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Re-reading Sansa's last chapter, ASOS

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  • So they said, “We cannot hide her away in the black ground.” And they had made a coffin of clear glass, so as to be looked into from all sides, and they laid her in it, and wrote in golden letters upon it her name, and that she was a King’s daughter. Then they set the coffin out upon the mountain, and one of them always remained by it to watch. And the birds came too, and mourned for Snow-white, first an owl, then a raven, and lastly, a dove. Now, for a long while Snow-white lay in the coffin and never changed, but looked as if she were asleep, for she was still as white as snow, as red as blood, and her hair was as black as ebony.(Grimm, the tale of Snow-White)


Up here where the slope was steepest, the steps wound back and forth rather than plunging straight down. Sansa Stark went up the mountain, but Alayne Stone is coming down. It was a strange thought. (Alayne II AFFC)


Hi everyone ! I'll purpose here a litterar analysis of the chapter Sansa VII ASOS, which is the very last one of the 3rd book, just before the epilogue and first LSH's appearance. The following analysis is a translation/adaptation of a long study in 4 parts in my personnal blog, consecrated to litterar analysis of ASOIAF for people who speak french (the 4th isn't achieved yet, or truer  : it's achieved but I diidn't let it online because I must entirely rewrite it). I began to work on the parallelisms between Sansa Stark and Snow-white more than 2 years ago, with this particular chapter, in which I saw first princess Sansa dying and proceeding to her proper burying in a snow/ice/glass castel with the help of the so ambivalent giant - small man Littlefinger. I re-visited my first analysis one year later, but it needed a 3rd re-working to have a certainly not perfect, but coherent stuff, and quite different from what I wrote 2 years and a half ago.

Specials thanks to @Seams, @ravenous reader, for so many details i wasn't able to see last year, for pointing puns, wordplay and similarities between events/facts/pictures which seemed opposite at first sight, and for your true love for the text ! To @The Fattest Leech for Bran/Pinocchio and @sweetsunray for the essay on the Bear and the Maid, both opening for me some different and stimulating perspectives. Even if my proper way isn't, I think you'll recognize some trails of your own reflexions/work. 

Let's go for the introduction :

Snow-White isn't the ultimate word to explain Sansa : we'll see that GRRM uses the trope to write his own interpretation of the story, as a real litterar project, always with huge internal coherence in the storytelling and in the symbolism = both reading are strongly imbricated, that's why I used Snow-White's trope as my "red thread".

So, Sansa Stark as Snow-White is the unfortunate princess successively mistreated by bad queens (Cersei and Lysa) after the father's death (Ned), protected by a hunter (the Hound) and some dwarves (Tyrion... and Littlefinger), and waiting desperatly for her promised prince (the fair (and fake) Aegon ?). Ok, that's the first sight, or Sansa's dream. The reality and the text are a bit more complex and I confess I had some surprises with the roles, especially with Snow-White and her promised prince. 

I choosed this chapter (Sansa VII ASOS) because it concludes a long cycle which began with AGOT : the fall of the powerfull house Stark. All Starks are yet dead really or symbollically and/or disappeared. The pack is dispatched, Winterfell destroyed and winter is coming. In a way, the Stark are before all people in the heart of their long night. In this chapter, the reader discovers also who murdered lord Jon Arryn, murder which whas the reason why Eddard Stark went south as king's hand, the beginning of all the tragedy.

The chapter is built in two parts - we could say in 2 acts - each part following same schem : 1. a meditative solo from Sansa in her bedchamber 2. the call of something (the snow)/someone (Lysa throw Marillion) which makes her going outside the bedchamber 3. A trio/trial (Sansa/snow/LF and Sansa/Marillion/Lysa) begins 4. A "forth" character enters and put an end to the trio/trial by a brutal and destructive act (Robert Arryn destroying the snow castle and LF ejecting Lysa out of the scene). My analysis will simply follow the order of the text

Here is the general plan : 


1.Wolf's time at the Eyrie (Sansa wakes up)

2.The Warrioress Maiden in the Garden (she goes out in the courtyard/garden)

3. Prayers of the Snowmaiden (she begins to play with the snow)

4. The Frozen Queen (building of the snow castle)


1. "Come-into-my-castle" (LF is helping)

2. Biting, kissing, wedding (LF is "helping", part 2 !)

3. Robert the Heir (Sweetrobin's entry)

4. "Maiden and Monsters" (destruction of the castle)


1. Interlude (Sansa's return in her bedchamber)

2. Birds of misfortune, watchers of the dead (Marillion enters)

3. Frozen lice, frozen heart (in the great hall of the Eyrie)

4. Icy eye, justice's eye, (Sansa faces Lysa sitting in the weirwood throne)


1. Tell me the truth, all the truth (Lysa's confessing her misfortunes)

2. The monster beyond-the-door (the "lesson" of the moondoor)

3. Oh F... holy S...! My husband ! (LF enters)

And at least... a general conclusion

First part tomorrow, because it's time to sleep here now ^^




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Thank you for the mention @GloubieBoulga. Allow me a little time to re-read Sansa's last ASOS chapter, and any other related book info before I get going. I will say that for me, Sansa is a character whos interest grew on me after re-reads. I am curious to see where she is by story's end.

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How do, thank you for the tag. I will indeed to be interested in this. My interest in Sansa grew as the story progressed and the more you read her, the better her story gets!  

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WARNING : Quote from the chapter Sansa VII ASOS are in purple color. 

Before enter the subject, I'll make a little point about the Eyrie, where the chapter takes place :

- The Eyrie means hawk/eagle's nest : it's a bird's place

- They are the highest castle of Westeros, very hardly accessible, so physically "out of the world".

- "Out of the world" symbollically too, and I give some elements :

  • to join the Eyrie you need to pass through the castle "Gates of the Moon". In ASOIAF, "gates" are passages from one world to another and the character who passes through a door changes his/her "state" in the same time. So, there is the Black Gate at Fort Night, a mouth which swallows Bran and his companions (Bran becomes a greenseer beyond the Wall), or regurgitates Sam, Gilly and the babe (permitting that they survive); there is the Bloody Gate with the story of the singer Tom :

    "The Tullys have never been lucky for old Tom. It was that Lysa sent me up the high road, when the moon men took my gold and my horse and all my clothes as well. There's knights in the Vale still telling how I came walking up to the Bloody Gate with only my harp to keep me modest. They made me sing 'The Name Day Boy' and 'The King Without Courage' before they opened that gate. My only solace was that three of them died laughing. I haven't been back to the Eyrie since, and I won't sing '(Arya VIII ASOS)

     the symbol is here a humoristic birth and the gate a vagina. Third example - another birth - when Jaime escapes from Riverrun, passing throw a gate (the Water Gate) completely drunk, with the mancles as a umbical cord and the cloak as a placenta; at dawn, he is like a newborn discovering the living world with his senses (Jaime I ASOS), and Brienne compared to a milk cow plays the nurse/the mother.
    • After the Gates of the Moon, you must pass through 3 keeps, Stone, Snow and at least Sky. Litteraly, the Eyrie are beyond the sky. Bonus, from the bottom, the castle is invisible for the eye even if you know its place under the mountain Giant's Lance and beneath the waterfall Alyssa's Tears : 


      "It's there, beside Alyssa's Tears. All you can see from here is a flash of white every now and then, if you look hard and the sun hits the walls just right."
      Seven towers, Ned had told her, like white daggers thrust into the belly of the sky, so high you can stand on the parapets and look down on the clouds.(Catelyn VI AGOT)


      the white light can be linked to Bran's vision : 


      Finally he looked north. He saw the Wall shining like blue crystal, and his bastard brother Jon sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him. And he looked past the Wall, past endless forests cloaked in snow, past the frozen shore and the great blue-white rivers of ice and the dead plains where nothing grew or lived. North and north and north he looked, to the curtain of light at the end of the world, and then beyond that curtain. He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.(Bran III AGOT)

      For my purpose here, I'll notice the flight of Bran-bird, up and far that ends "deep", so at the complete opposite (up and down) : in fact, Sansa's chapter will show same mix where up=down. I'll also notice Jon "the bastard" as a litteral Snow-White in his ice coffin. The mention of the memory seems for me essential, because all present characters are telling us a part of an ancient and original story, a Stark story, illustrating this sentence :


       "You may read it here. It is old and fragile." He studied her, frowning. "Archmaester Rigney once wrote that history is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging. What has happened before will perforce happen again, he said. I think of that whenever I contemplate the Crow's Eye. Euron Greyjoy sounds queerly like Urron Greyiron to these old ears.(the Kraken's Daughter, AFFC)


      -As we came back to Snow-White throw Jon, we can also notice the 7 towers of the Eyrie, like 7 gods, but like 7 dwarves, giant when you are in the castle but little ("daggers", not "swords") if you are far enough. But daggers as a defense or as a threat ?No evidence with GRRM. Bonus : the white daggers in sunlight are 7 little lightbringer... oh nooooo ! 6 are too more ! But 6 will come back in Sansa's chapter. 

1.Wolf's time at the Eyrie

She awoke all at once, every nerve atingle. For a moment she did not remember where she was. She had dreamt that she was little, still sharing a bedchamber with her sister Arya. But it was her maid she heard tossing in sleep, not her sister, and this was not Winterfell, but the Eyrie. And I am Alayne Stone, a bastard girl. The room was cold and black, though she was warm beneath the blankets. Dawn had not yet come. Sometimes she dreamed of Ser Ilyn Payne and woke with her heart thumping, but this dream had not been like that. Home. It was a dream of home.
The Eyrie was no home. 

These are first words of the chapter, saying that the scene begin before dawn, when the night is the coldest (and the blackest, following the common belief). It is the wolf's time. "Dawn" in its own short sentence is highlighted ; this recalls us the main concern of the saga, the Long Night and the (second ?) Battle of the Dawn to put an end to eternal winter. In this way, Sansa's narration is a part of the global internal mythology of ASOIAF. If I'm not able to predict Sansa's participation to an hypothetical huge battle (to be honest, I'm not interested with), I can see that an individual and violent battle has for long time begun for Sansa, in her heart and her mind, and the battle seems lost ! 

If Winterfell and the Eyrie are totally different at first sight (geography, location, color, land, and so on...) Sansa's dream makes a direct connection between them. Plus, Eyrie are described as a dead castle, as a grave, and our princess awake in a bedchamber "cold and black"; the other locations "cold and black" are at Winterfell : the pool at heart tree's feet (Catelyn I AGOT) and the graves of dead Stark in the crypt (cold and black are associated in other circumstances, but they all repeat the theme of the pool - Dany pregnant bathing in the lake Womb of the World (Dany V AGOT) - or of the grave - Arya in the Red Keep feeling Varys and Illyrio emerging from a well of darkness or touching the skulls of the dead dragons (Arya III AGOT)).

So the Eyrie are here a particular face of Winterfell : not the Winterfell that Sansa liked when she was a child, the one idealized through her dreams, but the "frozen hell" reserved to the Stark : 


Eddard Stark dreamed of a frozen hell reserved for the Starks of Winterfell.(Eddard IV AGOT)

This is the Winterfell as heart of winter. And Sansa is the dreamer wanting to escape the cruel reality by sleeping and dreaming "beneath the blankets".


The footfalls sounded heavy to Bran, slow, ponderous, scraping against the stone. It must be huge. Mad Axe had been a big man in Old Nan's story, and the thing that came in the night had been monstrous. Back in Winterfell, Sansa had told him that the demons of the dark couldn't touch him if he hid beneath his blanket. He almost did that now, before he remembered that he was a prince, and almost a man grown.(Bran IV ASOS)


The post isn't achieved yet, I will edit it later.

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