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Milady of York

The Will to Change: Rereading Sandor II

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Just wanted to drop in and say fascinating essay Milady. I found your exploration of Sandor's relationship with the Lannisters to be particularly interesting.


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Sandor II

 

In A Girl's Thoughts

 

Summary Analysis

 

·         Sansa I

·         Sansa II

·         Sansa III

 

Sandor is gone from the city, yet his presence remains in Sansa’s remembrances, thoughts, and fantasies. Her opening chapter of ASOS highlights the empathetic understanding she has of why he deserted the Blackwater battle, but perhaps even more importantly, is the revelation of the attachment she has formed to him in their time together within the Red Keep. As she is mulling over the invite by Joffrey’s new betrothed, Margaery Tyrell, she thinks:

 

I wish the Hound were here. The night of the battle, Sandor Clegane had come to her chambers to take her from the city, but Sansa had refused. Sometimes she lay awake at night, wondering if she’d been wise. She had his stained white cloak hidden in a cedar chest beneath her summer silks. She could not say why she’d kept it. The Hound had turned craven, she heard it said; at the height of the battle, he got so drunk the Imp had to take his men. But Sansa understood. She knew the secret of his burned face. It was only the fire he feared. That night, the wildfire had set the river itself ablaze, and filled the very air with green flame. Even in the castle, Sansa had been afraid. Outside . . . she could scarcely imagine it.

 

This desire for the Hound to still be nearby is significantly different from the other time during Sansa’s ordeal in Maegor’s Holdfast when Cersei used Ilyn Payne as a deadly threat and she wished instead for Sandor to be there on guard. Here now, there is no distinct threat to Sansa’s safety, only the possibility of enduring an unpleasant meal with her Tyrell replacement. Her wish, therefore, looks to be purely a sentimental expression.

 

In the above quote, we also learn another important detail concerning their relationship: Sansa has kept Sandor’s bloody cloak, the one he discarded when he left her chambers. It adds another layer of poignancy to their connection, and even though Sansa thinks that she could not say why she kept it, the message is suggestive to readers that her feelings for Sandor run deeper than either of them can currently discover or appreciate. As I previously outlined in my ACOK wrap up, the fact that Sansa has kept Sandor’s cloak also has important symbolic meaning for his redemption and future potential. In the aftermath of the battle when Sandor is being called a coward or a beast by various individuals, there is still someone who has faith in him, someone who knows intimately his capacity for goodness and change.

 

The next time Sandor is mentioned in Sansa’s thoughts in this chapter is when Loras Tyrell comes to escort her to meet with Margaery and the Queen of Thorns. Thoroughly indulging in her crush on Loras, Sansa observes:

 

When the appointed night arrived, another of the Kingsguard came for her, a man as different from Sandor Clegane as . . . well, as a flower from a dog.

 

It is a curious comparison because of Sansa’s well documented attraction to Loras, one that was made clear during the Hand’s tourney in AGOT. By assessing the stark contrast between Sandor and Loras, she is in effect including the former in a romantic evaluation. Walking and conversing with Loras, Sansa soon realises that the handsome knight has no memory of giving her the red rose during the tourney and that it was just a meaningless gesture:

 

“At the Hand’s tourney, don’t you remember? You rode a white courser, and your armor was a hundred different kinds of flowers. You gave me a rose. A red rose. You threw white roses to the other girls that day.” It made her flush to speak of it. “You said no victory was half as beautiful as me.”
Ser Loras gave her a modest smile. “I spoke only a simple truth, that any man with eyes could see.”
He doesn’t remember, Sansa realized, startled. He is only being kind to me, he doesn’t remember me or the rose or any of it. She had been so certain that it meant something, that it meant everything. A red rose, not a white. “It was after you unhorsed Ser Robar Royce,” she said, desperately.

 

If Sandor had previously come out on the losing end of a comparison to Loras based on looks, we see how little this really means as Loras’ indifference is highlighted, and it’s with the “dog” that she had a substantive relationship while the “flower” was based on an illusion.

 

Another observation that Sansa makes during the conversation with Loras that could be significant to Sandor’s story occurs when she passes the men training in the yard and thinks:

 

They have scarcely finished burying the dead from the last battle, and already they are practicing for the next one.

 

Add this to symbolic dog fighting that Tyrion will observe on his way through the castle and we can appreciation just how inhospitable the Red Keep was to those who needed genuine repose from a life of violence. The Hound will eventually die in order to allow Sandor Clegane to be “at rest” while serving as a gravedigger at the QI.  

 

Sansa II details the new-found friendship between herself and the Tyrell group, particularly a close bond with Margaery. The acceptance of the match to Willas shows her putting aside considerations about appearance and valour in order to gain a husband she could be happy with and who would love her in return.

 

She pictured the two of them sitting together in a garden with puppies in their laps, or listening to a singer strum upon a lute while they floated down the Mander on a pleasure barge. If I give him sons, he may come to love me. She would name them Eddard and Brandon and Rickon, and raise them all to be as valiant as Ser Loras. And to hate Lannisters, too. In Sansa’s dreams, her children looked just like the brothers she had lost. Sometimes there was even a girl who looked like Arya.

 

When she confesses the planned marriage to Dontos and tells him that she will no longer need his assistance in escaping the city, we see the fool-knight warning her in a similar manner to what the Hound might have done, cautioning her to be wary of the ambitious family:

 

“I tell you, these Tyrells are only Lannisters with flowers…”

 

The vital difference, however, is that Sandor’s previous advice to Sansa was absent of any self-interest and deception, while Dontos is secretly working for Littlefinger and is likely the one who informed him of Sansa’s plans, allowing the Lannisters to thwart the arrangement. With Sansa’s true champion gone, she is completely surrounded by enemies and false friends.

 

The major reference to the Hound in this chapter continues the romantic connotations that Martin established in Sansa I. As the Tyrell cousins dream of handsome knights to wear their favours and play kissing games, Sansa reminisces on her own experience with kissing:

 

Sansa wondered what Megga would think about kissing the Hound, as she had. He’d come to her the night of the battle stinking of wine and blood. He kissed me and threatened to kill me, and made me sing him a song.

 

This is a radical introduction of a new detail to that night, and readers are aware that no such kiss took place between them. So, from whence did “the unkiss” emerge? Sansa certainly presents and appreciates it as a true memory, but how should we as readers categorise it? In considering what we learn in Sansa I pertaining to her missing the Hound, her realisation of the futility of her attraction to Loras, and her own direct comparison of the two men, the unkiss holds the attributes of a traditional fantasy. It is, in other words, Sansa’s unconscious desire becoming conscious, appropriately revealed to readers in a setting where other girls of her age are also sharing and indulging in their own fantasies.

 

The marriage to Tyrion Lannister takes places in Sansa III, and again, the Hound features in a comparison to another man, with the significant caveat being that Sansa has absolutely no interest in Tyrion and is mortified by the forced union. Here now, Sandor’s name is being noted within the space of a marriage service – at the point where Sansa has to kiss Tyrion as part of the rites, and is in close proximity to his face. The seriousness of the situation and what it means for Sansa’s future causes her to make a frank assessment:

 

He is so ugly, Sansa thought when his face was close to hers. He is even uglier than the Hound.

 

As we saw playing out with Loras, however, the difference between the Tyrion and Sandor runs much deeper than mere looks, especially where the Stark girl’s feelings are concerned. Rather than break with his powerful family and refuse to be complicit in forcing Sansa into a marriage he knows she will abhor, Tyrion is lured by the prospect of being Lord of Winterfell and agrees to his father’s plan. Instead of offering Sansa a chance to escape KL as Sandor does, Tyrion works to cement her entrapment there, and to increase her misery as a result.

 

The scene in the bedroom that ends the chapter also holds relevance for a comparison between Sandor and the Imp. As Sansa witnesses Tyrion’s fear, her reaction is markedly different from the compassionate regard she found whenever confronted with Sandor’s distress:

 

He is as frightened as I am, Sansa realized. Perhaps that should have made her feel more kindly toward him, but it did not. All she felt was pity, and pity was death to desire. He was looking at her, waiting for her to say something, but all her words had withered. She could only stand there trembling.

 

The desire that Sansa lacks for her husband on this night (and all other nights) will later manifest in her dream at the Fingers, directed towards the Hound instead.These issues that come out of Sansa’s experience in the marriage to Tyrion – her claim placing her at risk for exploitation and her refusal to negate her own desires – cannot fail but to have bearing on her future storyline and those closely associated with it.

 

Martin’s repeated emphasis on Sandor in these three chapters leading up to Sansa’s wedding begs the question of what he would have done had he still been in Lannister service at this point or how all of this might have played out differently. But whatever speculation we can indulge in doesn’t really matter because it’s the shock of receiving the news later on in ASOS that has particular relevance for a focus on Sandor’s characterisation as this reread aims to do. What these emphases do reveal is the development of significant romantic feelings on Sansa’s part for Sandor, which do not resemble the kind of giddy infatuation she displayed for Loras or the hopeful daydreams for Willas. Although her feelings are coming to the fore in his absence, they are based on deep, meaningful, and honest interactions between them. This is what matters for true romantic fulfilment, and Martin is allowing readers to see that this possibility exists for Sandor and to entertain the question of the impact it could have when they reconnect. 

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Thank you, OGE! Always glad to see you drop by here and participate.

 

Another observation that Sansa makes during the conversation with Loras that could be significant to Sandor’s story occurs when she passes the men training in the yard and thinks:

 

They have scarcely finished burying the dead from the last battle, and already they are practicing for the next one.

 

I'll elaborate more on your excellent summary/analysis later, Brashcandy, now I just wanted to highlight this nice observation. Without jumping ahead, this is something to keep in mind for when we reach the QI chapter, because isn't this in a way like what Sandor is going through there? He may as well not be done gravedigging to dispose of the bodies the War of the Five Kings left before he has to move out to "the next one," this time one that has more meaning to him personally given the purpose he was seeking when we last saw him.

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I'll elaborate more on your excellent summary/analysis later, Brashcandy, now I just wanted to highlight this nice observation. Without jumping ahead, this is something to keep in mind for when we reach the QI chapter, because isn't this in a way like what Sandor is going through there? He may as well not be done gravedigging to dispose of the bodies the War of the Five Kings left before he has to move out to "the next one," this time one that has more meaning to him personally given the purpose he was seeking when we last saw him.

 

Thanks, Milady ;) You've highlighted an intriguing angle which lends more foreshadowing value to that line. There's the relevance of Sandor being temporarily removed from the cycle of violence, or more precisely, adopting a very different role within this cycle than he would have usually performed, and the benefits accorded to him as a result; and then we have the suggestion you point out, which may be hinting at him getting back into the fight for another purpose after his stay on the QI.  

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Sandor II

 

In A Girl's Thoughts

 

Summary Analysis

 

·         Sansa I

·         Sansa II

·         Sansa III

 

Sandor is gone from the city, yet his presence remains in Sansa’s remembrances, thoughts, and fantasies.

 

~~snip~~

Martin’s repeated emphasis on Sandor in these three chapters leading up to Sansa’s wedding begs the question of what he would have done had he still been in Lannister service at this point or how all of this might have played out differently. But whatever speculation we can indulge in doesn’t really matter because it’s the shock of receiving the news later on in ASOS that has particular relevance for a focus on Sandor’s characterisation as this reread aims to do. What these emphases do reveal is the development of significant romantic feelings on Sansa’s part for Sandor, which do not resemble the kind of giddy infatuation she displayed for Loras or the hopeful daydreams for Willas. Although her feelings are coming to the fore in his absence, they are based on deep, meaningful, and honest interactions between them. This is what matters for true romantic fulfilment, and Martin is allowing readers to see that this possibility exists for Sandor and to entertain the question of the impact it could have when they reconnect. 

 

 

Well done essay Brash, thanks. 

 

I like the last paragraph as Martin's approach to Sansa's emerging feelings for Sandor a subtle, and seem to be growing.  Each possible 'love match' mentioned, Loras, Willas and Tyrion, for one reason or another, do not match up him in honesty and genuine interest in Sansa herself. 

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Well done essay Brash, thanks. 

 

I like the last paragraph as Martin's approach to Sansa's emerging feelings for Sandor a subtle, and seem to be growing.  Each possible 'love match' mentioned, Loras, Willas and Tyrion, for one reason or another, do not match up him in honesty and genuine interest in Sansa herself. 

 

Thanks, LR! Yes, you're spot on with the subtlety factor. In these chapters Martin really gives us a kind of "audition reel" of other possible suitors for Sansa, and in each one there's either a direct comparison to or mention of Sandor that sheds light on Sansa's feelings and undermines the other relationships, but it's done in a very understated manner. I found it funny how even when she's at her most hopeful about the Willas match and enjoying the company of the Tyrell family members, this would be when Martin chooses to reveal the unkiss to readers. 

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Sandor II

 

In A Girl's Thoughts

 

Summary Analysis

 

·         Sansa I

·         Sansa II

·         Sansa III

 

 

 

Excellent and eloquent summary/analysis, Brashcandy! Just fantastic! 

 

 This desire for the Hound to still be nearby is significantly different from the other time during Sansa’s ordeal in Maegor’s Holdfast when Cersei used Ilyn Payne as a deadly threat and she wished instead for Sandor to be there on guard. Here now, there is no distinct threat to Sansa’s safety, only the possibility of enduring an unpleasant meal with her Tyrell replacement. Her wish, therefore, looks to be purely a sentimental expression.

 

 

I absolutely agree that Sansa’s wish for the Hound to be with her is a sentimental expression. I also find it noteworthy that just before wishing he were there, she thinks of when he saved her from the mob, and then thinks that only Dontos can save her?

 

The same smallfolk who pulled me from my horse and would have killed me, if not for the Hound.

 

And then:

 

No one can save me but my Florian. Ser Dontos had promised he would help her escape, but not until the night of Joffrey’s wedding.

 

Only for Sansa’s final thoughts on the matter to return to the Hound, wishing for his presence and wondering if she had been wise to refuse his offer to take her from the city. Sansa’s alternating thoughts not only emphasize that Sandor is Sansa’s true Florian, but considering she is doubting her decision while feeling frustrated with Dontos, indicates she does regret not fleeing with Sandor. 

 

this is a radical introduction of a new detail to that night, and readers are aware that no such kiss took place between them. So, from whence did “the unkiss” emerge? Sansa certainly presents and appreciates it as a true memory, but how should we as readers categorise it? In considering what we learn in Sansa I pertaining to her missing the Hound, her realisation of the futility of her attraction to Loras, and her own direct comparison of the two men, the unkiss holds the attributes of a traditional fantasy. It is, in other words, Sansa’s unconscious desire becoming conscious, appropriately revealed to readers in a setting where other girls of her age are also sharing and indulging in their own fantasies.”

 

 

Excellent job at placing the Unkiss into context, Brashcandy. Sansa never thinks of the unkiss when in a traumatic situation that would lead one to think that the unkiss is some sort of coping mechanism. Your analysis strongly highlights that Sansa is indulging in a traditional fantasy and is becoming consciously aware of her attraction to Sandor all while understanding his state of mind the night of the Blackwater. 

 

Overall, an illuminating examination of the various men in Sansa's life--Loras, Tyrion, Willas, and Dontos--yet only the Hound demonstrates a genuine interest in Sansa. 

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Finally, weather got more moderate, thank the old gods, and I can get back to commenting. Some more points to note from your analysis:

 

In the above quote, we also learn another important detail concerning their relationship: Sansa has kept Sandor’s bloody cloak, the one he discarded when he left her chambers. It adds another layer of poignancy to their connection, and even though Sansa thinks that she could not say why she kept it, the message is suggestive to readers that her feelings for Sandor run deeper than either of them can currently discover or appreciate. As I previously outlined in my ACOK wrap up, the fact that Sansa has kept Sandor’s cloak also has important symbolic meaning for his redemption and future potential. In the aftermath of the battle when Sandor is being called a coward or a beast by various individuals, there is still someone who has faith in him, someone who knows intimately his capacity for goodness and change.

 

Interestingly, the only two people to take Sandor's side in some measure or another when accusations of being a monster and a beast are hurled at him are Sansa and Jaime, not counting some like the Elder Brother as his circumstances are different and here I'm speaking of people who got to know Sandor "in his element" and see him in live action. Some know him not very well and others know him quite well, yet still regardless of the degree of familiarity there seems to exist a quickness to accept anything that's said of him rather uncritically. Looking at Cersei, the contrast between her own version of I wish the Hound were here (because in the most basic sense that's what Cersei is saying too) and Sansa's wishing for the same is so stark that the intention of establishing a parallel isn't unreasonable to assume: they both want his protection, but the queen's wishing to still have the Hound with her is utilitarian in nature and self-centred, benefitting only her and nobody else, not even the son she supposedly wants his help for, and she's quite ready to throw Sandor under the cart without stopping a moment to think and investigate first, or at the very least question rumours even if she relents later. Does she not know him that much? She does, certainly, but she's never been a good judge of character and unlike her father, who protected the real monster of House Clegane as well as the younger son, she chooses the monster only. In contraposition to that, we have Sansa wishing him to be there not for her own safety or to get his protection, but his advice. And I get the impression that she is thinking of him like a friend, as in needing him for giving her friendly advice on what to do over the Tyrells, a "what would Sandor think?" hypothetical, implying that aspect would be what she most valued in him. After all, he was the first person in court that volunteered to give her advice and the first one she also dared ask for advice despite knowing full well he was in the Lannister camp. On the other hand, she considers Dontos her saviour and only hope now, but she doesn't even consider seeking advice from him, a good decision given his unsuitability and that he likely would've betrayed her much earlier.

 

Upon showing he has been upgraded from protector and saviour to adviser in her mind, she then reveals he's been upgraded to potential lover, too. The funny part is that this all happens without the involved parties realising this has happened: on his end, as far as Sandor knows, his feelings were and are one-sided, and on Sansa's end, they come to the surface in a rather unexpected manner. But I'd not say it's sudden, there's a build-up leading to the UnKiss' appearance that goes like this:

 

1. First, right after he leaves, she takes up his bloody cloak and wraps herself up in it.

2. Second, during the "Rewards & Punishments, The Lannister Way" court ceremony, she notes his absence, thus confirming that he's gone out of her life.

3. Third, next time we read her POV, she reminds us right away that she's alive because Sandor saved her life in the bread riots ("... would have killed me, if not for the Hound").

4. Fourth, after that, she reveals she had been thinking of the Blackwater night other times before since then.

5. Fifth, she is wishing he'd be there to talk with.

6. Sixth, she lets us know she has kept his bloody cloak.

7. Seventh, she compares Loras and Sandor, which is the first time Sansa ever thinks of any man in this manner and inaugurates a tradition of making comparisons between the Hound and other men.

8. Eighth, she fantasises about kissing and caressing Loras.

9. Ninth, finally she reveals the UnKiss.

 

As you see, that "mismemory" doesn't come out of left field, and if it ever appeared so, that's likely due to not noting down said buildup. And neither is it a mismemory properly speaking, as I've been arguing for years, it's a fantasy, and a deliberate one at that. Sansa knows what happened during that night and all its details, as she herself reveals in her first chapter before the UnKiss is even mentioned, and the details are in place there, so her memory of that event is unaffected itself. Only that she added a detail of a kiss posteriorly and after a series of events that allow to place it in context.

 

That she keeps the cloak would be the first clue to consider as to where her mind was headed, because nobody keeps a memento from a supposedly traumatic circumstance and places it in what's practically the chest with her best and most cherished possessions (silk was costly, and summer dresses were usually the most luxurious and expensive because summer was the time of grand banquets and tourneys in courts historically). She'd not have had trouble getting rid of that tattered and dirty piece of cloth, not in a castle with plenty of things thrown all over the place during the panicking of servants and courtiers, and nobody would've likely asked questions, so she didn't need to keep it to get rid of evidence either; it could've been as easy as throwing it from her window out and let it be picked up during housecleaning time after the battle. So, it's hard to assume any other interpretation with textual support as to why she kept the cloak if she didn't want it. And then, later she goes through the same night and there's no hint of anything triggering her and even further ahead she doesn't omit the worst parts, she mentions the dagger to her throat, so she doesn't need the UnKiss to cover anything up that she remembers anyway. In this recounting of the night, two things stand out: that Sansa outright says "she had refused," and her revelation that "she lay awake at night, wondering if she'd been wise." The first is very interesting in view of how some argue that Sandor didn't give her a chance to say yes or no when he made his offer, that he just left her after forcing her to sing. And yet, here she's saying that she'd refused to go, and given that Sandor did leave her, it stands to reason to think there was the understanding between them that she wasn't willing to go with him and that unspoken unwillingness was her "no." The second interesting point is that Sansa herself was asking herself the "what if?" that many readers have asked themselves. This, to me, says that she did consider the possible scenarios of her going or staying, and Martin, sly that he is, has refused to tell us. Because he doesn't even let us know what Sansa's thoughts were! No hint of whether her assessment was positive or negative or neutral, nothing. Just that she "wondered if she was wise," which mostly just says she did consider the matter many times.

 

Another point from the buildup sequence towards the UnKiss that is often overlooked is that Sandor isn't by any means the only man, nor even the first one, that Sansa has fantasised with in a sexual way. Not at all. Loras Tyrell was that man, actually, in ASOS Sansa I:

 

She remembered Ser Loras in his sparkling sapphire armor, tossing her a rose. Ser Loras in white silk, so pure, innocent, beautiful. The dimples at the corner of his mouth when he smiled. The sweetness of his laugh, the warmth of his hand. She could only imagine what it would be like to pull up his tunic and caress the smooth skin underneath, to stand on her toes and kiss him, to run her fingers through those thick brown curls and drown in his deep brown eyes. A flush crept up her neck.

 

This happens before the UnKiss, which is in her next POV afterwards. In context, this works also as a buildup towards the latter, like a escalation in stages from chaste to explicit. If Sansa already had had fantasies of kissing and caressing a naked man, then that she'd have more explicit fantasies about another man, with whom she had more potential with romantically and a basis to construe it all on, shouldn't come as a surprise to those paying attention to her development. It's rather a natural progression and comes as a result of her development towards womanhood, towards awakening her sexuality. This is why arguments that her sexuality sprung up in her TWOW sample chapter and that fans would be freaked out by it are fascinatingly incomprehensible in my opinion. That had already awakened, and in ASOS, and with Loras, and progressed with Sandor.

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<snip>

 

In the above quote, we also learn another important detail concerning their relationship: Sansa has kept Sandor’s bloody cloak, the one he discarded when he left her chambers. It adds another layer of poignancy to their connection, and even though Sansa thinks that she could not say why she kept it, the message is suggestive to readers that her feelings for Sandor run deeper than either of them can currently discover or appreciate. As I previously outlined in my ACOK wrap up, the fact that Sansa has kept Sandor’s cloak also has important symbolic meaning for his redemption and future potential. In the aftermath of the battle when Sandor is being called a coward or a beast by various individuals, there is still someone who has faith in him, someone who knows intimately his capacity for goodness and change.

 

<snip>

 

The marriage to Tyrion Lannister takes places in Sansa III, and again, the Hound features in a comparison to another man, with the significant caveat being that Sansa has absolutely no interest in Tyrion and is mortified by the forced union. Here now, Sandor’s name is being noted within the space of a marriage service – at the point where Sansa has to kiss Tyrion as part of the rites, and is in close proximity to his face. The seriousness of the situation and what it means for Sansa’s future causes her to make a frank assessment:

 

He is so ugly, Sansa thought when his face was close to hers. He is even uglier than the Hound.

 

As we saw playing out with Loras, however, the difference between the Tyrion and Sandor runs much deeper than mere looks, especially where the Stark girl’s feelings are concerned. Rather than break with his powerful family and refuse to be complicit in forcing Sansa into a marriage he knows she will abhor, Tyrion is lured by the prospect of being Lord of Winterfell and agrees to his father’s plan. Instead of offering Sansa a chance to escape KL as Sandor does, Tyrion works to cement her entrapment there, and to increase her misery as a result.

 

The way in which Sansa expresses her distress over the forced union also offers a stark contrasts between Sandor and Tyrion, as well as foreshadows Sandor and Sansa's shared future. Whereas Sansa covers herself with Sandor's cloak after he botches the rescue attempt (offering her true protection), and then keeps it and thinks about it, she's defiant when Tyrion attempts to cloak her during the wedding ceremony. 

 

His uncle's  part went less well. The bride's cloak he held was huge and heavy, crimson velvet richly worked with lions and bordered with gold satin and rubies. No one had thought to bring a stool, however, and Tyrion stood a foot and a half shorter than his bride. As he moved behind her, Sansa felt a sharp tug on her skirt. He wants me to kneel, she realized, blushing. She was mortified. It was not supposed to be this way. She had dreamed of her wedding a thousand times, and always she had pictured how her betrothed would stand behind her tall and strong, sweep the cloak of his protection over her shoulders, and tenderly kiss her cheek as he leaned forward to fasten the clasp. 

 

She felt another tug at her skirt, more insistent. I won't. Why should I spare his feelings, when on one cares about mine?

 

Tyrion's attempt at cloaking Sansa underscores how truly farcical the marriage is, as you noted, since Tyrion does not have Sansa's interests at heart. Thus far, only Sandor has offered and provided Sansa  protection and an attempted escape based on genuine concern and respect for her well being.

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Excellent job at placing the Unkiss into context, Brashcandy. Sansa never thinks of the unkiss when in a traumatic situation that would lead one to think that the unkiss is some sort of coping mechanism. Your analysis strongly highlights that Sansa is indulging in a traditional fantasy and is becoming consciously aware of her attraction to Sandor all while understanding his state of mind the night of the Blackwater. 

 

Overall, an illuminating examination of the various men in Sansa's life--Loras, Tyrion, Willas, and Dontos--yet only the Hound demonstrates a genuine interest in Sansa. 

 

Thanks, DL :) It is curious why the setting where the unkiss is revealed to readers is so often overlooked in theories that claim it's borne of trauma or somehow Sansa is trying to replace an unpleasant memory with one more palatable. This is something she actually entertains the thought of telling someone else: "Sansa wondered what Megga would think about kissing the Hound as she had," which indicates that it's not a traumatic mismemory or something she feels distressed enough about that she wouldn't want to even consider telling another person. And we have the perfect contrast in her own thoughts about Joffrey as the cousins are going on about how much she must miss him and what wonderful lips he has. She cannot openly tell what a monster Joff is, but she can privately relish a kiss that she has much more positive thoughts about. So we can add Joff to the other list of suitors who are all supplanted in one way or another by Sandor in these opening chapters.  

 

 

Upon showing he has been upgraded from protector and saviour to adviser in her mind, she then reveals he's been upgraded to potential lover, too. The funny part is that this all happens without the involved parties realising this has happened: on his end, as far as Sandor knows, his feelings were and are one-sided, and on Sansa's end, they come to the surface in a rather unexpected manner. But I'd not say it's sudden, there's a build-up leading to the UnKiss' appearance that goes like this:

 

Yeah, it's interesting that of all the functions Sandor assumes in Sansa's life, it's the adviser role that he arguably played first and foremost, seeking to disabuse her on her idealistic viewpoints and later giving her advice on how to mitigate Joff's abuses. You get the feeling that she didn't want him so much to advise her about what to do about the Tyrells – she deduced rather quickly that she would have no choice but to accept – but that it was his presence she found reassuring and comforting. Nevertheless, thinking of Sandor within the context of a meeting with the Tyrells does highlight how Sansa could have always counted on him to be honest and open with her, whereas she now has to navigate a court of liars and game players on her own. 

 

 

<snip>

 

She remembered Ser Loras in his sparkling sapphire armor, tossing her a rose. Ser Loras in white silk, so pure, innocent, beautiful. The dimples at the corner of his mouth when he smiled. The sweetness of his laugh, the warmth of his hand. She could only imagine what it would be like to pull up his tunic and caress the smooth skin underneath, to stand on her toes and kiss him, to run her fingers through those thick brown curls and drown in his deep brown eyes. A flush crept up her neck.

 

This happens before the UnKiss, which is in her next POV afterwards. In context, this works also as a buildup towards the latter, like a escalation in stages from chaste to explicit. If Sansa already had had fantasies of kissing and caressing a naked man, then that she'd have more explicit fantasies about another man, with whom she had more potential with romantically and a basis to construe it all on, shouldn't come as a surprise to those paying attention to her development. It's rather a natural progression and comes as a result of her development towards womanhood, towards awakening her sexuality. This is why arguments that her sexuality sprung up in her TWOW sample chapter and that fans would be freaked out by it are fascinatingly incomprehensible in my opinion. That had already awakened, and in ASOS, and with Loras, and progressed with Sandor.

 

Agreed on all points. For the purposes of analysing the unkiss as fantasy, her prior thoughts about Loras really help to cement the case that Sansa is beginning to have erotic fantasies and dreams about men; and that Sandor would emerge as the stable frontrunner on whom these desires would coalesce should strike no one as strange when taking in the full scale of their interactions. Even the symbolism works to prove the case here, as Sansa is dreaming of the "pure, innocent, beautiful" Loras in his white silk, while keeping Sandor's bloody cloak amongst her possessions. 

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Very nice work, Milady and Brashcandy.

 

In the beginning of ASOS, Sandor comes up in characters' thoughts but is physically absent and presumed gone for good.  This creates the effect of his references in the story being that of a legacy.  One of the primary aspects of the whole series is the contrast between Ned and Tywin on the level of the legacies they leave behind after they're gone and Sandor's references in these opening chapters of ASOS serve a similar purpose.  The comparisons to Ned and Tywin on the legacy level are more interesting when we consider that Sandor has played, to a significant degree, a fairy godfather role for Sansa and to a lesser degree Cersei (and will play one for Arya in the near future.)  Sandor's legacy here seems to offer a glimpse at the way the legacies of Tywin and Ned play out later. 

 

The fairy godfather offers protection in the absence of the actual father and "gifts" that the young heroine is supposed to internalize to be able to manifest her own protection one day.  In the first chapter we saw how Cersei has failed to internalize those gifts.  She values Sandor's fierceness only on a level that parallels his older brother.  She fails to understand as Tywin does that these are two different beasts that serve different purposes.  Cersei grasps neither the gifts from her actual father nor the gifts from her fairy godfather.  Sandor offered the Lannisters a gift of loyalty akin to what we'll see much later in the Mountain Clans and "The Ned's girl" and they spurned it both while they had it and after it is gone. 

 

This may seem minor at the time but looking forward the moment of Sandor's unappreciated service at his departure may herald the fall of House Lannister.  The House Tywin built is supported by men loyal to gold and fearful of ruthlessness.  It raised itself high with gilded trappings of power and in a pale shadow of the Targaryen mystique of being above lesser men.  As the series leaves off Stannis is poised to get a loan from the Iron Bank giving him more gold than the Lannisters.  Aegon has landed backed by the wealth of Illyrio that also seems to exceed that of House Lannister not to mention Littlefinger who may have embezzled as much as over 100 times Aerys's annual budget during his tenure as Master of Coin.  The Lannisters may be the least wealthy competitor at the dawn of the War of the Three Queens.  There are also two seemingly Targaryen claimants on the horizon and one has three dragons whose fiery nature is far more ruthless than any rain Castamere might pour down.  Jaime is already beginning to look to Arthur Dayne as a model over Tywin.  Tyrion has been one long arc of his learning the limits of what gold can buy.  It is Cersei alone amongst her siblings who wholly clings to Tywin's school of loyalty despite having Sandor to learn from.

 

Sansa seems to have embraced the gifts of her fairy godfather and misses his counsel and protection.  Unlike Cersei who will seek out Gregor now that Sandor is no longer available and think herself better off with the alternative, Sansa realizes what she's missing.  Sansa's future with both Dontos and Littlefinger are in some ways Sandor comparisons.  Dontos with the Florian and Jonquil "true knight" has been well covered, but Littlefinger as a foster or fairy godfather replacement has not.  Baelish will try and usurp the role of Sansa's father, but she has already mistaken Sandor as her father as early as the Trident back in GoT.  Petyr will claim to offer her honest counsel as Sandor did, claim to offer her protection as Sandor did, and will impose a romantic aspect to the foster father relationship in a way Sandor did not.  We'll see a similar path for Arya later where Sandor will act as the foster father figure offering "gifts" and protection to have that role cut off and resumed by the Kindly Man later.

 

This is a very interesting usage of a secondary character.  Sandor essentially embodies the ultimate male archetype for Westeros and he technically successfully fills that role across the spectrum (by Westeros standards) while he is in his flawed and damaged state.  We see him act in that archetypal Westeros masculine role with three different women in Cersei, Sansa and Arya and is both a profound success and yet a failure in all cases with the result being that his service to all three women is cut off before it reaches fruition.  His arc seems destined for some form of cathartic healing on the Quiet Isle which presumably will lead to a somehow changed embodiment of the male archetype reaching some fruition with one or more of these woman on some level.  How that is handled come next book will be a very interesting authorial commentary and the seeds of that commentary are being planted here in his absence at the beginning of ASOS.

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Very nice analyses brash & Milady!

 

Catching up here after some time away and I just wanted to chime in in agreement with Ragnorak's comments on Sandor as a fairy godfather dispensing his gifts. I like the observation that Sandor's departure heralds the fall of House Lannister. His is the first significant defection, and the fact that his intentions seem to have been to offer his services to House Stark may yet foreshadow the coming course of events. Cersei's rejection of Sandor's gifts is significant in showing the role she will play in the destruction of her House.

 

Sansa has clearly internalized Sandor's gifts in the form of lessons and memories which gradually replace the romantic stories of her youth. In addition, she has retained his only tangible gift, a stained white cloak, in a chest along with her best clothing, as Milady noted. While much has been said about this particular gift, from its symbolic meaning as a shield to its fate as a relic, what always struck me most about it is the significance of the act of saving it in the first place. The romance of that act, and the obvious value placed upon it by Sansa, speak volumes about the meaning she attaches to Sandor's role in her life.

 

As for Arya, the concept of "gift" is highly significant in her arc, and as we will see, Sandor plays a rather large role in fostering the development of that concept, not to mention functioning as her sole protector in the Riverlands for a time, much as he did recently for her sister in King's Landing.

 

And having said as much, I'd like to say that I'm very honored to have been invited to share an analysis of Sandor III, covering two chapters from ASoS in which Sandor is introduced into Arya's arc in rather dramatic fashion. In my opinion, these two chapters are among the best of ASoS to analyze, not only for Sandor, but for studying Arya and other subjects as well. I've spent a lot of time with them for this and other purposes, and found that their significance to Sandor's arc is almost unparalleled. So I ask forbearance for what became a lengthy summary and analysis, and hope that I've done some small measure of justice to the complexity of the tale told therein. Now, with thanks to our gracious hosts for inviting me here, I will shortly be posting the chapter summaries, followed by an analysis.

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Sandor III: Capture and Trial

 

Summary

 

Arya V: Capture

 

Arya and the BwB arrive in Stoney Sept and Harwin gives her an account of the Battle of the Bells; she learns that Robert credits her father with winning the battle.

 

The BwB hear that the Huntsman is looking for the Kingslayer. Lem warns he’d better not kill him, in spite of his well known hatred of “lions” for killing his dogs. In the town square they find men hung up in crow cages, wolves-- as Arya thinks “Robb’s men, and my father’s”-- also captives of the Mad Huntsman. There are seven northmen, three living and four dead; Karstark men brought in for justice by the Huntsman after killing eight people and raping a woman. The dead ones have had their eyes eaten out by the erstwhile inhabitants of the cages, while the living ones are dying a slow painful death from exposure and thirst. When one asks for mercy, Arya brings the living ones water, and Anguy finishes them off with arrows. Arya thinks “Valar Morghulis.”

 

Remembering Syrio Forel’s lesson-- the trick of looking and seeing what’s there-- Arya observes the Peach to be a brothel. In an exchange between Gendry and the young whore Bella, who claims her father was a king, she notes that Bella does have Robert’s hair, but so does Gendry, showing her talent for seeing though she isn’t in a position (as the reader is) to make the final connection. She overhears Tom and Harwin in conversation with Tansy about the events at Riverrun, and her mother’s part in Jaime Lannister’s escape.

 

After quarreling with Gendry, she retires to bed and her prayers:

“Queen Cersei,” she whispered into the pillow. “King Joffrey, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn. Dunsen, Raff, and Polliver. The Tickler, the Hound, and Ser Gregor the Mountain.” She liked to mix up the order of the names sometimes. It helped her remember who they were and what they’d done. Maybe some of them are dead, she thought. Maybe they’re in iron cages someplace, and the crows are picking out their eyes.

 

She has a wolf dream, in which Nymeria’s pack kills a horse. Feeling good and powerful, she howls… “But when the day came, she woke to the barking of dogs.”

 

From her window she observes a pack of barking dogs, and a dozen riders “watching the townsmen open the fat man’s cage and tug his arm until his swollen corpse spilled out onto the ground. The dogs were at him at once, tearing chunks of flesh off his bones.” Arya sees a prisoner being readied for the cages, and hears the threats:

“Here’s your new castle, you bloody Lannister bastard,”... “You’ll rot in them cages,” ... “The crows will be picking out your eyes while we’re spending all that good Lannister gold o’ yours! And when them crows are done, we’ll send what’s left o’ you to your bloody brother. Though I doubt he’ll know you.”

 

Tom, Lem and Gendry want to know what’s going on, and if the Huntsman has caught the Kingslayer. The captive’s name is never mentioned, but when he turns his head after being hit with a stone Arya thinks: “Not the Kingslayer... The gods had heard her prayers after all.”

 

Arya VI: Trial

 

Arya is brought hooded into the BwB’s hollow hill. Lem calls it “An old place, deep and secret. A refuge where neither wolves nor lions come prowling.” Weirwood roots surround them, a man (who turns out to be Lord Beric) sat in “a hollow in the earth… almost lost in the tangle of weirwood.” Arya sees Thoros of Myr, who is about to speak to her but the Huntsman appears with his captive.

 

We learn that Tom, Lem and Greenbeard saved the captive from the cages, demanding that the Huntsman take him to Lord Beric for judgment.

 

The captive is bound and hooded, but Arya can feel the danger in the man. We know it’s someone from her list, and her obvious fear of him is a hint at whom. Any doubt we have is laid to rest when Thoros asks how he was taken:

“The dogs caught the scent. He was sleeping off a drunk under a willow tree, if you believe it.”

Betrayed by his own kind.

 

Underground as they are, the only light comes from a large fire and we’re immediately made aware of this motif in relation to the Hound: “The shifting flames painted Sandor Clegane’s burned face with orange shadows, so he looked even more terrible than he did in daylight.”

He recognises Thoros, who recalls that Sandor used to curse his flaming sword. Sandor comments on how Thoros has changed, and is told: “I am less than I was, but more. A year in the wild will melt the flesh off a man... I am not the false priest you knew. The Lord of Light has woken in my heart. Many powers long asleep are waking, and there are forces moving in the land. I have seen them in my flames.” The Hound is not impressed: “Bugger your flames. And you as well...You keep queer company for a holy man.” Lem Lemoncloak (described as “tall enough to look the Hound in the eye”) cautions him: “Be careful how you bark, dog. We hold your life in our hands.” In reply, the Hound tells him: “Best wipe the shit off your fingers, then.”

 

Beric comes down from his weirwood throne and relates their tale and mission, leading to classic Sandor dialogue:

“...we fight on as best we can, for Robert and the realm.”

“Robert?” rasped Sandor Clegane, incredulous.

“Ned Stark sent us out,” said pothelmed Jack-Be-Lucky, “but he was sitting the Iron Throne when he gave us our commands, so we were never truly his men, but Robert’s.”

“Robert is the king of the worms now. Is that why you’re down in the earth, to keep his court for him?”

 

Sandor’s invective prompts Lem to draw his sword and gets this response:

The Hound stared at the blade with contempt. “Here’s a brave man, baring steel on a bound captive. Untie me, why don’t you? We’ll see how brave you are then.” He glanced at the Mad Huntsman behind him. “How about you? Or did you leave all your courage in your kennels?”

“No, but I should have left you in a crow cage.” The Huntsman drew a knife. “I might still.” The Hound laughed in his face.

 

Tom o’ Sevens tells him they are “The brotherhood without banners… The knights of the hollow hill” and gets a reply that is emblematic of Sandor’s feelings about knights:

“Knights?” Clegane made the word a sneer. “Dondarrion’s a knight, but the rest of you are the sorriest lot of outlaws and broken men I’ve ever seen. I shit better men than you.”

“Any knight can make a knight,” said the scarecrow that was Beric Dondarrion, “and every man you see before you has felt a sword upon his shoulder. We are the forgotten fellowship.”

“Send me on my way and I’ll forget you too,” Clegane rasped. “But if you mean to murder me, then bloody well get on with it. You took my sword, my horse, and my gold, so take my life and be done with it... but spare me this pious bleating.”

You will die soon enough, dog,” promised Thoros, “but it shan’t be murder, only justice.”

 

The promise of trial and justice is followed up by an accounting of some of the crimes of Lannister forces in the Riverlands. At first Sandor protests “Lay your dead children at some other door.” Which leads to this exchange between Thoros and Sandor:

“Do you deny that House Clegane was built upon dead children? I saw them lay Prince Aegon and Princess Rhaenys before the Iron Throne. By rights your arms should bear two bloody infants in place of those ugly dogs.”

The Hound’s mouth twitched. “Do you take me for my brother? Is being born Clegane a crime?”

“Murder is a crime.”

“Who did I murder?”

 

Then follows a laundry list of dead soldiers and smallfolk, all killed by Lannister soldiers. Sandor protests:

“Enough.” The Hound’s face was tight with anger. “You’re making noise. These names mean nothing. Who were they?”

“People,” said Lord Beric. “People great and small, young and old. Good people and bad people, who died on the points of Lannister spears or saw their bellies opened by Lannister swords.”

“It wasn’t my sword in their bellies. Any man who says it was is a bloody liar.”

“You serve the Lannisters of Casterly Rock,” said Thoros.

“Once. Me and thousands more. Is each of us guilty of the crimes of the others?” Clegane spat. “Might be you are knights after all. You lie like knights, maybe you murder like knights.”

 

Beric asks him to explain:

“A knight’s a sword with a horse. The rest, the vows and the sacred oils and the lady’s favors,they’re silk ribbons tied round the sword. Maybe the sword’s prettier with ribbons hanging off it, but it will kill you just as dead. Well, bugger your ribbons, and shove your swords up your arses. I’m the same as you. The only difference is, I don’t lie about what I am. So, kill me, but don’t call me a murderer while you stand there telling each other that your shit don’t stink. You hear me?”

 

But then Arya accuses him of killing Mycah. Sandor’s reply is his defense of the act:

“I was Joffrey’s sworn shield. The butcher’s boy attacked a prince of the blood.”

 

Sandor is sentenced to a trial, in which the Lord of Light will be the judge. He will face Lord Beric, who according to tales cannot be killed, which after a moment’s despair  (“...he’ll go free. The Hound was deadly with a sword, everyone knew that”) gives Arya hope. Upon seeing Beric’s scars from the mortal wounds that have failed to kill him, Arya hopes the Hound is scared, she wants him to feel fear before he dies.

 

After the men prepare for battle, and we get our first glimpse of Beric’s squire Ned Dayne, Thoros leads the group in prayer to R’hllor-

“Light your flame among us, R’hllor,” said the red priest. “Show us the truth or falseness of this man. Strike him down if he is guilty, and give strength to his sword if he is true. Lord of Light, give us wisdom.”

 

To the response of the group “For the night is dark and full of terrors” the Hound has a comeback- ““This cave is dark too,” said the Hound, “but I’m the terror here.”

 

And then Beric’s sword sword took fire:

“Burn in seven hells,” the Hound cursed. “You, and Thoros too.” He threw a glance at the red priest. “When I’m done with him you’ll be next, Myr.”

 

The fight commences, ringed by fire. Beric’s flaming sword clearly enrages and terrifies Sandor, he is nearly forced into the fire, and then his shield is set afire after taking a hit from the sword, his sleeve catches and then his “whole left arm was ablaze” But as Beric goes for a killing blow on the now burning Hound, Sandor delivers one last desperate blow, the burning sword breaks and Sandor “kills” Beric.

 

As Beric falls and the burned Hound lies whimpering on the ground:

“Arya could only think of Mycah and all the stupid prayers she’d prayed for the Hound to die. If there were gods, why didn’t Lord Beric win? She knew the Hound was guilty.”

 

Arya is astonished to see Sandor crying and in pain, glimpsing a brief moment of human suffering that she hasn’t previously credited him with. She’s confused by the outcome and when Harwin tells her: “R’hllor has judged him innocent” Arya snatches a knife and tries to reach the Hound with it.

 

Seeing his burns shocks her, and his words to her seem almost like goading: “You want me dead that bad? Then do it, wolf girl. Shove it in. It’s cleaner than fire.”

Rather than attack him, she accuses him again, demanding he confess his guilt. He confesses:

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

 

Arya’s rage knows no bounds: “You just go to hell!” she screams at him. But a figure appears from the shadows and tells her: “He has.” 

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Sandor III: Capture and Trial

 

Analysis

 

The North is hard and cold and has no mercy...

 

So said Ned Stark “a thousand years ago” to his young wife when she first arrived at her new home in Winterfell. To be sure, he was referring to the mercy of her southron gods, since the Old Gods certainly offer their own grim version of the thing.

 

Early in Arya V, Arya finds Karstark men in crow cages at Stony Sept. She brings them water when one asks for mercy, after which Anguy kills them with a few well placed arrows. This is probably the first appearance of the theme of mercy in Arya’s arc, a situation in which one can see a glimmer of Stark justice. As has been discussed elsewhere, mercy for Arya tends to be the mercy of the Old Gods, rather than the Mother’s mercy that her older sister tends toward. Arya experienced a moment of cognitive dissonance in Stoney Sept when she realised these were her brother’s men, and her father’s, but quickly delivered to them the fate they would have received from either of those lords-- a guilty verdict and a swift death.

 

Perhaps most significantly this scene, connecting a drink of water and the gift of mercy as it does, looks ahead to two key moments in Arya’s future arc with Sandor. In Arya XII whilst in the Riverlands with Sandor after the Red Wedding, they will encounter a bowman bearing the sigil of House Piper upon his surcoat. This wretched man, dying slowly, will beg for a drink of wine. After giving him a draught of water from the Hound’s head helm, Sandor will teach Arya how to give the gift of mercy (“That’s where the heart is, girl. That’s how you kill a man.”) This will be significant even later in their story, when Sandor himself is mortally wounded. These are scenes that will be explored here in a future installment, but for these purposes we can mention the significant connection between a drink and the gift of mercy.

 

There is a tradition in many cultures of allowing the condemned a final drink or a meal. The last meal or “wine of the condemned” may have biblical roots, but is certainly based upon the symbolic nature of the exchange of food. In accepting the food or drink, a bond of trust is formed between the condemned and the executioner, which superstitious peoples thought might prevent the spirits of the condemned from returning to haunt their executioners. Here we may see the last drink as symbolic of a guilty verdict. Arya’s mercy, with its connection to the north and the Old Gods, is notably about judgment rather than forgiveness. Thus, the drink and the mercy follow an age old formula of stern judgment followed by the gift of a swift death. That Sandor himself teaches Arya to deliver the gift not only emphasizes his increasing “northern-ness” but serves as a hinge in Arya’s arc, both looking back towards her roots and forwards towards her future in Braavos.

 

When Arya says her “prayers” that evening in Stoney Sept, she is haunted by the scene in the square. She says her names, mixing up the order to help her remember the names and their crimes, thinking “Maybe some of them are dead… Maybe they’re in iron cages someplace, and the crows are picking out their eyes.” We can view this as an explicit plea to her gods to deliver the fate of the Karstark soldiers upon some of those on her list, her “hard and cold” judgment on those ten souls, as it were.

 

The next morning the Huntsman returns with a captive, who sits bound and sullen. One of the dead Karstarks, a “wolf” in the totemic imagery that dominates this chapter, is hauled from a cage to make way for the new captive. “The dogs were at him at once, tearing chunks of flesh off his bones” may presage the question of what dogs do to wolves which will absorb Arya shortly in her arc. As the men threaten their captive, the reader can guess that the captive is Sandor Clegane, enemy number one on Arya’s list:

“You’ll rot in them cages… The crows will be picking out your eyes while we’re spending all that good Lannister gold o’ yours! And when them crows are done, we’ll send what’s left o’ you to your bloody brother. Though I doubt he’ll know you”

 

While the threats mirror her prayers of the night before, her own thoughts reveal that she thinks those prayers have been answered “The gods had heard her prayers after all.” The cold, hard justice of the north seems about to be delivered to Sandor Clegane. But as usual things in Martin’s world are hardly so simple.

 

May the Gods Judge Him Justly

 

Arya VI picks up the action in the Brotherhood without Banners’ underground lair. Immediately the motif of fire is very strong, from the “ruddy glare” to “swirling and crackling” flames in a fire pit. When Sandor makes his appearance with the Mad Huntsman we’re told “They had bound his wrists with hempen rope, strung a noose around his neck, and pulled a sack down over his head, but even so there was danger in the man. Arya could feel it across the cave.” His sheer physicality works in opposition with the menace of the flames. The descriptors used, both for the fire (“swirling”) and Sandor, from the firelight on his face to the prominence of the whites of his eyes, are all highly reminiscent of of those used during the Battle of the Blackwater. Sandor’s contempt and rage at its presence, which give way to fear, are also evocative of that night.

 

While we are quickly  made aware of the BwB’s allegiance to R’hllor, as supported by the overarching motif of fire, the presence of “huge white roots twisting through [the walls] like a thousand slow pale snakes” puts us on notice that the old gods are present. These roots, and Lord Beric’s place in “a hollow in the earth [...] almost lost in the tangle of weirwood”, bring Arya’s gods, the ones to whom she has prayed for Sandor’s death, to the party. This will be important as a trial by combat specifically calls upon the gods to bear witness to the guilt or innocence of the accused.

 

When Arya accuses Sandor of the death of Mycah, Lord Beric tells him “no one here knows the truth or falsehood of the charge, so it is not for us to judge you. Only the Lord of Light may do that now.”

 

Arya’s certainty from the previous chapter that the gods have heard her prayers is turned on its head when the gods are called to judgment. Sandor is armed for the battle, but Thoros cautions him ““Does a dog have honor? Lest you think to cut your way free of here, or seize some child for a hostage... Anguy, Dennet, Kyle, feather him at the first sign of treachery.” But there is to be no treachery from Sandor, his resentment and pride almost seem to forbid such a thing. He scorns their fire god, and their prayers, warning Lord Beric that his end is nigh. Beric’s fiery sword provokes his curses, and for next few moments we might almost be back in the inferno of the Blackwater. Fire is everywhere: on the blade, at Sandor’s back, flaring in his face, on his shield, his arm, his sleeve…

 

It’s really a breathtaking duel, possibly one of the best such described in the books. Sandor’s fury at the injustice of the use of fire, his correspondingly ferocious attacks, is contrasted with the “unkillable” Beric’s more measured approach, which might have won the day had not Sandor’s considerable strength combined with the destructive power of the fire to break Beric’s sword in two. The resulting blow was clearly mortal, and even as the freshly burned Clegane writhed in the dirt, both Thoros and Arya declared him the victor.

 

But Arya had been certain the Hound was guilty. However, in addition to meta-analytical discussions of his personal or legal culpability, from a literary point of view it seems clear by the end of this chapter that the gods have deemed him innocent. Arya thinks these gods are stupid, but it must be noted that one by one, all of the guilty parties on her list are meeting retribution, with or without her aid. Sandor is the only one who has faced the (literal) fire of judgment and come out on the other side.

 

Might Be You Are a Knight...

 

Upon being presented to Thoros, Sandor is noted to have been “Betrayed by his own kind.” However, given his sentiments on dogs expressed to Sansa in ACoK: “a hound will die for you, but never lie to you” and his evident disregard for his own life expressed in this chapter: “best wipe the shit off your fingers”  it really might not seem such a betrayal to Sandor. His trademark blunt honesty marks his speech with Thoros and the others, culminating in his reply to their litany of accusations: “Is each of us guilty of the crimes of the others? Might be you are knights after all. You lie like knights, maybe you murder like knights.”

 

When Beric gives him a chance to explain himself he delivers his commentary on knighthood, perhaps one of the most honest assessments of the institution in the series. It echoes both Jaime’s “true knights see worse every time they ride to war wench. And do worse” and Barristan’s “without honor, a knight is no more than a common killer.” Sandor in fact is saying something very similar to what Barristan says-- his ribbons round the sword represent honor and chivalric values. The sword will still “kill you just as dead.” The critical difference being of course that the former believes no honourable knights exist, an outlook shaped by the knighthood of his dastardly brother.

 

It’s no surprise at this point that Sandor despises the institution of knighthood for its perceived hypocrisy. What might perhaps be surprising is how much accord there is among the PoVs of a man who despises knights, a so-called soiled knight known for his flippancy, and the series’ most renowned and chivalric knight. Martin tells us a story about knights through the varied viewpoints of characters who are members of the institution and those who are outsiders. The moral of the story, taking into account characters like Ser Duncan the Tall and Brienne of Tarth, is that a “ser” does not a knight make. Honor and chivalry and adherence to a moral code do. Certainly Sandor Clegane has proved his honesty (“I don’t lie about what I am”) and an adherence to a certain kind of chivalry, as we saw in the Hand’s Tourney with his refusal to strike a blow at his monstrous brother’s unprotected head while defending the temporarily incapacitated Loras Tyrell and his contempt for Lem’s blade in this chapter (“Here’s a brave man, baring steel on a bound captive.”)

 

But Arya holds him responsible for killing her friend Mycah. While she didn’t witness the act, or the return of the body, she heard the tale from others– Jeyne Poole told her the Hound “cut him up in so many pieces that they’d given him back to the butcher in a bag”, while Jory told her something closer to the truth: “[he] cut him near in half.” Her own father names it murder: “That murder lies at the Hound’s door, him and the cruel woman he serves.” Arya’s accusation places the idea of a moral code in relation to the defense of children center stage in this chapter.

 

Sandor’s defense of the act rests upon his statement “I was Joffrey’s sworn shield. The butcher’s boy attacked a prince of the blood.” When questioned about Mycah’s crime by Lord Beric, Sandor replies “I heard it from the royal lips. It’s not my place to question princes.” And while Sandor is a brutal killer, we’ve established that he is honest and possessed of a certain honor. Perhaps we can assume that his version is close to the truth as he perceives it. He goes on to cite Sansa as an exculpatory witness (“This one’s own sister told the same tale when she stood before your precious Robert”) even though he couldn’t have witnessed this scene. What seems likely is that Cersei used Sansa’s alleged testimony to convince the hunters of Mycah’s guilt, after the fact. This could indicate that Sandor expressed some doubt at the time, or simply that Cersei felt the need to justify the killing. Nonetheless, Sandor’s words were enough to ensure him a trial by battle.

 

He Deserved to Burn in a Fiery Hell?

 

In the scene that follows the trial we see foreshadowing of the moment when Sandor will face the judgment of the vengeful child herself and find implicit acquittal. The sight of Sandor whimpering over his new burns leads to a flash of pity from Arya (“He’s crying like a little baby”) That lasts only a moment. She seizes a knife and races towards him, hesitating when she gets near. He goads her, seeming to value his life so little that he’d welcome her blade (“It’s cleaner than fire.”) But his arm shocks her, and she retreats to her anger thinking “...he was the Hound. He deserved to burn in a fiery hell.” Her hesitation here is the first of many times she will hesitate when confronted with the opportunity to harm or kill Sandor, culminating with their final moment together on the road to Saltpans. She resorts to a verbal accusation. This “J’accuse” moment draws attention to what she views as a miscarriage of justice.

 

It’s probably no accident that Arya seeks a confession-- proof of guilt will be important to her later in her arc. Sandor’s admission rings of further goading, and correlates with only one significant difference to his speech to her in their final moments together. Here, he admits not only to killing Mycah but to two other events that relate to Arya, and could be things Sandor feels personal guilt about:

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

 

Although he did not personally perpetrate the latter two acts, he confesses to the three things that violate his sense of honor that in his capacity as a pseudo knight for House Lannister he has been called upon to participate in: killing a child, and witnessing the beating of a child-woman and the killing an unarmed man who has been offered clemency. His failures to prevent these acts seem to weigh upon him, and cement his bitter disillusionment with knighthood and the lions he once served.

 

Arya’s rage filled response, and Lord Beric’s reply echo Sandor’s own words to Sansa in AGoT:

Only a man who’s been burned knows what hell is truly like.

AGoT, Sansa II

 

Forced to confront his fears by the Brotherhood, his rage, pain and guilt are on display. While the BwB might bandage his hurts, his inner wounds are profound and seem beyond healing at this time. Having apparently been absolved by R’hllor and the Old Gods, it will fall to a healer blessed by The Seven to tend to his tormented soul.

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Thank you Lady Gyn for those essays!  The chapters of Sandor's capture and duel are filled with so much where to start?  

I've been thinking a lot about the fight of Sandor and Dondarrion and also that it's been noted that GRRM likes to present things in threes.  With that idea in mind, I would suggest that the fight in the cave could be the second fight in a series of three single combat fights for Sandor.

The first would be the fight against his brother defending Loras.  This was a fight he chose to engage in even though he was not obligated to do so.  He faced off his brother at a time when his brother was already enraged and very dangerous. Yet even though his brother would have killed him without a second thought, and Gregor was at an disadvantage due to his unprotected head, Sandor did not take advantage of that.  As King Robert ended this fight, it ended in a draw.  Even so, although he did not kill Gregor, he proved to himself and anyone who was willing to truly look, who was the better man.

In his second single combat he faces a myriad of opponents. Not just Dondarrion himself, but fire and it might be said his own reputation.  Also, there is Arya's accusation of the Hound's murder of Mycha.  In this fight must face fire in an even more direct way than at Blackwater; it is literally in his face.  His shield is hit and burns and his arm catches fire too.  In spite of his fear and rage, he continues to fight and bests Beric.   He not just overcomes fire in this fight, he kills a supernatural being; the many times reanimated un-dead Lord Dondarrion!  This is quite remarkable really.

So in these two single combat events, he faces and overcomes two of his major issues.  He doesn't kill the living man he hates and has sworn to kill when he had his best chance too, but kills the un-dead man wielding fire who as Sandor said before to Sansa "Only cowards fight with fire." And as we know, fire is one of Sandor's biggest fears.  

If this pattern of threes proves to be true in Sandor's arc, then perhaps his most important battle is still to come. But what that could be I have no predictions.

 

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This is a very interesting usage of a secondary character.  Sandor essentially embodies the ultimate male archetype for Westeros and he technically successfully fills that role across the spectrum (by Westeros standards) while he is in his flawed and damaged state.  We see him act in that archetypal Westeros masculine role with three different women in Cersei, Sansa and Arya and is both a profound success and yet a failure in all cases with the result being that his service to all three women is cut off before it reaches fruition.  His arc seems destined for some form of cathartic healing on the Quiet Isle which presumably will lead to a somehow changed embodiment of the male archetype reaching some fruition with one or more of these woman on some level.  How that is handled come next book will be a very interesting authorial commentary and the seeds of that commentary are being planted here in his absence at the beginning of ASOS.

 

You make such an excellent and compelling point, Ragnorak. We'd been commenting since AGOT the peculiarity that Sandor's arc is one man's story amongst women told by women, which no other character shares in the same degree; and I like the idea that his comeback would mean fulfilling his prematurely cut-off role in one of these women's lives. Makes a lot of sense considering that, if you look at it from the same angle you're positing, it's women who have driven his arc in the books thus far: one woman (Cersei) sunk him into depravity by asking him what's his worst crime, for which he has to get forgiveness from another woman (Arya), which in turn can be achieved if he goes on a path towards bettering his lot in life motivated by another woman (Sansa). The closest to Sandor's experience would be Jaime, who in the course of the series is also sunk into depravity by one woman (Cersei) and impelled to swim to the surface by another woman (Brienne). It doesn't look necessary that Sandor cross paths with Cersei again; with her if he "failed" was more due to Cersei never wanting to learn anything than from circumstances, so narratively speaking his arc with her isn't left incomplete as with the others, and he made it clear what his feelings for his former liege lady are: "Bugger the queen..."

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And having said as much, I'd like to say that I'm very honored to have been invited to share an analysis of Sandor III, covering two chapters from ASoS in which Sandor is introduced into Arya's arc in rather dramatic fashion. In my opinion, these two chapters are among the best of ASoS to analyze, not only for Sandor, but for studying Arya and other subjects as well. I've spent a lot of time with them for this and other purposes, and found that their significance to Sandor's arc is almost unparalleled. So I ask forbearance for what became a lengthy summary and analysis, and hope that I've done some small measure of justice to the complexity of the tale told therein. Now, with thanks to our gracious hosts for inviting me here, I will shortly be posting the chapter summaries, followed by an analysis.

 

Thanks, Gwyn, you're very kind!  I'm with you on these two chapters being amongst the best in this volume, which is saying a lot about its thematic and literary value given the competition of other equally great chapters ahead.

 

That sham of a trial was examined in-depth during the Arya reread, and with the addition of your wonderful take in this analysis there's not much else to add on my part, so I'd like instead to highlight a passage from the previous chapter in which Sandor reappears on page:

 

When Arya says her “prayers” that evening in Stoney Sept, she is haunted by the scene in the square. She says her names, mixing up the order to help her remember the names and their crimes, thinking “Maybe some of them are dead… Maybe they’re in iron cages someplace, and the crows are picking out their eyes.” We can view this as an explicit plea to her gods to deliver the fate of the Karstark soldiers upon some of those on her list, her “hard and cold” judgment on those ten souls, as it were.

 

The next morning the Huntsman returns with a captive, who sits bound and sullen. One of the dead Karstarks, a “wolf” in the totemic imagery that dominates this chapter, is hauled from a cage to make way for the new captive. “The dogs were at him at once, tearing chunks of flesh off his bones” may presage the question of what dogs do to wolves which will absorb Arya shortly in her arc. As the men threaten their captive, the reader can guess that the captive is Sandor Clegane, enemy number one on Arya’s list:

“You’ll rot in them cages… The crows will be picking out your eyes while we’re spending all that good Lannister gold o’ yours! And when them crows are done, we’ll send what’s left o’ you to your bloody brother. Though I doubt he’ll know you”

 

While the threats mirror her prayers of the night before, her own thoughts reveal that she thinks those prayers have been answered “The gods had heard her prayers after all.” The cold, hard justice of the north seems about to be delivered to Sandor Clegane. But as usual things in Martin’s world are hardly so simple.

 

In keeping track of the literary techniques Martin is using with Sandor in this reread, I took note of what I dubbed the "reintroductory thematic linking" technique he seems to be using with Sandor, possibly because he isn't a POV and he needs an inroad to come back into the storyline when he exits King's Landing. In ASOS, this comes in two forms: first, as we commented below the first ASOS chapter, he is linked to Brienne through the Kingslayer likening them both in fierceness and protectiveness, enveloping her in "Hound" imagery; a technique he'll repeat for AFFC again surrounding her with "Hound" imagery and giving her his trademark knight-dissing line.

 

This is done in absentia, though, as Sandor isn't present in the plotline yet. Not physically. So it's a thematic reintroduction. His physical reintroduction comes with a detail I've never seen anyone mention before. Look at this passage:

 

As she sat in the common room in her stupid girl clothes, Arya remembered what Syrio Forel had told her, the trick of looking and seeing what was there. When she looked, she saw more serving wenches than any inn could want, and most of them young and comely. And come evenfall, lots of men started coming and going at the Peach. They did not linger long in the common room, not even when Tom took out his woodharp and began to sing “Six Maids in a Pool.” The wooden steps were old and steep, and creaked something fierce whenever one of the men took a girl upstairs. “I bet this is a brothel,” she whispered to Gendry.

 

Now, notice that one of the three songs Tom o' Sevens is singing is "Six Maids in a Pool." And see what happens afterwards:

 

But when the day came, she woke to the barking of dogs.

Arya sat up yawning. Gendry was stirring on her left and Lem Lemoncloak snoring loudly to her right, but the baying outside all but drowned him out. There must be half a hundred dogs out there. She crawled from under the blankets and hopped over Lem, Tom, and Jack-Be-Lucky to the window. When she opened the shutters wide, wind and wet and cold all came flooding in together. The day was grey and overcast. Down below, in the square, the dogs were barking, running in circles, growling and howling. There was a pack of them, great black mastiffs and lean wolfhounds and black-and-white sheepdogs and kinds Arya did not know, shaggy brindled beasts with long yellow teeth. Between the inn and the fountain, a dozen riders sat astride their horses, watching the townsmen open the fat man’s cage and tug his arm until his swollen corpse spilled out onto the ground. The dogs were at him at once, tearing chunks of flesh off his bones.

Arya heard one of the riders laugh. “Here’s your new castle, you bloody Lannister bastard,” he said. “A little snug for the likes o’ you, but we’ll squeeze you in, never fret.” Beside him a prisoner sat sullen, with coils of hempen rope tight around his wrists. Some of the townsmen were throwing dung at him, but he never flinched. “You’ll rot in them cages,” his captor was shouting. “The crows will be picking out your eyes while we’re spending all that good Lannister gold o’ yours! And when them crows are done, we’ll send what’s left o’ you to your bloody brother. Though I doubt he’ll know you.”

The noise had woken half the Peach. Gendry squeezed into the window beside Arya, and Tom stepped up behind them naked as his name day. “What’s all that bloody shouting?” Lem complained from bed. “A man’s trying to get some bloody sleep.”

“Where’s Greenbeard?” Tom asked him.

“Abed with Tansy,” Lem said. “Why?”

“Best find him. Archer too. The Mad Huntsman’s come back, with another man for the cages.”

“Lannister,” said Arya. “I heard him say Lannister.”

“Have they caught the Kingslayer?” Gendry wanted to know.

Down in the square, a thrown stone caught the captive on the cheek, turning his head. Not the Kingslayer, Arya thought, when she saw his face. The gods had heard her prayers after all.

 

Some readers focus on a less plausible use of the "Gulltown girl" song that Tom sings some chapters before this, when Sandor is nowhere near, mostly in hopes for some link to Alayne in the Vale. But the text is subtler, here before he brings him back Martin has Tom singing what we will soon know is a Florian and Jonquil song, courtesy of Jaime, who enlightened us a few chapters later what the song is about and if not for that, we'd never have known what it was. And even so, it's still an overlooked detail that narratively establishes a thematic continuity because it harks back to the night of the Blackwater, Sandor's last appearance on page until his comeback in ASOS Arya V. And what was it that he wanted back then? A song, and not any song but Florian and Jonquil. Here, Martin uses a song from this cycle to reintroduce Sandor physically and keep the connection to his story with one Stark girl as he moves on to the next Stark girl, because soon after Arya informs us what he was singing, the Hound makes an appearance, as if heralded by that song. And the others in the repertoire are interesting too: We don't know what "The maids that bloom in Spring" is about, though the title is suggestive, and we know "Two hearts that beat as one" is a nuptial song (likely, because we've seen them sung at weddings).

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But Arya had been certain the Hound was guilty. However, in addition to meta-analytical discussions of his personal or legal culpability, from a literary point of view it seems clear by the end of this chapter that the gods have deemed him innocent.

What would really only work if trials by combat were presented in the series as a legitimate truth-seeking exercise, which they aren't -- otherwise Cersei would be on the verge of being proved innocent of all the crimes she clearly did commit (granted, I suppose she could lose that trial, but somehow I doubt it).

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You make such an excellent and compelling point, Ragnorak. We'd been commenting since AGOT the peculiarity that Sandor's arc is one man's story amongst women told by women, which no other character shares in the same degree; and I like the idea that his comeback would mean fulfilling his prematurely cut-off role in one of these women's lives. Makes a lot of sense considering that, if you look at it from the same angle you're positing, it's women who have driven his arc in the books thus far: one woman (Cersei) sunk him into depravity by asking him what's his worst crime, for which he has to get forgiveness from another woman (Arya), which in turn can be achieved if he goes on a path towards bettering his lot in life motivated by another woman (Sansa). The closest to Sandor's experience would be Jaime, who in the course of the series is also sunk into depravity by one woman (Cersei) and impelled to swim to the surface by another woman (Brienne). It doesn't look necessary that Sandor cross paths with Cersei again; with her if he "failed" was more due to Cersei never wanting to learn anything than from circumstances, so narratively speaking his arc with her isn't left incomplete as with the others, and he made it clear what his feelings for his former liege lady are: "Bugger the queen..."

 

Thank you.  On the Cersei front I was pondering how much could be made of a parallel between Tywin/Sandor and Qyburn/Robert Strong.  Perhaps there is less there than I'm initially inclined to believe and I'm simply blinded by my vast amusement picturing Qyburn in the fairy godfather role.

 

It is also curious how much women have driven his arc given his creation story.  Gregor as a Fisher King wound plays a profound role, but the actual desire for revenge or to simply kill Gregor outside of Sandor's wound is a relatively minor facet driving his tale.  It is an experience that shaped him, but not really the one that drives his story-- more of an anchor holding him back than a motivation that drives him.  He has almost the classic creation story of a comic book hero or villain and yet instead of it serving that classic role of motivation it has become an obstacle to transcend.

 

 

Very nice analyses brash & Milady!

 

Catching up here after some time away and I just wanted to chime in in agreement with Ragnorak's comments on Sandor as a fairy godfather dispensing his gifts. I like the observation that Sandor's departure heralds the fall of House Lannister. His is the first significant defection, and the fact that his intentions seem to have been to offer his services to House Stark may yet foreshadow the coming course of events. Cersei's rejection of Sandor's gifts is significant in showing the role she will play in the destruction of her House.

 ....

 

Very nice write up, Lady Gwyn.  Before jumping into heart of the chapter material I'd like to point out another thematic aside using Sandor.

 

“A knight’s a sword with a horse. The rest, the vows and the sacred oils and the lady’s favors, they’re silk ribbons tied round the sword. Maybe the sword’s prettier with ribbons hanging off it, but it will kill you just as dead. Well, bugger your ribbons, and shove your swords up your arses. I’m the same as you. The only difference is, I don’t lie about what I am. So, kill me, but don’t call me a murderer while you stand there telling each other that your shit don’t stink. You hear me?”

 

Again, Sandor is used as a thematic measuring stick of sorts by Martin in that the Hound's helm will make its way back to this group.  The mercy Arya helps show harkens back to First Men justice.  Anguy's merciful arrows are the same choice Jon Snow will make to defy Stannis and kill "Mance."  That gift of mercy is one Arya will learn more of from Sandor in the near future and a gift these men will cease to offer by the time the Hound's helm returns to their possession.  The use of the helm, especially with Sandor's claim of sameness, sets up Sandor's arc to be compared to the BwB's.
 

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Thanks very much to Ragnorak and Gwyn for the insightful commentary and analyses! 

 

Our last reference to Sandor before Arya encounters him was in Sansa's preceding chapter, where she thinks of Sandor within the context of her marriage ceremony. This introduction to him captive and bound makes for a striking contrast and underscores just how differently he is perceived between the two sisters. When we learn later that he was found "sleeping off a drunk under a willow tree," it also gives some interesting insight into his state of mind since leaving KL. This may be stretching it, but the description of Sandor being pelted with dung and rocks by the Stoney Sept townspeople, and threatened with being put into a cage, reminded me of the KL bread riot, and his rescue of Sansa when he specified: "The little bird’s bleeding. Someone take her back to her cage and see to that cut.” 

 

Another callback to KL was during Beric's speech in the cave, when he speaks of them being originally sent out by Ned Stark. Ned had a difficult choice at the time but he insists on sending Beric and the others to bring justice to Gregor Clegane:

 

“Vengeance?” Ned said. “I thought we were speaking of justice. Burning Clegane’s fields and slaughtering his people will not restore the king’s peace, only your injured pride.”

 

He glanced away before the young knight could voice his outraged protest, and addressed the villagers. “People of Sherrer, I cannot give you back your homes or your crops, nor can I restore your dead to life. But perhaps I can give you some small measure of justice, in the name of our king, Robert.” 

 

Every eye in the hall was fixed on him, waiting. Slowly Ned struggled to his feet, pushing himself up from the throne with the strength of his arms, his shattered leg screaming inside its cast. He did his best to ignore the pain; it was no moment to let them see his weakness. “The First Men believed that the judge who called for death should wield the sword, and in the north we hold to that still. I mislike sending another to do my killing … yet it seems I have no choice.” 

 

Arya allows her thirst for vengeance against the Hound to advocate for him to be put into the crow cages and then to try to kill him herself. The kind of justice that the Hound receives which allows him to live feels profoundly unjust and unfair. Yet, when she attempts to take his life she is stopped short by the spectacle of the man's suffering. The one who called for death cannot in the end wield the sword, which evokes one of the central tenets of Ned's legacy in the series. These are really fascinating chapters to unpick themes of justice, revenge, and mercy; Sandor being subjected to a trial -- however bogus it might be -- feels like a necessary gateway in allowing him to find a true redemptive experience and to connect the roles of the two Stark sisters charged with spearheading that discovery. 

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