah incident is weighing heavily on Sandor's mind and he is trying to assuage his guilt by using ye olde "Sansa said it so it must be true" defense. In examining Sandor's comment to the BwB, I believe it could be Sandor trying to understand and evaluate his actions by consulting his Sansometer-of-moral-conduct™.Unfortunately Sansa never did say it, which is why he may be getting squiffy readings, but he eventually manages to work it out on his own.

~~~~snip~~~~

Sansa did not say this at the trial, but a few months later she did say it to Arya in a fit of pique. It angered Arya quite a bit then and again when Sandor said it to the BWB. But only Arya heard it, the Hound of course, did not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...

That's assuming it was Joffrey, though. We have Cersei, who's also as likely to have told Sandor that. The whole Lannister household would've followed the "she supported him" interpretation for peer solidarity, loyalty and sense of belonging in opposition to the rival Stark household, and Sandor being one of them, that's the version he'd hear round him either from the Queen, the prince or the men who were in the hall that wore the crimson cloak. I am not sure he'd have heard the "she didn't support him" version, which is likelier to have been the Northerner household's interpretation. Let's not forget also that he didn't have a chance to know Sansa's version contradicted Joffrey, if it had been told, because the only one that knew was Ned and he didn't tell Robert before things blew out of proportions as he should have, and besides him possibly Jory knows the truth as he was his right-hand man and found Arya. And after the incident, the Hand's people rushed ahead to the city to stay as far from the king and queen's retinue as possible.

I do think he’d have heard other versions (even the real version of Sansa's account, that she couldn't remember), mainly because he didn’t spend all his time in the Red Keep where the status quo is more strictly enforced; and even in the castle, people gossip and invent things (and those who heard Arya’s version of events wouldn’t be like to forget it so quickly).

I don't think Sandor would be consciously bothered by this at the moment so much as subconsciously bothered. I think he would consciously dump any emotional uneasiness into his "awful world" bucket or blame the system as OldGimletEye has put it, at least in the immediate aftermath. One aspect that I think would bother him, again subconsciously at first, is that this may be the only time we see Sandor in the metaphorical sword role instead of the shield. He was Cersei's sworn shield, her protector, and then Joffrey's. He saved Sansa during the riot. At the Blackwater he was a defender of the city not an attacker. He talks aggressively at his trial in the BwB cave but again he's on the defensive and protecting himself and not the aggressor. He takes Beric's offer to sally in words first before he is forced to switch to swords. Even with Gregor's men when he knows the inevitable outcome, he waits for them to be the aggressors. He warns the innkeeper of his impending fate to protect him. Here is, to the best of my recollection, the only instance of Sandor as an aggressor-- the sword and not the shield. I think this would serve to disturb him far more than the parallels to his personal origin. That seems more of a literary thing for our benefit to illustrate things like the cycle of violence that Brash mentions. I think it is Arya who will fully draw this to his conscious mind later but we're not there yet.

I don't think it is impossible for Sandor to eventually piece together what actually happened over a few days if that were somehow to become a meaningful plot point.. Cersei would complain about it, Joffrey's version would inevitably continue to evolve to make himself a bigger victim, Joffrey's newfound anger at Sansa would be noticed and noted, and Renly would likely still be laughing about and tale telling about Joffrey losing his sword to a nine year old girl for some time. So it isn't impossible for him to piece this together over time, but I don't see that mattering so much to the story or an analysis of him. Joffrey's change in attitude toward Sansa after this incident is the only item on that list I think we need to keep in mind going forward.

This incident is what sparks Joffrey's cruelty and antagonistic behavior towards Sansa so perhaps that is the meaningful issue to focus on. Again I'm reminded of a Jaime connection where he seems to feel that standing by Rhaella's door and listening to her screams is what soiled his white cloak, shattered his idealistic belief in knighthood. This is the opening of the Sansa's Rhaella parallel where Sandor is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Jaime. So the literary parallel to his creation story and this lone act as the aggressor can be viewed as the as mirror or polar opposite to Jaime's Rhaella recollection. Rhaella's torment was the breaking of Jaime's innocence where this could be viewed as Sandor's rock bottom where he begins to return to innocence. Tze has an essay linked on the PtP resource page on Sansa and Rhaella as Martin's inversion of the Beauty and the Beast tale that does an excellent job of illustrating the Sansa/Rhaella comparison. (It is also a wonderful read.) So using Jaime as a foil, I think we get Mycah's death as the turning point in Sandor's life or the incentive moment for his impending inner journey that we're exploring in this reread. Character introductions are over and the conflict has begun.

Thanks for your reply (and for the link to Tze’s essay!). I don’t mean to beat the issue to death, so after this reply I'll shut up about it! :) In addition to this being the catalyst to Joffrey’s mistreatment of Sansa, I think it is important because it can potentially help us understand how this character’s mind works. Regardless of who he heard it from, it’s this story (and of course, that’s all it is, a story, because she never confirms Joffrey’s version) he chooses to believe. If he had believed Joffrey and Cersei from the get-go, there would be no need to mention Sansa’s corroboration. When he pleads his case before the BwB, he says he heard it from “the royal lips” but then he qualifies it by saying that Arya's sister confirmed the story. Not just any character, but Sansa Stark, the one who’s become most important to him. That it came from “the royal lips” is enough to follow the order, but Sansa’s “confirmation” seems more a way of reconciling himself with the consequences of following those orders. Here I’ll quote statements from Mad Madam Mim, because I think she put it better than I ever could:

...

Sansa does appear to be the moral beacon that Sandor eventually comes to re-calibrate his own ideas of morality towards.

...

Indeed, the Mycah incident is weighing heavily on Sandor's mind and he is trying to assuage his guilt by using ye olde "Sansa said it so it must be true" defense. In examining Sandor's comment to the BwB, I believe it could be Sandor trying to understand and evaluate his actions by consulting his Sansometer-of-moral-conduct™.Unfortunately Sansa never did say it, which is why he may be getting squiffy readings, but he eventually manages to work it out on his own.

...

^ The Sansometer(). Yes!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do think he’d have heard other versions (even the real version of Sansa's account, that she couldn't remember), mainly because he didn’t spend all his time in the Red Keep where the status quo is more strictly enforced; and even in the castle, people gossip and invent things (and those who heard Arya’s version of events wouldn’t be like to forget it so quickly).

Thanks for your reply (and for the link to Tze’s essay!). I don’t mean to beat the issue to death, so after this reply I'll shut up about it! :) In addition to this being the catalyst to Joffrey’s mistreatment of Sansa, I think it is important because it can potentially help us understand how this character’s mind works. Regardless of who he heard it from, it’s this story (and of course, that’s all it is, a story, because she never confirms Joffrey’s version) he chooses to believe. If he had believed Joffrey and Cersei from the get-go, there would be no need to mention Sansa’s corroboration. When he pleads his case before the BwB, he says he heard it from “the royal lips” but then he qualifies it by saying that Arya's sister confirmed the story. Not just any character, but Sansa Stark, the one who’s become most important to him. That it came from “the royal lips” is enough to follow the order, but Sansa’s “confirmation” seems more a way of reconciling himself with the consequences of following those orders. Here I’ll quote statements from Mad Madam Mim, because I think she put it better than I ever could:

^ The Sansometer(). Yes!

I think I was more focused on the immediate timeframe than your question was. As of the time Ned walks away at the end of the chapter I don't think he could have fully pieced together what happened even if he had doubts. Dogs sniffing out lies is one of his things but even if he doubted specifics of the brief version he got when ordered, Joffrey was clearly hurt and hurting Joffrey is clearly a crime. I don't want to jump ahead to the BwB chapter, but yes I think his understanding of this chapter's events definitely evolves between now and then for a number of reasons with Sansa being quite high on the list of reasons. Overall I think killing Mycah would be a nagging moral stand in for the things he's done in Lannister service (the acting morally like a knight theme.) I think it is Arya's later influence that makes it more of an acute or personal offense and not that Mycah's knightly dreamings mimic Sandor's origins-- that's more literary parallel than personal psychology.

I can easily see Sansa's silence, her lack of backing up Arya's version of events, transformed into backing Joffrey's version of events in the Lannister retelling of the tale. That Sandor claims to have knowledge of what Sansa said at all indicates that he must have at least heard the event discussed off page.

Before the Mycah drama plays out we get this little exchange:

“What is it, sweet lady? Why are you afraid? No one will hurt you. Put away your swords, all of you. The wolf is her little pet, that’s all.” He looked at Sandor Clegane. “And you, dog, away with you, you’re scaring my betrothed.”

Joffrey is angry and distant until the Hand's Tourney and when Sansa expects such gallantry to be repeated he deliberately sends The Hound with her as if he wishes to intentionally make her more afraid. We could certainly expect Sandor to note this change and expect it to color how he interprets what really happened. On a much more subtle level than Arya, Sansa also serves to keep the Mycah incident alive because it is what transformed her from trophy to target in Joffrey's eyes. As far as personal psychology though, Sansa becomes his focal point or receptacle for guilt and moral failings, not Mycah. Sansa is the one whose knightly dreamings he identifies with enough to share a tale not Mycah's, but that's stepping on discussions to come.

In real time here, we have Joffrey's gallant facade contrasted with the beastly facade of Sandor. She mistakes Sandor for her father and at the end we have Ned in a standoff of sorts with Sandor after one has killed Lady and the other has killed Mycah. There's a great deal of harsh reality vs. idealism contrasts on display here.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

On one hand, I'm absolutely thrilled to find such an in-depth and well-written Sandor re-read, as he's always been one of my favorite characters. On the other hand, now I feel like any re-read I do will never match up to this beautiful one.

Ah well...more time to read other posts!

In all seriousness, this is VERY well done and I'm very excited by it.

Good Lord, I hadn't considered it.

If it's true that Sansa kept Sandor's cloak with her, does it mean that Mycah's blood is upon herself as well?

Obligatory praise to OldGimletEye for his essay, but tbh I'd just say that if in a feudal society the Queen gives you an order, you better do it... and fast.

Especially since your position/money/life fully depends on the Queen's family like in Sandor's case.

To directly contest the Queen's will, a character needs three things: a "weak" or particularly openminded queen you can openly talk with (something Cersei's not), a particular influence over the Queen (something Sandor lacks) or being in a Disney Land Fantasy Setting (something Asoiaf is not).

Not to dismiss the aforementioned essay of course, since it's exhaustive and well thought.

I don't see any way for anyone, but Jaime or Robert, to contest Cersei's will. And neither of one does.

Welcome, Loic and Lady Meliora! And thank you for the kind words. :)

Joffrey probably didn’t mention what Arya and Mycah had been doing before he and Sansa arrived. So we have another instance of dramatic irony in the re-read. The man who was so terribly punished as a child for playing with a knight is now the one meting out justice to another innocent for almost the same “crime,” and he probably doesn't even know it. Do you think Sandor would have been as quick to administer justice if he knew what game Mycah was playing at? Or would he have acted exactly as he did? Given where we are in the story, I’d opt for the latter, but that the emotion toll would have been even stronger.

​Poor Mycah. The smallfolk always get the short of end of the stick, as Martin shows us time and again.

Actually, I think it could very well be possible that Joffrey told them he and Sansa found Arya and Mycah practicing at arms. He would have had to offer up a reason for the attack. Not even Cersei would believe Arya and Mycah just randomly attacked Joffrey (not that having a reason would matter to Cersei). Considering the rigid class stratification of feudal societies, wherein a commoner can be punished for speaking out of turn to a member of nobility, as Milady of York mentioned upthread, with Arya and Roose Bolton as the example, it would also be a great offense for a commoner to strike a person of noble birth, which is what Mycah did when Joffrey and Sansa found them. Joffrey could have very well told his parents he was attacked because he witnessed Mycah hitting Arya and attempted to play the gallant, as he had been all day with Sansa, by intervening (which is what he did). From what little we know of his account, it isn’t far off from the truth: Arya and Mycah hit him with clubs, and Nymeria attacked him. Arya did hit him with a stick, so the “club” was an exaggeration, and Nymeria did attack him. Mycah’s participation, however, is an outright lie.

Earlier, Sansa thinks to herself about the bruises on Arya’s body: “She had bruises on her arms and shoulders too, dark purple welts and faded green-and-yellow splotches; Sansa had seen them when her sister undressed for sleep. How she had gotten those only the seven gods knew.” After we realize Arya had been practicing with Mycah, it’s apparent that Mycah gave her those bruises. Sansa’s thoughts on Mycah also indicate he was about as low on the social status totem pole as one can be: “Mycah was the worst; a butcher’s boy, thirteen and wild, he slept in the meat wagon and smelled of the slaughtering block.”

Considering how long Joffrey and Sansa had been out together, long enough to make Sansa feel uneasy, when they happenstanced upon Arya and Mycah, one can assume both Arya and Mycah made a concerted effort to practice far away from the eyes of anyone else. When Joffrey and Sansa come across Arya and Mycah, they witness him smacking Arya hard across her fingers, hard enough for tears to well up in her eyes. Joffrey’s initial response, without knowing who Arya is, is laughter—he’s amused. But as soon as he finds out she’s Sansa’s sister, his mood quickly darkens. As Mycah pleads with Joffrey (she told me to do it), Arya flushes, implying she’s been caught red handed, and she doesn’t corroborate Mycah’s assertions that she had asked him to practice with her. She simply attacks after Joffrey draws blood. Arya even blames herself for his death, but not because she attacked the crown prince and somehow Mycah was ascribed equal blame, but because she asked him to do something he should not have.

”I was trying to learn, but…” Her eyes filled with tears. “I asked Mycah to practice with me.” The grief came on her all at once. She turned away, shaking. “I asked him,” she cried. “It was all my fault, it was me…”

Just as Jon was not allowed to practice in the yard with the crown prince, commoners like Mycah were probably not allowed to lay hands on the nobility regardless of the situation. To the modern reader, Arya and Mycah are engaged in harmless play, play that was interrupted by a sadistic Joffrey, which makes Mycah’s death all the more horrific. But to those in a feudal society, a serious line had been crossed. Had Sandor tagged along that day, as Sansa wanted (she did wonder if it was wise to dismiss him), and they crossed paths with Arya and Mycah while practicing, Mycah could very well have been punished, but not so severe as paying with his life. If he could be punished for that, the punishment for any commoner harming royalty, even just by association, would be far more harsh and extreme. Sadly, Mycah’s punishment could have been mitigated had Sandor chaperoned Joffrey and Sansa, but since Joffrey dismissed him, it fell to the Hound to carry out Cersei’s orders.

Two days just to catch up. Guys and gals, you've written a lot of stuff and good stuff at that. I lack the time to properly participate in a Re-Read but will keep an eye on this thread.

Anyway, about the Mycah incident:

When Ned describes the Hound's eyes glittering behind his visor, that's a weird description. Yes, it conveys a message of message. But why? It's the visor. Eyes can't glitter. Moisture does. Tears do. In most instances of eyes glittering, it's to convey the image of somebody on the edge of tears.

Only the cruelty of the Hound, his cruel joke, and the closed visor turn it into something menacing. But the closed visor hides any expression on his face as much as making the glitter appear threatening.

Does Sandor overcompensate with his joke, but is actually close to weeping?

That's a difficult question. Because Gared spent several months running, well beyond the scope of a momentary lapse, and had enough sense to circumvent all three gates, which is damn difficult on his own. Don't know whether an insanity defense would work in this case. Probably just factoring into the punishment, not into the sentence itself.

Great to see you hear, Bright Blue Eyes. I was wondering if Gared's frame of mind could be compared to Sandor's when he deserts (which is really for future discussion). Did he suffer from temporary insanity, a form of PTSD, or was just terrified?

As to Sandor's emotional state, it seems odd that he would don his helm when leading a search party. He isn't going out into combat and two small children don't present a threat. Would that be typical? I wonder if he put on the helm as a way of slipping into the "Hound" persona before he departed, but keeps it on, with visor down, to mask his emotional state.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for taking the time to write such an interesting essay OGE. Especially one that 'legally challenged' minds like mine can understand. Just a couple of comments.

In OGE's discussion, he talked about the obedience expected of soldiers. I always thought it was interesting that Joff could dismiss his sworn shield from guarding him on a whim. Protecting life and limb of Joff was his sworn duty but the person he was guarding could dismiss him for a time. That just never seemed quite right to me.

Also, what OGE's essay and the other posts have made me think about is this; I always felt that part of what the episode at the Trident showed us was that Ned treated his smallfolk in a different and more respectful manner that the royalty did. But I'm rethinking that.

I understand his deep fears and concern for Arya when she was missing, but until the Hound shows up with Mycha's body we don't hear a peep from Ned showing any concern for his fate. The only other comment from him that I remember is when Arya was blaming herself for Mycha's death and Ned told her it was 'the Hound and the cruel woman he serves' who shared the blame for that.

So was Ned different? To be fair, when Ned came into the room where Robert and Cersei and the girls were, he asked Robert why he hadn't been notified right away and Cersei quickly put him in his place. To ask about what would happen to the smallfolk kid may have just been pushing it too far with Cersei in such a bad humor.

So this incident showed the class divisions in Westeros and how those divisions shook out; with the smallfolk the innocent one in this case, but still with the most to lose.

I also find that odd. If Sandor is truly following Cersei's orders, why would Joffrey be able to dismiss him?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

~~~~snip~~~~

Just as Jon was not allowed to practice in the yard with the crown prince, commoners like Mycah were probably not allowed to lay hands on the nobility regardless of the situation. To the modern reader, Arya and Mycah are engaged in harmless play, play that was interrupted by a sadistic Joffrey, which makes Mycah’s death all the more horrific. But to those in a feudal society, a serious line had been crossed. Had Sandor tagged along that day, as Sansa wanted (she did wonder if it was wise to dismiss him), and they crossed paths with Arya and Mycah while practicing, Mycah could very well have been punished, but not so severe as paying with his life. If he could be punished for that, the punishment for any commoner harming royalty, even just by association, would be far more harsh and extreme. Sadly, Mycah’s punishment could have been mitigated had Sandor chaperoned Joffrey and Sansa, but since Joffrey dismissed him, it fell to the Hound to carry out Cersei’s orders.

~~~~~snap~~~~~

This is really important. Mycha was a lowborn playing with a highborn. This why I think one of the issues of this is reinforce the importance of the social classes and the difference between house Stark and houses Baratheon and Lannister. Arya was allowed to play with the smallfolk and so she did with Mycha; rode out exploring and playing with swords upon her request.

I've gathered from reading the series that learning to swordfight was something rarely taught to the lower classes like where Mycha was from, so Joff discovering him playing with, and hitting, a highborn girl may well of been a shock. No chaperone, showing off infront of Sansa and drinking wine made for a perfect storm for Joff's inner asshole to come it. And it sure did.

edt; Sandor was a minor noble but one who still was subject to the whims of the higher born. As such, Joff could dismiss him for the ride.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

*snip*

Great to see you hear, Bright Blue Eyes. I was wondering if Gared's frame of mind could be compared to Sandor's when he deserts (which is really for future discussion). Did he suffer from temporary insanity, a form of PTSD, or was just terrified?

As to Sandor's emotional state, it seems odd that he would don his helm when leading a search party. He isn't going out into combat and two small children don't present a threat. Would that be typical? I wonder if he put on the helm as a way of slipping into the "Hound" persona before he departed, but keeps it on, with visor down, to mask his emotional state.

Great post all around, clarifying the legal status of Mycha.

As to Gared, there was nothing temporary about him. He's deserting for nine months before being caught. Nine entire months. Not half a night. Nor can he be completely out of his mind, since circumventing the Wall is damn difficult and requires clarity of mind.

Putting on his helmet is just part of dressing for the job. Armed men don their armor, and it includes the helmet. He's dressed like that even inside Winterfell.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do think he’d have heard other versions (even the real version of Sansa's account, that she couldn't remember), mainly because he didn’t spend all his time in the Red Keep where the status quo is more strictly enforced; and even in the castle, people gossip and invent things (and those who heard Arya’s version of events wouldn’t be like to forget it so quickly).

The main point of yours I was in doubt about was the assertion that it had been Joffrey who told him Sansa had supported his version, which is quite possible, but not a certainty as the reality is that the list of suspects for telling Sandor what had been said at the hall is pretty long: Cersei, Joffrey, the crimson cloaks that were in the room, the soldiers who took Arya at the castle gate, the queen's maids . . . And that's not even counting the Baratheon retinue that had perforce to cohabitate with the Lannisters. Any of them could have tattled to the Hound, and it'd not be necessarily a deliberate lie for them to repeat that Sansa had declared true the "official" version that Joffrey had been the victim, because he's the only one that knows for sure that he's lying, the others can only believe or doubt. And that'd be the interpretation that would be enforced by the Lannister household and the one Sandor would know at the time. Whatever else he knew, it'd have been posterior to Darry and possibly a long process of piecing clues together as Ragnorak posits, but from your assertion it was understood that he'd heard the other versions there at Darry, even the true account, cherry-picking the one that best suited him, and for that it'd have been necessary that Sansa had told her version to others besides her father and that Ned had told others freely too, and for the Stark household to go about spreading it.

One additional detail worth mentioning is that the Brotherhood without Banners trial was too serious a business to construe the Hound's counterargument as purely a need to assuage his conscience, as his life was at stake, so he'd not be quoting Sansa as support only because she's some sort of moral compass for him or that he needs reassuring himself through the girl he put on a pedestal. It's because Sansa is the only witness, the one that can tip the balance in favour or against any of the two versions. Without her, people can either believe Arya or believe Joffrey or stay doubtful of both, but Sansa can make it two-to-one against Joffrey if she were to tell what happened. It was precisely because of this that Ned called her to the hall to speak before the king. And that in itself is a legal defence: Sandor is citing that the witness had corroborated Joffrey's version and Arya is undermining the value of this testimony by arguing that the eyewitness has lied. Witnesses matter, and matter greatly; look at Arya: her version is truthful, we know that very well, yet she doesn't have a witness to corroborate it, therefore Beric can't hang Sandor outright and has to settle for trial by combat.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Welcome, Loic and Lady Meliora! And thank you for the kind words. :)

Actually, I think it could very well be possible that Joffrey told them he and Sansa found Arya and Mycah practicing at arms. He would have had to offer up a reason for the attack. Not even Cersei would believe Arya and Mycah just randomly attacked Joffrey (not that having a reason would matter to Cersei). Considering the rigid class stratification of feudal societies, wherein a commoner can be punished for speaking out of turn to a member of nobility, as Milady of York mentioned upthread, with Arya and Roose Bolton as the example, it would also be a great offense for a commoner to strike a person of noble birth, which is what Mycah did when Joffrey and Sansa found them. Joffrey could have very well told his parents he was attacked because he witnessed Mycah hitting Arya and attempted to play the gallant, as he had been all day with Sansa, by intervening (which is what he did). From what little we know of his account, it isn’t far off from the truth: Arya and Mycah hit him with clubs, and Nymeria attacked him. Arya did hit him with a stick, so the “club” was an exaggeration, and Nymeria did attack him. Mycah’s participation, however, is an outright lie.

Earlier, Sansa thinks to herself about the bruises on Arya’s body: “She had bruises on her arms and shoulders too, dark purple welts and faded green-and-yellow splotches; Sansa had seen them when her sister undressed for sleep. How she had gotten those only the seven gods knew.” After we realize Arya had been practicing with Mycah, it’s apparent that Mycah gave her those bruises. Sansa’s thoughts on Mycah also indicate he was about as low on the social status totem pole as one can be: “Mycah was the worst; a butcher’s boy, thirteen and wild, he slept in the meat wagon and smelled of the slaughtering block.”

Considering how long Joffrey and Sansa had been out together, long enough to make Sansa feel uneasy, when they happenstanced upon Arya and Mycah, one can assume both Arya and Mycah made a concerted effort to practice far away from the eyes of anyone else. When Joffrey and Sansa come across Arya and Mycah, they witness him smacking Arya hard across her fingers, hard enough for tears to well up in her eyes. Joffrey’s initial response, without knowing who Arya is, is laughter—he’s amused. But as soon as he finds out she’s Sansa’s sister, his mood quickly darkens. As Mycah pleads with Joffrey (she told me to do it), Arya flushes, implying she’s been caught red handed, and she doesn’t corroborate Mycah’s assertions that she had asked him to practice with her. She simply attacks after Joffrey draws blood. Arya even blames herself for his death, but not because she attacked the crown prince and somehow Mycah was ascribed equal blame, but because she asked him to do something he should not have.

Just as Jon was not allowed to practice in the yard with the crown prince, commoners like Mycah were probably not allowed to lay hands on the nobility regardless of the situation. To the modern reader, Arya and Mycah are engaged in harmless play, play that was interrupted by a sadistic Joffrey, which makes Mycah’s death all the more horrific. But to those in a feudal society, a serious line had been crossed. Had Sandor tagged along that day, as Sansa wanted (she did wonder if it was wise to dismiss him), and they crossed paths with Arya and Mycah while practicing, Mycah could very well have been punished, but not so severe as paying with his life. If he could be punished for that, the punishment for any commoner harming royalty, even just by association, would be far more harsh and extreme. Sadly, Mycah’s punishment could have been mitigated had Sandor chaperoned Joffrey and Sansa, but since Joffrey dismissed him, it fell to the Hound to carry out Cersei’s orders.

Good stuff here. I'm glad to see you expand on these class issues.

The fact of the matter is that Mycah was put into a precarious situation by playing knights with a high born kid. He would have been probably safer playing with a lighter and a can of gasoline.

When a lowborn kid plays with a highborn kid, it doesn't take much for their to be allegations that lowborn kid engaged in serious criminal conduct. Such is the nature of Westeros class system.

Also, Sandor was, to some extent at least, in a similar situation as the soldier on a firing squad that Robert Jackson wrote about. While the soldier can be held responsible for the killing a person whom he knows to be innocent, it's much harder to hold the soldier completely responsible when the person executed was accused of having committed a serious offense, even if the law defining the offense was very unfair. Also, it's hard to hold the soldier responsible just because there might have been some procedural irregularities in the condemned person's trial or the adjudication of his guilt, unless the soldier just so happens to have a law degree and has read through the trial transcript.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks, everyone, for your well-supported responses. Milady of York, with regard to your points: firstly, I didn't mean that he'd have heard such accounts while at Darry (except for the original account from which the order sprang), but at any point after the deed was done. If I said or implied Darry, it was unintentionally. Secondly, you are completely right, of course, about the need to mention Sansa in light of Arya's accusation. I get that his life was on the line there and it was important to mention every bit of evidence, but didn't mention that in my post, and really, I should have. I'm also guilty of dragging this sidebar out and into the third book of the series, so... sorry, everyone! As promised before, I'll shut up about it now, jaja. :worried:


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As to Sandor's emotional state, it seems odd that he would don his helm when leading a search party. He isn't going out into combat and two small children don't present a threat. Would that be typical? I wonder if he put on the helm as a way of slipping into the "Hound" persona before he departed, but keeps it on, with visor down, to mask his emotional state.

Thanks to you and Brashcandy for your welcome, but actually I've been here since page one! :grouphug:

Allow me to quote myself from back then, regarding this topic of yours than I'm quoting above.

The first "negative" impression of Sandor comes out exactly with "the Hound's" (or maybe the Hound's helm) appeareance on scene.

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

Up until now, it looks like the one that people fear is the Hound, rather than just Sandor Clegane.

"The Hound" looks more like a public role rather than an actual identity, kinda like Jaime Lannister is "Jaime, the individual" as well as "the Kingslayer".

The two identities coexist and sometimes overlap, but the nickname alone doesn't tell the true and complete story.

I wish I could elaborate more on this but I don't want to spoil the reread... for now let's just say that I believe that "the Hound's identity" travels togheter with this creepy helmet.

@Bright Blue Eyes: nice catches!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Before the Mycah drama plays out we get this little exchange:

“What is it, sweet lady? Why are you afraid? No one will hurt you. Put away your swords, all of you. The wolf is her little pet, that’s all.” He looked at Sandor Clegane. “And you, dog, away with you, you’re scaring my betrothed.”

-snip-

In real time here, we have Joffrey's gallant facade contrasted with the beastly facade of Sandor. She mistakes Sandor for her father and at the end we have Ned in a standoff of sorts with Sandor after one has killed Lady and the other has killed Mycah. There's a great deal of harsh reality vs. idealism contrasts on display here.

Thank you for highlighting this particular quote from Joffrey, I had never noticed before but it is an interesting parallel to Sandor's declaration during the BBW:

Everything scares you. Look at me. Look at me.”

“I could keep you safe,” he rasped. “They’re all afraid of me. No one would hurt you again, or I’d kill them.”

I don't have anything to say about it in particular, however it does tie in with what you said about "Joffrey's gallant facade contrasted with the beastly facade of Sandor."

I wanted to briefly expand on your comment about Sansa mistaking Sandor for her father. His 'strong arms grasped her shoulder' establishes Sandor in a protector role at an early stage. It mirrors the marriage customs of a Westeros wedding where the father will lead the daughter down the aisle and transfer his role as protector over to the husband and the husband seals the deal by placing his cloak of protection upon her shoulders.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The prologue of Game of Thrones serves to give us the background for the crime for which Gared is executed by Ned in the first chapter. That execution serves to give us the First Men tradition of justice and contrast it with the Southron's headsman version. Justice serves many purposes but one purpose is a form of protection for the weak and the innocent. Knights are supposed to be one of the core enforcement mechanisms of justice.

When Sansa meets Illyn Payne she is scared and accidently backs up into the Hound and mistakes him for Ned:


Lady growled. A terror as overwhelming as anything Sansa Stark had ever felt filled her suddenly. She stepped backward and bumped into someone.
Strong hands grasped her by the shoulders, and for a moment Sansa thought it was her father, but when she turned, it was the burned face of Sandor Clegane looking down at her

Strong hands on the shoulders seems like a protective gesture and would help explain why she might make that mistake. This sets up a comparison between Ned and Sandor and points to a theme of protection. At the end of Ned's POV he is standing opposite the Hound after both have killed in the name of the King's justice. Ned took it upon himself to follow the First Men tradition despite knowing he was violating the spirit. It was Robert who passed the sentence yet Robert would not be wielding the sword. Ned claims that Lady deserves better than a butcher which further serves to highlight a comparison to Mycah, the butcher's boy. Ned already knew Lady was innocent before he sent for his sword. He is owning Robert's choice as if it were his own. He still follows the First Men practice both literally

She looked at him with bright golden eyes, and he ruffled her thick grey fur.

and figuratively in that he tries to get to know the wolf he is unjustly slaying which is at the core of looking into someone's eye-- to stare through the windows to the soul for a glimpse to see if capital punishment is merited.

Ned sat beside her for a while. “Lady,” he said, tasting the name. He had never paid much attention to the names the children had picked, but looking at her now, he knew that Sansa had chosen well. She was the smallest of the litter, the prettiest, the most gentle and trusting.

Sandor is dispatched as the headsman for Cersei's Southron form of justice that is in fact vengeance. Vengeance may even be too kind a word as Mycah did not even do the thing for which his life is being sought as payment. If Mycah ran Sandor most certainly didn't look him in the eyes, though curiously Ned does look Sandor in the eyes during their encounter.

Southron and First Men justice is being contrasted here with a delivery that tends to add to the narrative's Stark vs. Lannister divide. Sandor is tied to this contrast as he is tied to the Lannisters but that will be a transient affiliation in his story. Later Sansa and Sandor will have an exchange about killing in which Sandor will assert that Ned liked killing. I think, when we get there, it would be beneficial to look back on the contrast that is set up here. One of the points of not using a headsman is so that killing does not become easy. Cat explains this to Jeyne Westerling and again it is worth noting the contrast is again Stark and Lannister:

“It is a hard thing to take a man’s life.”
“I know. I told him, he should use a headsman. When Lord Tywin sends a man to die, all he does is give the command. It’s easier that way, don’t you think?”
“Yes,” said Catelyn, “but my lord husband taught his sons that killing should never be easy.”

One of the effects Arya's repeated nagging at Sandor over Mycah has is that it makes having killed Mycah far less easy. Ned tastes Lady's name here and though Sandor never looks his target in the eyes now, Arya will force feed Mycah's name to Sandor later. So even toward the end of the third book, the foundations being laid here are still at play.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

FEATURED COMMENTARY:



Murder as a plot device and its impact on bias




To the extent that I've been able to make the characters real, people invest in them emotionally, they identify with them, and they like or dislike other of the characters. They argue about them—I find that very gratifying. It's one of the things that suggests to me that what I'm doing with the characters is working. When I hear from different fans who have varying opinions about a character, about who's a good guy and who's a bad guy, and who they'd like to live and who they'd like to die—it's not always the expected ones, and they disagree sharply with each other. That's a good sign. In real life, people don't always like the same people. People make moral judgments that differ sharply with each other—witness some of the arguments we see going on about the current election. People should respond to fictional characters in the same way. If you introduce a character who everybody loves, or who everybody hates, that's probably a sign that that character's a little too one-dimensional, because in real life there's no one that everybody loves, and there's no one that everybody hates.


—— George R. R. Martin, in an interview.




When discussing personal change-based arcs in ASOIAF like those of Sandor, Jaime and Theon, the most divisive topic is probably that of child-killing. In broad strokes, the diverging sides will argue either in favour of discernment through attenuating surrounding circumstances and contextual liability, or will argue based on questions of morality and justice that provide cause for impeaching and judging them. However, there’s one factor that doesn’t get discussed as much yet does have considerable influence on the matter on a meta-conscious level, and that does mould people’s opinion to variable extents, wheresoever they may stand.



This factor carries the name of Identifiable Victim Effect that psychologists have given it, and is really more comprehensible than its scholarly-sounding classification tag implies. In fact, some might already know of it from somewhere by name or by description.



“A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”



This phrase mistakenly fastened onto Soviet Union dictator Josef Stalin, but likely from earlier and by someone else, condenses quite well what the Identifiable Victim Effect is and also gives the phenomenon its pop-culture denominator of A Million is a Statistic: it refers to the natural tendency of individuals to sympathise with, defend and offer greater aid when a specific, visible and identifiable person—the "victim"—is observed under hardship, as contrasted to a large, vaguely defined and unseen group of several people undergoing the same hardship, as clinical therapist Rebecca Collins explained it, because of proximity, for these “vivid, flesh and blood-victims are often more powerful sources of persuasion than abstract statistic.”



The same researcher also points out that this doesn’t end at simply empathising with and helping the victim, but is furthermore a two-pronged effect: its other spearpoint is directed at the perpetrator. There’s greater motivation towards doing something to them in the name of the victim, towards defensive attack and punishing, be it verbal or physical, and when the opportunity for punishment appears, then we’re more likely to dispense it, and often more harshly, if/when punishing the specific and identifiable victimiser of an specific and identifiable victim.



This would be due to neurologically imprinted and outwardly nourished cognitive processes shared by all humans. People possess three types of empathy: cognitive empathy, that is to share what the other thinks; then affective empathy, meaning to feel what the other feels too; and finally sympathetic empathy, which is a mix of the former two, conjoined with the impulse to take action and do something. And empathy is a finite quality, it has a limit and a defined breaking point. Such a limit to the ability to empathise is the so-called Dunbar Number effect, explained by anthropologist Robin Dunbar as a psychological phenomenon that restricts the amount of a person’s significant relationships to a certain number (which for him is 150 within a 100-200 range, but others have given different numbers), because the innate ability to handle meaningful and emotionally-fulfilling relationships is less optimal and falters past that limit, as the close network fades into the abstract, crowded mass of people. As a result, the amount of sympathy that death, cruelty, injustice and suffering evoke is inversely proportional to the magnitude of its effects, and it’s our knowledge of the affected person that has the major impact. Paul Slovic, who did some studies to confirm this, calls it “psychic numbing” and declares that the problem with anonymous statistics is that they don’t activate moral emotions, because the mind can’t grasp suffering on such a massive and abstract scale. And so, for example, people can be riveted easily when media show a child suffering, but empathy is turned off when the news talk of thousands of little ones suffering.



Applying this to bias in literature, historically the murder of the innocent and the weak as a vilification method to make the Bad/Evil One out of someone is a very ancient rhetorical technique that seems to have been always there, from the Old Testament to the rousing speeches of Classical playwrights to Shakespeare’s works and the modern examples in any Top Fictional Villains list. Regardless of the evolution of customs and ethics across epochs, victim identification by proximity remains constant for reasons of the stable cognitive traits earlier mentioned, an ages-tested effectiveness that accounts for its extensive employment. To create the perception of a character as a villain—or an anti-hero, depending—in the readership’s mind, or at the very least make a case for interpreting a scene as an indictment of the character as deeply-flawed, the ideal writing device is to have them inflict suffering on and/or kill an innocent. This is quite effective in writing because:



  1. The victim is innocent, an absolutely pivotal component for the effect to be present. Or they must be presumed to be guiltless. And if furthermore they’re defenceless, the intensity of loathing for the perpetrator is higher; which is why little children, women and the crippled are chosen by default.
  2. When the bad act resulting in the death or suffering happens on-page, whether in the perpetrator’s POV or the victim’s, we get to “witness” the act as it unfolds. Generally, this is the best option for maximum emotional impact, both because the character who suffers pain and the character who inflicts it are more memorable, and even when readers don’t necessarily feel what the character feels, the intensity of it intensifies the readers’ own feelings.
  3. Vividness and proximity matter more than magnitude. Due to the victim identification repercussions, how bad the deed is isn’t impactful by itself, for even if it isn’t comparatively as heinous or as sadistic as what happens to other characters in the same story, it will affect the reader nonetheless. For this reason, minor transgressions such as slaps, crude words and the like can matter a lot if directed at the identifiable victim the readers are partial to.
  4. The POV character’s reactions penetrate into the readers and influence their own reactions, often more than the narrative itself. This is especially true in three instances: when the deed is done off-page, because then we only have the POV’s post-facto reaction to build ours on; when the victim is a non-POV, because here it falls on the POV to pass judgement, and whichever path is chosen after the initial shock: vindictiveness, justice, forgiveness, indifference, etc., is likely to be shared by the readers; and finally, when the perpetrator is a non-POV, in which case the possibility of bias is so high as to be a certainty for most cases. Because, as there’s only one version and even when it’s true in essence, not getting to know the perpetrator’s motivations (be it selfish or understandable), essentially creates a deceptive appearance, and we judge the perpetrator’s motives on this apparent "proof."


The off-stage/non-POV option leaves more room to a writer for subversion than when it happens to be on-stage/POV, which is still possible provided it applies certain counterweight measures. In GRRM’s books, only one of the three cases when a character acquires a villainous reputation through murder of a child occurs in present-time in a POV: the throwing of Bran out the window from the tower at Winterfell in AGOT Bran II:



Bran’s fingers started to slip. He grabbed the ledge with his other hand. Fingernails dug into unyielding stone. The man reached down. “Take my hand,” he said. “Before you fall.”


Bran seized his arm and held on tight with all his strength. The man yanked him up to the ledge. “What are you doing?” the woman demanded.


The man ignored her. He was very strong. He stood Bran up on the sill. “How old are you, boy?”


“Seven,” Bran said, shaking with relief. His fingers had dug deep gouges in the man’s forearm. He let go sheepishly.


The man looked over at the woman. “The things I do for love,” he said with loathing. He gave Bran a shove.


Screaming, Bran went backward out the window into empty air. There was nothing to grab on to. The courtyard rushed up to meet him.


Somewhere off in the distance, a wolf was howling. Crows circled the broken tower, waiting for corn.



From this incident, a couple things stand out: On the pro, it’s Bran’s second POV, we already know a fair bit about this boy and what we know is that he’s a sympathetic sweet boy, and facts like that he’s daydreaming about what a great Kingsguard knight he’d wish to be add to the tragedy of being maimed by a Kingsguard knight. On the contra: we don’t have a POV by Jaime, and what we know of him from others is unflattering; plus he willingly and consciously put himself at risk of discovery for engaging in incestuous adultery in a foreign castle. The knowledge of the reasons Jaime had for throwing Bran out the window that comes later is contrasted with the fact that the woman and children he’d be protecting with this crime are also more crimes of his, which makes this a very complex moral issue. To cement the bias, the first version we hear from the guilty duo comes from Cersei, who claims to have never wanted Bran to be thrown, just intimidated into silence, and blames all on Jaime’s impulsiveness. Thus, by the time we get to read about his version, it’s too late to completely revert this perception: we already know fairly accurately what happened and why, we spent two whole books in the victim’s head reading about the painful post-traumatic mourning of the child, we see the consequences of that action blow off, and Jaime’s initial apparent lack of repentance and attempt at latching blame on Bran by insisting the boy wasn’t innocent as he’d been spying on them in his first chapters in ASOS pre-maiming are damning too. In other words, readers are wholly and deeply identified with the child victim. It appears impossible to modify that somehow. Yet it’s done nevertheless through the humanising of Jaime after he loses the hand that caused the paralysis of Bran.



But there’s a catch: having Jaime lose his hand by itself isn’t as effective a tool for reverting the negative perception. Following the principle that the reaction of the POV or victim counts greatly for the readers, Bran’s side of the tale is annulled by means of depriving him of any memory of who did that to him. The fact that Bran doesn’t remember it was Jaime and his weak clues are quickly shooed away by the Three-Eyed Crow make it possible for Jaime to gain in sympathy through his own POV unhindered by a counterbalance POV of his victim. We don’t get to read what Bran’s reaction would be, we can’t be certain whether he’d react with hate or with forgiveness, no idea on how it’d affect him to know. Therefore, authorial plot reasons for erasing Bran’s memory notwithstanding, the end result is that the beneficiary of this writing method was Jaime at the cost of Bran, as his “redemptive” arc in ASOS wouldn’t have had the same impact with Bran’s memory intact. For this reason, it should be interesting to read the child’s thoughts when he finds out whether by recovering his memory or through use of his powers.



Theon’s murder of the two miller’s boys is another interesting study with unique characteristics the other examples don’t possess, that bring it closer to the A Million is a Statistic analogy than the others, because it’s the only one that actually has anonymous victims. Those two boys are faceless and nameless, never glimpsed on-page and not described in detail or called by their names. This is also the only case in which the perpetrator has a POV that reveals in present-time all his emotions and his motivation for the crime, which are selfish and convey revulsion, and also brings to view in-world reactions like Maester Luwin’s quiet distress and Asha’s scorn:



“Well, I’m no great warrior like you, brother,” She quaffed half a horn of ale and wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “I saw the heads above your gates. Tell me true, which one gave you the fiercest fight, the cripple or the babe?”


Theon could feel the blood rushing to his face. He took no joy from those heads, no more than he had in displaying the headless bodies of the children before the castle. Old Nan stood with her soft toothless mouth opening and closing soundlessly, and Farlen threw himself at Theon, snarling like one of his hounds. Urzen and Cadwyl had to beat him senseless with the butts of their spears. How did I come to this? he remembered thinking as he stood over the fly-speckled bodies.


Only Maester Luwin had the stomach to come near. Stone-faced, the small grey man had begged leave to sew the boys’ heads back onto their shoulders, so they might be laid in the crypts below with the other Stark dead.


“No,” Theon had told him. “Not the crypts.”


“But why, my lord? Surely they cannot harm you now. It is where they belong. All the bones of the Starks—”


“I said no.” He needed the heads for the wall, but he had burned the headless bodies that very day, in all their finery. Afterward he had knelt amongst the bones and ashes to retrieve a slag of melted silver and cracked jet, all that remained of the wolf’s-head brooch that had once been Bran’s. He had it still.


“I treated Bran and Rickon generously,” he told his sister. “They brought their fate on themselves.”



Yet the miller’s boys still remain a statistic by virtue of their anonymity that precludes emotional investment in them for themselves. This becomes a scenario in which these boys are overshadowed by the two Starks they are passed off as, given that Greyjoy’s other victims—Bran and Rickon—have had enough time on-page for the readership to form an attachment to them and have already endured enough tragedies to elicit sympathy; more importantly: unlike with Jaime, there’s a counterbalance POV from Bran showing the other side, thereby “broadcasting live” what Brandon thinks and feels about the perpetrator he grew up with. Which would account for why Theon’s actions towards the Stark family are more likely to be judged harsher than towards the peasant boys.



In the third case, Sandor, we again have a distinctive feature: both victim and perpetrator are non-POVs, so both are by necessity filtered through the POVs connected to this murder, and therefore readers will absorb the POVs’ reactions to it in absence of reading at least one of the involved viewpoints. To complicate matters, no POV was near to witness the killing of Mycah; it happens off-page and the victim is a minor enough background extra as to have been tagged as a statistic if not for GRRM’s efficacious use of literary countermeasures. Those were:



  • The butcher’s boy isn’t anonymous. He has a name and a face due to Sansa and Arya respectively. From hearing the younger girl say things like “Mycah and I are going to ride upstream and look for rubies at the ford,” we know that the boy is her friend and that she loved playing with him along the slow-paced trip to King’s Landing; and thanks to the elder girl, we saw him onstage in AGOT Sansa I at the fight by the Trident, wherein we saw him be hurt and be terrified of the Crown Prince.
  • He is killed by and because of unsympathetic non-POVs. Not only have we verified that the boy is innocent of the charges, which heightens our sense of injustice, but we’re also aware already from before that Joffrey and Cersei are horrible people of whom not even the only Lannister POV in the first book thinks highly. So, too, is their Hound perceived as such by association atop of his own acts.
  • His death elicits revulsion from a POV. In the wake of the prescribed technique that a main character’s reactions will influence our opinion, Lord Stark is the one that gets to see first the dead body and gauge the morality of the perpetrator, in AGOT Eddard III:


He was walking back to the tower to give himself up to sleep at last when Sandor Clegane and his riders came pounding through the castle gate, back from their hunt.


There was something slung over the back of his destrier, a heavy shape wrapped in a bloody cloak. “No sign of your daughter, Hand,” the Hound rasped down, “but the day was not wholly wasted. We got her little pet.” He reached back and shoved the burden off, and it fell with a thump in front of Ned.


Bending, Ned pulled back the cloak, dreading the words he would have to find for Arya, but it was not Nymeria after all. It was the butcher’s boy, Mycah, his body covered in dried blood. He had been cut almost in half from shoulder to waist by some terrible blow struck from above.


“You rode him down,” Ned said.


The Hound’s eyes seemed to glitter through the steel of that hideous dog’s-head helm. “He ran.” He looked at Ned’s face and laughed. “But not very fast.”



  • The butcher’s boy has a POV champion. The killing could’ve been one more unjudged and unavenged Lannister crime against smallfolk in-universe and easily slid into becoming a statistic if this hadn’t been developed as an expanded plotline, and a way to ameliorate the characterisation of both Sandor and Arya. The latter’s is the reaction following Ned’s, and given her closeness to the victim, it resonates with the readership. We get to read the whole long process towards becoming Mycah’s champion, from her father’s rueful thoughts that she “was lost after she heard what had happened to her butcher’s boy” to her own recounting of the over-exaggerated version she got in AGOT Arya II . . .


They’d let the queen kill Lady, that was horrible enough, but then the Hound found Mycah. Jeyne Poole had told Arya that he’d cut him up in so many pieces that they’d given him back to the butcher in a bag, and at first the poor man had thought it was a pig they’d slaughtered.



From her guilt-ridden talk with her father in the same chapter . . .



Arya desperately wanted to explain, to make him see. “I was trying to learn, but . . . ” Her eyes filled with tears. “I asked Mycah to practice with me.” The grief came on her all at once. She turned away, shaking. “I asked him,” she cried. “It was my fault, it was me . . . ”


Suddenly her father’s arms were around her. He held her gently as she turned to him and sobbed against his chest. “No, sweet one,” he murmured. “Grieve for your friend, but never blame yourself. You did not kill the butcher’s boy. That murder lies at the Hound’s door, him and the cruel woman he serves.”



. . . to the spat with her sister in AGOT Sansa III, the point where we see the initial reaction evolved into a desire for retribution:



Arya screwed up her face in a scowl. “Jaime Lannister murdered Jory and Heward and Wyl, and the Hound murdered Mycah. Somebody should have beheaded them.”


“It’s not the same,” Sansa said. “The Hound is Joffrey’s sworn shield. Your butcher’s boy attacked the prince.”



And at the end of the road, the culmination of the process is that Arya decides she wants to kill all those who wronged those that matter to her, starting the death prayer in ACOK Arya VI, and including the Hound specifically for Mycah:



Arya watched and listened and polished her hates the way Gendry had once polished his horned helm. Dunsen wore those bull’s horns now, and she hated him for it. She hated Polliver for Needle, and she hated old Chiswyck who thought he was funny. And Raff the Sweetling, who’d driven his spear through Lommy’s throat, she hated even more. She hated Ser Amory Lorch for Yoren, and she hated Ser Meryn Trant for Syrio, the Hound for killing the butcher’s boy Mycah, and Ser Ilyn and Prince Joffrey and the queen for the sake of her father and Fat Tom and Desmond and the rest, and even for Lady, Sansa’s wolf. The Tickler was almost too scary to hate. At times she could almost forget he was still with them; when he was not asking questions, he was just another soldier, quieter than most, with a face like a thousand other men.


Every night Arya would say their names. “Ser Gregor,” she’d whisper to her stone pillow. “Dunsen, Polliver, Chiswyck, Raff the Sweetling. The Tickler and the Hound. Ser Amory, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, King Joffrey, Queen Cersei.”



All four factors contribute in tandem, but the third and fourth are by far the most important when it pertains to bias formation because of the non-witness POVs involved. With regard to this, there can be no doubt that GRRM does consciously use writing methods to evoke certain reactions in his readership, to which he’s alluded in interviews like the opening quote in this write-up, and when he said the following:



When I write a POV, after all, I am trying to put you in that person's head so you will presumably empathize with them, at least while reading the chapter.



In view of this, the structure of Eddard’s account is of particular interest to analyse its genesis, not only because it mirrors a similar scene in which he also jumped to hasty conclusions on sight without knowing the circumstances yet (the killing of Aerys), but also because the abrupt ending of the scene right after the Hound’s words is very eye-opening: GRRM puts the full stop after the “‘He ran.” He looked at Ned’s face and laughed. “But not very fast’” line without giving the reader a chance to find out what Eddard said after, or whether he ever did, what Sandor said or did after, etc. So as a direct product of this deliberate cliffhanger, the details that stick are those that shocked the most, like the cleaved-in-half state of the boy’s body, Eddard’s judgemental stance and the Hound’s laughter.



Standing on that foundation, Arya’s reaction keeps it vivid and current throughout her POV from Book I until the Hound “dies,” and because the author doesn’t go point-counterpoint like with the other two child-killer characters, her view of the killing predominates. For a while at least, because Martin didn’t let it lie with any of the three cases and provided with details that would allow moving past initial bias. His intention when writing the “redemptive” arcs was, in his own words, to explore the concept of forgiveness and whether a person can be forgiven, about which he explains:



One of the things I wanted to explore with Jaime, and with so many of the characters, is the whole issue of redemption. When can we be redeemed? Is redemption even possible? I don't have an answer. But when do we forgive people? You see it all around in our society, in constant debates. Should we forgive Michael Vick? I have friends who are dog-lovers who will never forgive Michael Vick. Michael Vick has served years in prison; he's apologized. Has he apologized sufficiently? Woody Allen: Is Woody Allen someone that we should laud, or someone that we should despise? Or Roman Polanski, Paula Deen. Our society is full of people who have fallen in one way or another, and what do we do with these people? How many good acts make up for a bad act? If you're a Nazi war criminal and then spend the next 40 years doing good deeds and feeding the hungry, does that make up for being a concentration-camp guard? I don't know the answer, but these are questions worth thinking about. I want there to be a possibility of redemption for us, because we all do terrible things. We should be able to be forgiven. Because if there is no possibility of redemption, what's the answer then?



We can safely assume that the Hound is amongst those “many of the characters,” and that the road trip across the Riverlands and the Vale with Arya did serve to explore the topic in his own arc as well as hers, using Arya in the triple role of champion of the victim, judge and executioner. And this is why details like her three chances to kill him and hesitating before first stab, thinking of him by his first name after a while in his company, taking him off her death prayer, and needing to resort to childish rationalisation when leaving him to die are of utmost significance in our future analysis, because of their antithetical function when taken into account in conjunction with his actions and words during that period.


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Such a well-written and insightful piece, Milady! The grouping of Theon, Jaime and Sandor really does help to highlight how the author has used these heinous acts against children to varying purpose and effect, and in particular with the latter two, it's important that these are the actions which effectively introduce them to the readers and shape our early biases.







FEATURED COMMENTARY:



Murder as a plot device and its impact on bias


<snip>



We can safely assume that the Hound is amongst those “many of the characters,” and that the road trip across the Riverlands and the Vale with Arya did serve to explore the topic in his own arc as well as hers, using Arya in the triple role of champion of the victim, judge and executioner. And this is why details like her three chances to kill him and hesitating before first stab, thinking of him by his first name after a while in his company, taking him off her death prayer, and needing to resort to childish rationalisation when leaving him to die are of utmost significance in our future analysis, because of their antithetical function when taken into account in conjunction with his actions and words during that period.






This is certainly true, and I would also argue that the Hound's redemptive arc with Arya would not have been so impactful or resonated so strongly with readers had it not started with another POV, that of Sansa's. Indeed, it's the portrait of Sandor that we get through Sansa's eyes that challenges us to rethink and reassess him as character worthy of our understanding and sympathy. If Arya takes the role of Mycah's POV champion, then Sansa could be seen as fulfilling a similar kind of duty with regard to Sandor, albeit one that is much more subtle and complex due to the nature of their relationship. To bring it back to Martin's use of literary techniques, this is why Sandor's brief interaction with Sansa in her first POV can be seen as significant for its foreshadowing potential, as she mistakes his touch for her father's, and he helps to diffuse the tense situation by telling the men gathered that the direwolf acts a "wetnurse" for the Starks. The suggestion of the Hound's importance to Sansa is then further teased in Robert's statement to Ned about getting her a dog. It's also important to note that Arya is not the only one who loses in the incident; Sansa also suffers a very poignant loss in her direwolf, and the fact that Sandor quickly comes to be established as having a protective role in her life provides readers with an invaluable counterpoint in his portrayal. If Mycah was to condemn him, Lady helps to redeem him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

***Warning: rampant speculation ahead. Please skip this post if spit-balling troubles you. Just musing...***





~~~~snip~~~~


This is certainly true, and I would also argue that the Hound's redemptive arc with Arya would not have been so impactful or resonated so strongly with readers had it not started with another POV, that of Sansa's.


~~~~snip~~~~





To follow on, the Hound's initial starting point may have been much more balanced if we had his POV. We don't know the details of what transpired immediately after the altercation at the Trident but we do know that a) Arya and Mycah run off while Sansa goes for assistance for Joff's injuries. Can we speculate a bit? The text tells us Joffrey is lying down. He has bloody wounds to his head and arm and his shirt is covered in blood. What a sight for Cersei and Sandor and others! Cersei's fear and fury, according to Jaime's later account, are uncontained. She argues bitterly with Robert regarding cutting off Arya's hand. When that fails, she seduces Jaime while demanding Arya's mutilation. Knowing all of this, can we imagine what she said to Sandor? Perhaps it might have been the medieval equivalent of: "You had one job. Some scumbag tried to murder the crown prince on your watch. Bring me the criminal's body - or..." Or similar?



What would be Sandor's perspective here? What would he feel and think? Shock - it is unlikely anyone has ever attacked Joffrey in King's Landing. Concern - for the prince and his bloody injuries. Anger - he is very protective both as his profession as well as his predisposed personality bent. Chagrin - at having left Joffrey unguarded, despite the fact he was following orders. Fear - from Cersei's reaction? I'm sure it was memorable. Determination - Sandor would have plenty of incentive to find the "villain." Satisfaction, perhaps - It took days but Sandor did not return without the culprit and he avenge the prince and could appease the queen. There would be no further attacks. He 'did his duty' when others failed to find the attacker. Indeed, later he learns Sansa failed to contradict Joff's version so he might feel validated. (I think it is much later in the Riverlands when we have Arya's POV and she niggles Sandor to the point he finally begins to display doubt, then remorse, then guilt.)



A couple of other things to note:


1) Foreshadowing? Sansa's POV describes Mycah as "...a butcher's boy, thirteen and wild, he slept in the meat wagon and smelled of the slaughtering block." (emphasis mine) Jeyne later describes him as having been butchered like a pig.


2) Ned - it's likely Ned knew the truth of the incident at the Trident before the 'trial' when Arya is captured. Sansa spoke with him about it.


3) Ned's POV - Ned's feelings on the killing of children are detailed in Eddard's previous chapter when he says to Robert "...the murder of children . . . it would be vile . . . unspeakable . . . "


So when the Hound, a Lannister man, drops the body of a boy wrapped in a bloody cloak at Ned's feet, did Ned recall the bodies of Rhaenys and Aegon wrapped in bloody Lannister cloaks? How could he not judge Sandor harshly?



Regardless of the accuracy of any of the above speculation, there is no doubt that the POVs do predispose our opinions on the characters and their actions. It's one of the many reasons I truly appreciate this reread - these books are so complex.


ETA: removed errant emoticon


Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

***Warning: rampant speculation ahead. Please skip this post if spit-balling troubles you. Just musing...***

To follow on, the Hound's initial starting point may have been much more balanced if we had his POV. We don't know the details of what transpired immediately after the altercation at the Trident but we do know that a) Arya and Mycah run off while B) Sansa goes for assistance for Joff's injuries. Can we speculate a bit? The text tells us Joffrey is lying down. He has bloody wounds to his head and arm and his shirt is covered in blood. What a sight for Cersei and Sandor and others! Cersei's fear and fury, according to Jaime's later account, are uncontained. She argues bitterly with Robert regarding cutting off Arya's hand. When that fails, she seduces Jaime while demanding Arya's mutilation. Knowing all of this, can we imagine what she said to Sandor? Perhaps it might have been the medieval equivalent of: "You had one job. Some scumbag tried to murder the crown prince on your watch. Bring me the criminal's body - or..." Or similar?

What would be Sandor's perspective here? What would he feel and think? Shock - it is unlikely anyone has ever attacked Joffrey in King's Landing. Concern - for the prince and his bloody injuries. Anger - he is very protective both as his profession as well as his predisposed personality bent. Chagrin - at having left Joffrey unguarded, despite the fact he was following orders. Fear - from Cersei's reaction? I'm sure it was memorable. Determination - Sandor would have plenty of incentive to find the "villain." Satisfaction, perhaps - It took days but Sandor did not return without the culprit and he avenge the prince and could appease the queen. There would be no further attacks. He 'did his duty' when others failed to find the attacker. Indeed, later he learns Sansa failed to contradict Joff's version so he might feel validated. (I think it is much later in the Riverlands when we have Arya's POV and she niggles Sandor to the point he finally begins to display doubt, then remorse, then guilt.)

A couple of other things to note:

1) Foreshadowing? Sansa's POV describes Mycah as "...a butcher's boy, thirteen and wild, he slept in the meat wagon and smelled of the slaughtering block." (emphasis mine) Jeyne later describes him as having been butchered like a pig.

2) Ned - it's likely Ned knew the truth of the incident at the Trident before the 'trial' when Arya is captured. Sansa spoke with him about it.

3) Ned's POV - Ned's feelings on the killing of children are detailed in Eddard's previous chapter when he says to Robert "...the murder of children . . . it would be vile . . . unspeakable . . . "

So when the Hound, a Lannister man, drops the body of a boy wrapped in a bloody cloak at Ned's feet, did Ned recall the bodies of Rhaenys and Aegon wrapped in bloody Lannister cloaks? How could he not judge Sandor harshly?

Regardless of the accuracy of any of the above speculation, there is no doubt that the POVs do predispose our opinions on the characters and their actions. It's one of the many reasons I truly appreciate this reread - these books are so complex.

If find your speculation reasonable. As you note, the Hound had been sent away by Joff before hand but would Cersei be very angry with him anyway? And if he came upon Joff as you suggested, for a bodyguard that would be a very serious matter to find their charge injured and bleeding.

Your second paragraph is reasonable as to what the Hound may have been feeling. One of the issues with all of this is most readers don't like Joff before he bullies Mycha and really dislike him afterward and this plays into our feelings about the butcher boy's murder. But nevertheless, he was the Crown Prince and so this altercation mattered.

Argh! I wanted to say much but that's jumping ahead. At any rate, well done.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is certainly true, and I would also argue that the Hound's redemptive arc with Arya would not have been so impactful or resonated so strongly with readers had it not started with another POV, that of Sansa's. Indeed, it's the portrait of Sandor that we get through Sansa's eyes that challenges us to rethink and reassess him as character worthy of our understanding and sympathy. If Arya takes the role of Mycah's POV champion, then Sansa could be seen as fulfilling a similar kind of duty with regard to Sandor, albeit one that is much more subtle and complex due to the nature of their relationship.

Thanks, Brashcandy! I'd wanted for ages to do a comparative analysis of bias and literary techniques using those three characters, although my initial outline had been quite different.

I like your point on him having his own albeit more complex "POV champion" too. One of the many reasons his redemptive arc is so interesting for analysis is that it has the distinctive feature of being shaped through the eyes of women, for in late AGOT/ACOK he is Sansa’s man, in ASOS he is Arya’s and in AFFC/ADWD he is Brienne’s, making his presence in the male narrative minimal in comparison to the female-focused narratives he is in. And each woman has a different attitude towards him, from condemnatory to empathetic and more, which each seep into our own assessment of the character; each serves as a narrator showing a different stage of his path towards change from beginning to the Quiet Isle, and Martin has made sure to create links between all three that'll be unveiled as we make progress. Two details in particular stood out to me, one related to this unsympathetic/sympathetic dichotomy you allude to: both Sandor and Sansa are shown in the younger Stark girl's first AGOT chapter in ways that elicit reactions that will be challenged ahead—and upon posterior rereads too, when we become more conscious of the writing devices at play; and the second, concerning strictly his redemption, is that the three girls mentioned have a prayer he is in directly or indirectly: the first one, Arya's, asks for the death of the Hound, the second one, Sansa's, asks for the betterment of the Hound, and the third one, Brienne's, asks for a sign leading to the maiden of three-and-ten she's questing for, before she arrives to the monastery.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.

×