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The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor

Milady of York

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I want to bring something over from the current PtP thread that sheds light on Sandor and his connection to place and home. Milday said:

Baelish doesn't have a sense of home and rootedness, therefore, contrasting to Sansa as you pointed. But possessing a great castle or lack thereof doesn't explain it as his own attitude towards his origins and family history does. Besides the mentioned Davos and how he views his origins, there's also Clegane, who definitely doesn't long to go back home, but he acknowledges that he's where he is thanks to his grandfather, and is duly respectful of his origins.

Milady’s interpretation of Sandor’s feelings about the Clegane lands is far more accurate than what I previously stated (that Sandor would like to inherit the Clegane lands), especially since as Sandor’s arc develops, he becomes far more aligned with the North. So, while he does desire family and land, it's not necessarily the lands his grandfather earned, but land he earns based on his own deeds.

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Thanks, DogLover. I find Sandor’s attitude towards his heritage interesting because it’s uncommon in the nobility, not just in the books but also in real life, where nobility was like the fictional one in matters of blood and rank and origins.

Since you've mentioned the topic of Sandor’s family, there’s something I had intended to share on the Clegane grandfather’s job before, about how kennelmasters worked in the Middle Ages so we would picture what kind of job it was. Because, whilst it was a servant’s task, it was no mean nor degrading job, and depending on the noble’s rank and riches, it could be lucrative.

Let’s see how kennels looked like in the medieval period, in this miniature hand-drawn illumination you can see a dogs’ house—kennel—from the castle of a medieval nobleman of high rank, Gaston III de Foix-Béarn, from round 1407 or so. This shows that a kennel was a wooden house especially made for the dogs, and could be profusely embellished with decorations and carvings, in size it was about 60 x 30 feet, and on the ground floor they placed beds of oak on which the hounds would sleep, that had a covering of fresh straw to be changed either daily or twice per week, depending. The larger the number of dogs a noble owned, the more kennels he owned, which were placed separately in the castle, away from the other animals. A royal hunting lover, Edward, Duke of York left a book on hunting where he describes the kennels and the tasks of the kennelmasters entitled The Master of the Game, where a relevant passage describes the kennels like this:

"The hounds' kennel should be ten fathoms in length and five in breadth, if there be many hounds. And there should be one door in front and one behind, and a fair green, where the sun shineth all day from morning till eve, and that green should be closed about with a paling or with a wall of earth or of stone of the same length and breadth as the hounds' kennel is. And the hinder door of the kennel should always be open so that the hounds may go out to play when they like, for it is a great liking to the hounds when they may go in and out at their pleasure, for the mange comes to them later. In the kennel should be pitched small stones wrapped about with straw of the hounds' litter, unto the number of six stones, that the hounds might piss against them. Also a kennel should have a gutter or two whereby all the piss of the hounds and all the other water may run out that none remains in the kennel. The kennel should also be in a low house, and not in a solere (an upper chamber), but there should be a loft above, so that it might be warmer in winter and cooler in summer, and always by night and by day I would that some child lie or be in the kennel with the hounds to keep them from fighting. Also in the kennel should be a chimney to warm the hounds when they are cold or when they are wet with rain or from passing and swimming over rivers."

The duke also narrates the routine obligations of the kennel servants: they must clean it every morning, put fresh straw on the beds daily, a thick layer of it on boards a foot above the ground, as lying on the ground could make the dogs sick, bring fresh and clear water twice a day and food for the hounds in baskets, mainly bread and grain-based foodstuff, and they would eat them from these baskets as the servants watched over them to see they were well-fed.

As to the dogs themselves, the Boke of St Albans from the 1400s lists these types of dog a nobleman would keep in his kennels for hunting purposes: the attack hound (a hound that brought down the prey in single combat: greyhound, alaunt or mastiff depending on the quarry), the lymer (a tracker hound, usually a Bloodhound), the raches (a hound that runs the quarry down, like foxhounds), and the kennet (small hunting hound used for pursuing to exhaustion fast-running game). Normally the three last types lived in the kennel houses, save for the most prized breed of them all, the greyhounds, which were so fine and expensive that only nobles and royalty could afford them, and they were also the most petted and coveted, with freedom to move round the castle and be present even at feasts—another difference with Martin’s world, where apparently any dog can enter a banquet—and that didn’t live in the kennels. This breed was so prized that Masters of Game at noble households had to keep them apart from the rest of the dogs, give them their own sleeping quarters in the castle, separately, to avoid any chance of mating with other dogs, going as far as forcing the greyhound bitches to abort or killing the litter when the mate hadn’t been another greyhound, a practice that allowed to keep the breed pure for centuries. These hounds were the ones that during the hunt had to fight with the quarry and never were released until the other hounds had cornered the game, upon which those were restrained and the greyhounds were unleashed for the kill. Due to their cost and rarity, they lived comfortably, and just like good warhorses and gyrfalcons, they were appreciated as gifts for nobles and kings. Given that the use of hounds was specific and controlled by the kennelmaster, it can be said that the three hounds of Grandfather Clegane were of the greyhound type, the only ones capable of taking down a lion, so it doesn’t make sense to depict the Clegane sigil with dogs that aren’t of this breed like in some fan-made sigils that circulate round.

Then we come to the kennel servants, which had a hierarchy that was as follows: veneur (huntsman), écuyer (squire), valet de limiers (valet of hounds), valet de levriers (valet for the chase hounds), and page. In some households of the royalty, like in France, the position Martin calls that of a kennelmaster came with the title of Grand Veneur, and since it was royalty, the kennels had at one point about a hundred dogs for hunting and dozens of people as permanent staff. The position reached a peak in prestige during the mid-1500s in France, when it employed over a hundred eighty people between hunters, valets, and pages, and although it wasn’t so high-paying as other positions for nobles, it had prestige enough for even ducal and royal offshoots to want to hold it, and for non-nobles who came to hold it, it was a matter of even greater prestige. One family held it thrice in a row, for example. And for the common servants and kennelmasters, it was definitely a good job, although to us it may not look so, and like with Master of the Horse and Master Falconer, being a Kennelmaster (Master of Game) in a noble household meant having a staff under your supervision, so you were above other servants in the household ranks, and a better pay.

The Clegane ancestor’s rank in the Lannister household is specifically stated: he is called a kennelmaster by Sandor, which says it all. He wasn’t a valet of hounds merely, but was the one that had likely the whole of the hunting machinery as his charge, and surely had to coordinate with the masters of horse and birds of prey when hunts were planned and accompany the lord with the hounds. TWOIAF tells the size and structure of Casterly Rock, which is really huge, but doesn’t say the size of the kennels, so we don’t really know how small or large they were, nor calculate how many hounds it had and how many in the staff. All we can guess, considering that the Lannisters are believed to be the richest family in Westeros, and that Lord Tytos was open-handed to a fault, is that the kennelmaster had a pay good enough to live comfortably and didn’t want for anything.

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