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ASOIAF's overall theme: The Protection of Children. Starting with Sandor's arc, and his threefold death, I will show it to you

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People don't want to read walls of text. I understand.

When I look at GOT's ending of character's arcs, I first thought "This makes no sense. That makes no sense." Sound familiar?

And furthermore, all GRRM's "story morals" seemed to be about political power. Why was this a fantasy story at all?

ASOIAF does have a CORE message, which intersects EVERY major character and story.

This message is:

  • The importance of protecting children, and the consequence of failure
  • The psychological weapons and tools unprotected children create to protect themselves from the world
  • The ways these tools and weapons are frequently harmful both to the individual and the people they love
  • The cycle of trauma, anger, abuse, that these damaged children thus continue to spread

All those character decisions and story decisions that seem to make no sense?

THEY ALL MAKE SENSE. Yes, even in the TV show, they make sense. Dany's choices make sense. Tyrion's choices make sense. Jaime's choices make sense. Each and every one of them.

Why was this a fantasy? Because it allowed GRRM to write many, many different versions and segments of that core message without making it blatantly obvious what it was about, as it would be in a non-fantasy story. LOTR was fantasy to simplify the story of powers ability to corrupt. ASOIAF is fantasy to intentionally make complex the story of children suffering harm.


Below, I have identified this theme very in-depth for Sandor Clegane's story, and following that, very briefly for other major characters, as I write it. If you want to get the gist of my argument, skip to the other characters, then come back up to read Sandor's, and see how I pulled the puzzle apart.


Sandor Clegane was a true knight. He did not die two times, but THREE times.

You cannot fully understand Sansa's and Arya's story and character without understanding Sandor's story and character.

The characters of Sansa and Sandor are heavily obscured, from the reader, from other characters in the story, and even somewhat from themselves, intentionally so. Their stories both concern people who struggle to reveal themselves to the world, and in that fashion, they are just as hard to understand as such a person would be in real life. They both have a surface interpretation, and a deep interpretation.

And by understanding Sandor's story, and then understanding Sansa's story, you can understand the primal theme of ASOIAF.

So, first to understand this let me explain Sandor's story, as that has been my "Rosetta Stone".

I'm going to make my claims, and you may at first think "Where the hell are you getting that from?" but please read through the reasoning of each claim, then tell me where it doesn't hold up. 

Who is Sandor Clegane?

Sandor Clegane was born a true knight, but was terribly wounded in the deepest part of his psyche; not just by his brother, but by the failure of others to protect him from his brother nor to protect his true heart and philosophy from being broken by this fact.

Sandor is the male counterpart to Sansa. Their names are not a coincidence.

They have a "core essence" = Dreamers. Idealists. Poets. Dancers. Lovers of love itself. Hopes. Songs and stories. Faith. Romantics. 

Everything, in other words, that is weak and apparently entirely disproved and degraded by ASOIAF.

The other parallel between them is that nobody ever properly protects either of them. 

+ Ned kills her protection in Lady, and he only ever gave her pleasant truths (Compared to Sandor, who only gave her unpleasant truths). Following that, she rejects her fathers protection, putting her in further danger and leading to his death when he keeps trying to protect her as a prisoner. He didn't TELL her that there was danger or that she needed to be protected at all. This was faulty protection.

+ Tyrion protects her a bit, out of his general principles, but he also is massively enabling his family to hurt her in the first place. Their wedding night shows this; he “protects” her from himself- his own doing. She knows it is not true protection. 

+ To an even greater and grosser extent, Littlefinger only protects her from danger he explicitly creates. Like he tried to “protect” Cat from a threat that wasn’t real. This illusion of true protection both confuses and jades Sansa.

+ When she finds Jon, he does not protect her. She has to return to littlefinger for protection from Ramsay (dunno how that plays out in the books). Bran does not protect her - he explicitly tells her he watched her suffer but could do nothing. Arya actively threatens her. She still loves them and they her, but it is a love entirely cold.

Her fans wanted her to finally find a defender and happiness, but she never did. This fact reveals that her story maps against Sandor's quite well in this regard.

Now back to Sandor. Due to his wounds, Sandor becomes the Hound, who is the male counterpart to Arya.

As others have pointed out, the Hound's namesake was probably the Irish legendary hero Cú Chulainn - Chulainn's Hound - a warrior who became so berserk and furious in battle he could not be recognised by his friends. The Hound and Arya's shared essence = Righteous Anger. Hatred of evil. Warriors. Destroyers. Murderers. Remorseless pursuit of revenge.



What's the point of him?

So, why is he in the story, and why is he a clean 50/50 mirror image of the two Stark sisters?

Simply put, Sandor Clegane is Sansa and Arya's joint Nissa Nissa, and they each kill their own half.

He dies for BOTH of them, at BOTH of their hands, and each time he does so WILLINGLY. Then he dies a final and third time at his own hands.

Let me begin by inserting his symbolic imagery and outlining his story from the start:

+ The Hound was the knight from Bran's vision, who, when he opened his visor to speak, was hollow inside. His threats and insults were empty; he did not sincerely mean them. All that spilled out from him was bile, poisonous cynicism and hatred, and it spilled over the girls he tried to protect.

+ The Hound is also the blind dog from the Ayrie, who tried to protect Sansa, but was too weak and crippled to do so. Who nevertheless comforted her and sought comfort in her, and whom she wished was Lady. She understood, at this point, that the Hound had wanted to protect her, but been unable to, and she wished he had not failed her.

His personal trauma fed his terrible hatred and cynicism, and he spread this trauma to both girls unintentionally as he tried to protect them. This is a consequence of he, as a child, not being protected properly. His tools of survival were crude and brutal, and they hurt anyone who got close to him, even if he didn't want to.

And he didn't want to hurt them. So, what he did to try and stop hurting them was to fight and defeat himself. He had to overcome his own trauma to allow this, and as we see in the greater story, very few characters managed to overcome their own trauma. He was one of the few. 


First, the Hound was killed, because the Hound had hurt Sansa. Arya killed him.

Then, Sandor was killed, because Sandor was still hurting Sansa. Sansa did this.

Finally, Sandor Clegane and the Hound in body were killed, at his own hand, because he needed to do so to rid the world of the cause of his pain, which had caused him to hurt Sansa.
(And he also didn't want to hurt Arya, but I don't think he really hurt her to any degree like he did Sansa, and Sansa was his primary motivation at all times.)

Connection with Sansa

We start with him with Sansa, and the Hound is ascendant. The presence of Sansa rekindled the "core essence" inside him. It re-wounded him through the Hound's shield, and caused the Hound to become even more savage and cruel in defense. But at the same time, Sandor was interacting with her too. The Hound was responsible for everything he said to her, but Sandor was responsible for everything he did to her.

The Hound terrified her, but Sandor attracted her. Sansa and Sandor are like two magnets with rapidly switching polarities, attracting and repelling each other with frightening speed and intensity, such that both were overwhelmed and confused by it. Critically though, this is why their story had to start with Sansa being so young. Any much older and her inability to figure out what was going on would have been more unrealistic. As we see, she DOES figure out what was going on, but too late. When we see her increasing understanding of his love, her memories of him become increasingly embellished and romantic. Sansa regularly "edits" her memories to make them less painful and more in line with her emotional understanding of the event. Unfortunately this can't be shown in the show, so their story is even more difficult to see there.

What's important about this delay between him displaying his love and her understanding it, is that he was gone before he shed the Hound, so she only knew him as the Hound. Additionally, because their interaction occured while she was still a child, it forms part of her core childhood experiences and trauma, which, again, very few people can overcome. Sansa is not one of them. She finally "accepts" his love, and cherishes it closely, but what's important to understand is that she accepts the Hound's love.

But prior to that, she rejects the Hound's protection, so he leaves. She invoked Lady just before he offered it, and this invocation was for a protector who possessed "core essence". The Hound did not possess enough for her, so even though he responded to her cry for help, she was too repulsed by the ugliness of his philosophy to accept. When he left, he ripped off and discarded his cloak. This was obviously done in delirium, because that could have gotten her in extreme trouble. To have the cloak of a grown man and traitor found in her rooms? He wasn't fully aware of what he was doing. He was "blind" to what he was doing to her, and he also believed she would never love him, so had no expectation she would trust his advice. 


The Hound's Cloak

The Hound's cloak was the shield between Sandor and the world. It was his determination to cut off his own emotions, never expect or accept love from anyone, never give it out, and protect himself, because no-one else would do it for him.

The "bile" that poured onto Sansa from his mouth was the instructions for this self-annihilating survival strategy. When she rejected his physical protection, he gave her as a "parting gift" the psychic protection he himself had used, and the only protection he knew. In other words, he spread his trauma onto her. He poisoned her with his bile.

But he had nothing else to give her. He gave her everything he was capable of giving at the time.

In the Blackwater, we saw him physically discard his cloak, and her physically take shelter under it. But she didn't accept and don it until much later, when all her hopes were depleted. The summer silks she kept it under were her hopes. She didn't want to have to wear it, and crucially, he didn't want her to wear it either.

But she did.

(Edited Addition) Side note: People may say that this scene at the Blackwater was omitted from the show, so it can't have been that important. But the show did in fact include a scene of the Hound's offer of marital protection. After Joffrey has Sansa stripped, and Tyrion intervenes, the Hound practically leaps forward to cover her with his cloak. The shot frames the two of them, as she looks up in acceptance, framing the two with prisms of light reflected through stained glass. Just as prisms of light are reflected onto marrying couples in Westeros. Then, as Tyrion offers her a somewhat open offer of help, she rejects him coldly. Under the Hound's cloak, her resolve is iron. She protects herself.


Connection with Arya

We then see him with Arya, the Hound, already wounded by Sansa, falters under Arya's offensive. It's extremely clear that he didn't kidnap and protect Arya for the money, nor for her own sake initially. He kept her because she provided a link to Sansa for him. First, he hoped a real tangible link, by getting him in with the Northerners as ransom. But even after her family died, he kept her because Arya and Sansa had the same family genesis. Whatever similarities he could see between Sansa and Arya were a clear indication of their underlying values. Whatever differences he could see provided a highlight of what was unique to Sansa on top of that; the "core essence". By looking at Arya, he saw Sansa in greater clarity.

But by looking at Arya, he also saw himself in greater clarity. Because Sansa was who he was born as, but Arya was who he had become. Seeing the differences and similarities between them forced a separation between his own two halves. Arya's anger, hatred and violence were not motivated by contempt for humanity, loss of faith and rejection of love like he believed his were. They were motivated by a desire to defend the values, ideals and virtues she had been raised on. He could begin to see how the Hound had formed around Sandor's core. What's more, he wanted to protect Arya from becoming more like him. The only way to do so was to let Sandor reach through the Hound and touch her; let her see that a pure core could become degraded and corrupted. Her parent's values were not defense enough against suffering his fate. She had to become self-aware.

Arya is not a self-aware character by any means. Unlike Sansa, who spends most of her time in internal repose - some of it self-clarifying and some self-obscuring - Arya almost never indulges in self-reflection. As a result, she hates her own nature when seen from the outside. Her hatred of the Hound was formed extremely early, when he killed her young friend. But she herself killed a young boy in her first act of murder. And she never once reflects on this fact, that she committed the same crime she wants to kill him for. The only part of the Hound she can connect with is the Sansa half. When someone who is so much like her exhibits that "core essence", she realises it is comforting, compelling, and she does not have to reject it to remain herself. 

Her hatred of the Hound continues to dismantle that portion of him, and he allows this willingly, for two reasons:

First is because he believes it is bringing him closer to his own "core essence", and thus Sansa, his true desire.

Second is because he can see now how the Hound's attributes in Arya are hurting her, and he wants to protect her from them. He can only do so by effectively bearing his own wounds to her. Show her how the Hound is simply armour over a heart, so she can recognise her own armour as distinct from her heart.

Eventually, her refusal to show him mercy and her rebuke of him not being a true knight slays the Hound. His first death.


After the Rebirth

When he emerges from his period of healing, Sandor is ascendant, though the Hound's mannerisms linger. (He did live most of his life as the Hound, after all.) Sandor and Arya now have a close and personal connection; Arya loves Sandor as a friend now that he has shed the Hound. 

Sandor also believes he understands what he did wrong with Sansa: He approached her, wanting things from her, trying to access her "core essence" without permission, in whatever way he could. Doing so hurt her, and she wouldn't accept his protection. This time, he believes, he will simply protect her from afar, never approaching, never asking. He can protect her without hurting her, and this will bring peace and satisfaction to his "core essence".

The above can be inferred from the fact that when they unite in the same place again, we see him never speak to her or try to be physically close with her. But we know he desires her and wants to be with her. So why does he not act on this or even display it in any way? The best explanation is what I have outlined. 

Now let's move forward to when they do finally interact.


The Second Death

Why did Sansa wait so long to speak to him? The surface answer is that their interaction simply wasn't important enough to the story to be squeezed in before then. This is an intentional obfuscation. Why would she wait so long?

Even at the end, it is in her nature to thank people, coldly, for what they have done for her. And she must know by now what he has done for her sister, too. If she has no lingering sentiment towards him, positive or negative, she would simply do that and then not speak again.

If she hated him, it makes sense she would wait until after the undead were defeated, so as to use his sword against them. But then she would only approach him to accuse, and probably tell him to get lost.

Let's also remember that she is now a practised manipulator, and is more effective the better she knows what someone wants.

And she knows what the Hound wants.

People are interpreting his "only one thing would make me happy" to mean his brother's death. But look at the context: Another woman goes before her, and he drives her off. Sansa sits down, and he allows it meekly. 

She asks what would make him happy, and he gets angry and defensive.

Come on! Sansa knows he wants his brother dead and she knows what his brother did to him, because HE TOLD HER. (In the books, but it applies here too) If this was what he wanted, he would just repeat it to her. Instead he gets emotional. We all know what he wants, and Sansa knows it too.

Because she's known it for a while now, and she wouldn't even have to give it to him to get him to dance on her strings. If young Sansa had realised what was happening and left with him at the Blackwater, she could have made him carry her on his shoulders all the way to Riverrun, or Winterfell, or wherever she liked. She could have called him Stranger and fed him carrots, and he would have enjoyed every second of it. He's a fattened, dimwitted duck with a crossbow pointed at it's forehead, sitting there looking stupidly at it. Sansa can see this expression on his dumb duck face. ("Men do stupid things for women.") Why would she pass up this opportunity to gain a loyal servant?

Instead, she approaches and simply... waits.


Take a look at her during this scene. At this point she always appears like a fortress, like she has become Winterfell itself. (Which perhaps she metaphorically has) The castle made of ice that Littlefinger helped her to build. He did this by both giving her techniques to protect herself, and also by continually hurting her, so she was forced to use them. Her chain necklace, I originally thought symbolished Littlefinger's "leash" on her. But it remains after his death; It is Sansa's own chain on herself. But even more than usual though, when she sits opposite the Hound, she has an almost inhuman control and rigidity. She looks like a very feminine bulwark. She expresses nothing. And she just sits, and waits for him to act. 

Consider also the setting: a crowded, loud tavern environment. Tons of people around. But nobody could hear what they are saying. He cannot touch her or do anything to her, if he was inclined to. She has chosen what she views as the safest possible area to meet him, and she "surveys" him first as well. 

Sansa feels threatened by him. 

Sansa is on full alert, total lockdown, all-stations-manned defense against him. 

But she also willingly confronts him. If she's so afraid of him, why not just get her people to eject him from the premises? She's in power now, and he has no power at all. If she's afraid but wants to keep his sword around, why not keep avoiding him?


And why wait until after the undead are defeated? 

Because she is afraid of him. Because she knew she needed to be as strong as possible during that ordeal, and she could not afford to risk any damage whatsoever before then by speaking to him sooner.

And really, why is she afraid of him at all? The surface interpretation would be that she knows the Hound hurts her feelings, and she's protecting herself from that.


Sure enough, his first remarks are judgemental (You have changed), but like the judgemental remarks he made to Arya, they were not meant as insults but as attempts to help her see the route she had taken, so she could backtrack it, like he had. His second remark lets her know that he knows what she has been through, and is a typical barb from the Hound. So, although he grieves the loss of her innocence, he understands exactly how and why it happened. 

Yet both times, she has zero response in her armour. They ping off her like nerf bullets against a tank. Child's play.

But then he reminds her that he gave her the opportunity to avoid it all. Probably this is fuelled by some lingering resentment still that she rejected him, but he obviously knows why she did it. He's not trying to find out why she made the choice she did. Partially, he is also letting her know that he is here to protect her now. He makes his claim with such emotion at the end that it's clear he still feels the desire to protect her.

This breaks Sansa's defense, and it breaks it dramatically for who she is now.

Sandor is the giant who comes trampling through her carefully constructed ice castle, not even knowing what he's doing, all "Hurf durf imma giant", breaking through her glacial stronghold as though it was a snow fort.

It is not Littlefinger's head that she rips off in a fit of rage and stakes on her battlements.

It is Sandor's head.


Sansa's pain is too great to suffer this intrusion into her heart. 

Both Sandor and Arya, in building their mental fortifications, were able to use violence, force, and inspiring fear in others as defenses. These were available early in their lives, and were effective as both offense and defense.

But Sansa didn't have this option. Sandor does not realise, that the damage to a completely vulnerable person, is much greater than the damage to one who has some ability to fight back. Her ice castle is taller, it's walls are thicker, it's paths more treacherous. Sansa had no offensive capabilities. She had to build a monumental defensive structure to compensate.

Yet despite the tenacity of her construction, which has held against so many other, mortally dangerous threats, Sansa is terrified of Sandor.

And rightly so. 

Because he busts through her defenses without even knowing what he's doing. When he reminds her that he could have saved her from all her suffering, saved her hopes and dreams, provided her with the love she always wanted (even if she never returned it), maybe even let her see her family again before they all (including her probably) died, she breaks.

She doesn't fear the Hound's cruelty. She fears Sandor's kindness.


Draw back a bit here:

In the show, it is indicated that she is sexually mutilated like Theon. She tells LF that she can always feel what Ramsay did in her body. She is shown eating soup with Theon, a food for invalids, while everyone else is in bed with lovers. Whatever her damage is, she cannot tolerate being with a man physically any longer. This is part of her overlap with Jeyne Poole. Jeyne's fate symbolised Sansa's own: The Hound saved her life, but didn't take her out of danger properly. So Littlefinger was able to snatch her up and destroy her life again. In the books, Sansa's damage will likely be only mental and emotional, but the impact will be the same:

She will. not. tolerate. love.

Hoping for love caused her pain. Believing people loved her - Joffrey, Petyr, Willas, etc. - caused her pain. Sandor threatens to make her love again. 


Sansa panics. Sansa rebuilds her defenses, even stronger than before, to expel this threat. Perhaps, Sansa even knowingly wounds him to drive him away.

She reaches out to him, touches him. An intimate connection that he is unprepared for.

Then she tells him she is almost happy he did not protect her. She is happy the little bird died. She's happy with who she now is. Strong enough to defend herself. Strong enough to defend others. And she tells him that he provided her with this.

He DID protect her. The Hound loved her, and so she trusted in his words and advice. The Hound offered his cloak to Sansa, and Sansa accepted it. 


She married the Hound; she warged into his skin; she took over the castle he had vacated and rebuilt it as her own.


He did this to her.


Now, without this protection, she probably would have died. If she had remained naive and not been given good instructions on how to protect herself from Littlefinger, she would probably have slipped up, failed in her schemes, fallen for LF's lies, or even just been overcome with depression as she had after her father's death, and let herself die. The Hound did save her life, but at the cost of her heart.

And this realisation murders Sandor Clegane. She, in her castle of ice, slays him.


He loved her heart. He hated the Hound, and he let Arya kill it. And now he comes back to the woman he loves, prepared to defend her selflessly, and she tells him he has already killed her. He gave her the knife, he told her where her heart was, and then abandoned her, so she had no choice but to push it in. 

She doesn't want him, and refuses to love him. She loves the Hound, who protected her in a way no-one else ever did, including Sandor himself.

And his heart shatters.

His few remaining hopes of being able to watch and love her from afar turn into ash. He realises he can't avoid hurting her. Because he hadn't thought she had any fondness, any trust or love or belief, in the Hound. He was totally blind to the possibility she could have had it. But she did. He caused her to love him by offering her the only selfless love she ever had after her family's death and removal, but she loved him as she had known him: as the Hound, his poisonous side.

He had spread the trauma that enveloped him onto her; spread his disease. Now, even his presence with her was causing her mental anguish, as he reminded her of what she had potentially lost.

He could not co-exist with her without hurting her.

So he stopped wanting to exist.


And Sandor Clegane died.



The next time we see him after this - on the surface - unremarkable scene, he is ready to die. Why would he have come all this way, and then just decide to go kill something that's not even his brother anymore, and that Drogon could have easily taken care of? If he wants revenge so badly, why does he instead seem so resigned?

Not having any reason or desire to live any longer, he returns south to finish the last unfinished thread of his life. He doesn't really care about his revenge. He just wants to know Gregor is in the ground. His brother ruined him, and in turn he ruined Sansa. The last thing he can do is purge the world of the cause of it all. To kill him, he has to accept being burned once more, the final triumph against his childhood trauma. What's notable is that Gregor did not cause his death, even by mortal wounding. Sandor killed himself to kill Gregor.

Sandor dies consumed by fire. Sansa lives, buried under ice.



But wait! Even if Sandor was Sansa's Nissa Nissa, how was he Arya's as well? Surely that doesn't make any difference to Sansa's story?

It's actually pivotal to it.

The strategy of personal defense that Sansa adopts from the Hound aligns with Arya's own personality and temperament. Sansa begins to understand how Arya sees the world; how Arya operates, not in a conscious fashion but a practical, actively lived one. As she fell in love with the Hound, she connected with Arya, in just the same way that as Arya fell in (platonic) love with Sandor, she connected with Sansa. Each Stark sister killed the half of him that she originally aligned with, and each bonded with the half of him that the other aligned with. 

Arya kills her half of this man to reach Sansa's half. And Sansa kills her half of this man to reach Arya's half.

What Sandor possibly did not know, was that while he failed to protect Sansa and Arya sufficiently, and even caused Sansa damage, he actually protected them in an extremely profound way, which enabled both of them to survive.

He protected their love for each other.


As their initial reciprocal contempt and life circumstances pulled them apart, there was ample gaps between them for Littlefinger to try and insert his knives. The Hound himself was one of the things that they fought over in the first book, with Sansa being extremely defensive of someone who has threatened to kill her and she knows has killed another child, when you think about it. The existing friction between them is aggravated and pried open by Littlefinger in another attempt to isolate Sansa completely, forcing her to be reliant on him, as she previously had been.

But the two sisters overcame his attempts, and killed him together. 

How were they able to understand and trust and love each other, when they had never done so as children, and someone was actively forcing them apart?


Because Sandor Clegane had been their spirit conduit. 


He had given each sister the chance to love the aspect of the other, and understand the ways it was superior to her own, as well as the ways it was inferior. He let each of them "kill herself" and embrace the other.

He let them do this, despite the pain it caused him, despite having to fight through his own immense trauma to do so.

Driven only by love for the two of them, never having experienced any love from either of them as he did it, he sacrificed everything for them. 

He died first by Arya's hand, for Arya.

He died secondly by Sansa's hand, for Sansa.

And he died third and finally by his own hand, for himself. 

That was the sum totality of his life.

The Threefold Death

His death is a threefold death. There's two types of this death. One is a person who "dies" in three ways at one moment (say, stabbing, hanging, drowning). Another is a person who has three separate death moments, which is the kind he has.

Here is some discussion of this topic from Encyclopedia Of Indo-European Culture (https://archive.org/stream/EncyclopediaOfIndoEuropeanCulture/Encyclopedia_of_Indo-European_Culture_djvu.txt). I have clipped out some bits and added my own emphasis.



The “Sins of the Warrior” is an important IE theme... In this theme a warrior-hero figure 
commits three sins or delicts against each of the three 
functions, that is, he serially violates one or more of the 
bundle of rules that define and govern these functions. 

The clearest example of these three sins is contained in 
the legend of Starkadr ... Starkadr’s three sins are regicide, a cowardly flight from 
battle, and another regicide committed for money.


Obviously Sandor's story is not following these rules fully, but he *does* make a cowardly flight from battle. He also kills a child, which is the major sin (and I believe major theme) in ASOIAF. I haven't given it enough thought to see if he has a third obvious sin. But the parallels here are clear.

A warrior commits sins and must atone for them in a threefold death.



...the Norse-Germanic deity OcMnn-Wotan, a First 
Function divinity on the dark, uncontrolled or Varunaic side 
of this divided function, is called hangagod, god of the hanged' 
or the ‘hanging god’; indeed, the Norse Havamal says that 
Odinn hanged or sacrificed himself, ‘myself to myself,’...

So killing oneself *for* oneself can be part of a threefold death



Hanging or suspension “above" or “in the 
air” (or falling) is clearly marked with FI characteristics. 

This triple-death theme spreads downward or 
outward from royal or heroic legend, and is widely current in 
the folklore of IE-speakers; here snakebite (a “piercing” and 
poisoning) is often tied to hanging or to a fatal fall...


And Sandor dies by falling.


 ...we would expect some sort of sword- 
death or a death by means of some other kind of warriors 
weapon, and hints of this are found in the Northern 
(Germanic) traditions... the Icelandic Eyrbyggja saga 
mentions blood-sacrifice to Forr. 

His death for Arya could be seen as blood sacrifice.


According to the Roman 
observer Lucan (first century AD) the Celts sacrificed victims 
to Taranis, one of their war-gods, in another way: they seem 
to dedicate their F2 victims by fire rather than by the sword

Another similarity, as he died by fire. Finally:


Also, and this quite recently in English history, 
the crime of treason — a grievous offense against sovereignty — 
was punished by what can be read as a trifunctional punish- 
ment: hanging, drawing and quartering involved suspension, 
the cutting or piercing of the victim, and mutilation of the 

His fall with Gregor parallels a hanging.

His wound in the vital part of his thigh parallels a quartering.

And his wound to his heart and desire for love parallels a castration.



This was a romance between two people who did not reveal themselves to the world, or even explicitly to each other. Even when young, Sansa did not always speak her true opinions - she spoke what she thought she should say. But Sandor could see her behind that, and eventually, when she was old and wise enough, Sansa could see Sandor behind his obscuring words as well.

Their story is similarly obscured; hidden; only able to intuited by hints. 

Despite being a heavily obscured part of Sansa's story, it is actually critical to understanding her story properly. Although the Hound was only a portion of Sansa's story, and a smaller portion of Arya's, Sandor's story itself was entirely dependant on Sansa's. If the story threads and arcs of ASOIAF were arranged in astral orbits, such that each Stark sibling was a planet orbiting the story of house Stark, and that story was part of the galaxy that orbited the story of the seven kingdoms and so on, Sandor's story was a moon to Sansa's planet. 

Although her story has a fair portion independent from his, his story is the cypher to unravel her details. Though he is himself not straightforward to decypher.


Without this understanding, Sansa's story appears to be a cold, entirely heartless mockery of the belief in true love, in true knights, in stories and songs. It is gloomy, depressing, and an undeserving fate for a girl who never hurt anybody, and never was provided proper protection.


But with his cypher, her story is illuminated: She had her true knight. She had her true love. He loved her exactly as a knight should; from afar, with chastity, without reward. And it is a song of heart-strangling romance, where every note of the traditional romantic score is struck, in an almost imperceptible, ultrasonic tone. It mirrors what we know of the story of Florian and Jonquil; a fool and knight who fell in love with a lady, who was menaced by some monster, and ended in flames.

He fought and defeated Littlefinger not by ever confronting him, or even knowing he was the true danger Sansa faced. He defeated him by loving Sansa, loving her sister, giving Sansa the strength to kill the monster herself.

And though neither of them had a happily ever after, he gave Sansa maybe the happiest possible end she could have in the brutal winter of Westeros.

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I do have an additional clarification on ASOIAF's core theme of the protection of children and the defenceless. (As I said, I am still puzzling this out)

Good characters and bad characters take the same actions, and often even for the same reasons - to protect themselves or those they love.

Yet they have different outcomes, and some characters who did so much to protect others have terrible fates at the hands of other good characters.


It wasn't what you did to protect people.


It was whether you enjoyed doing it.

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11 hours ago, Jabar of House Titan said:

I'm sorry but this doesn't make any sense.

What does dying three times have do with the overall theme of ASOIAF?

Sorry I wasn't clear enough in my opening.

I am using the Hound's story arc as "Rosetta Stone" for understanding the overall theme.

Because once it was clear that his arc, and Sansa and Arya's arcs, were about the cycle of abuse and trauma, and the need to protect children to break it, it becomes apparent the whole story is about that.


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So, here is my input to demonstrate that the theme identified above about childhood trauma and protection can be applied to all of ASOIAF. I will update and refine it as I go.


First and foremost, the White Walkers are a perfect example of this.


Who created them? : The children of the forest.

Why did they create them? : To protect themselves

What happened as a result? : A weapon, they developed themselves, to protect themselves, ended up being both self-destructive, and hurting people they didn't want it to hurt.

And they had to spread their trauma onto Bran, in the form of their memories and powers, in order for it to be defeated.


King Robert


Ned and Robert's first break came when Robert refused to punish the brutal murder of children.

Their second break came when Robert ordered the murder of a child, Daenerys. 

Robert's lack of love for his (alleged children's) mother caused him to treat them poorly as well, such that Joffrey (possibly already screwed up by incest) is emotionally hurt by both his father and mother. The Hound, who is his physical protector, does not offer him any emotional protection either. He's far too cynical at this point to care. Joffrey has no true protection.

Robert's "punishment" for his  disregard and contempt of children's integrity is that his "children" were not even his own.


Ned Stark


Ned begins this book by taking Bran to an execution. He does this as a method of slowly and carefully exposing a child to the real world, so they can develop to maturity in safety.

We then find the direwolves : protectors of the Stark children.

Ned is not inclined to go help Robert, but feels he must when it seems the Lannisters could be plotting to murder him. He chooses to defend a man who won't defend children.

This is Ned's downfall.

He then kills Sansa's protector at Robert's request. He destroys his own child's protection to obey Robert.

Ned tries to protect Robert's bastard children in addition to that Robert has provided them. He tries to protect his daughters. But critically, he has been too soft-hearted for Sansa to ever give her exposure to the real world, like he has for all his other children (Rickon excepted, being too young). He doesn't tell her she needs to be protected.

And the result of this is that she is further endangered, and he risks more and more to protect her, until it leads to his death.

Edit: Can't believe I forgot one of the most important parts! Ned's big secret was that he was protecting a child that was a danger to his friend, Robert. The conflicting loyalties here, and the possible guilt of keeping this secret, and the secret of Lyanna's love for Rhaegar, from Robert, may have been a factor in his willingness to help Robert, even after he knew he shouldn't. I'll have to think more on it.



Catelyn Stark


Cat was always "Lady Stoneheart". Her first move after Ned leaves is to eject a child (Jon) from the protection of her house.

She is almost single-mindedly fanatical about protecting her children. Her children. That's all.

She travels up and down the country trying to protect her children. She catches the knife meant to kill Bran with her own hands.

But then she leaves her young sons unprotected to go and "protect" Robb - who is already on the cusp of adulthood. Did he really need her protection? In fact, if she hadn't been there, would he have made a deal with the Freys like he did?

Lysa's overprotection of her son Robyn should have been omen to Cat for her overprotection of Robb. But she didn't heed it.

After Ned dies and Robb's army is in gridlock, Cat stays there with him. As a result, she protects none of her other children, and even her adult son dies. And in an attempt to save him, she murders an innocent herself. 

She only cared for her own children.


Her sister Lysa is the revealing clue to her underlying trauma. While Lysa's own problems are detailed below, I don't cover there what impact her pregnancy had on her relationship with the rest of her family. They all would have known, and they would have known who the father was. A child out of wedlock, with a man of inferior social rank AND who viewed her as "consolation prize" to her sister. The response we see hinted at is that Lysa's family lost respect for her, since apparently she had little self-respect. Even Cat seems fairly ambivalent towards her emotionally, though she believes family binds them.

Now Cat never even considered Petyr because of social rank. This is a similar “house purity” ethos to Tywin, except it extended outside her own house to all other similarly ranked houses. She judges Mya’s desired relationship on rank considerations. Sansa judges it on love compatibility.

Lysa’s trauma also feeds directly into Cat’s own; when her betrothed dies, she gets the "consolation prize" sibling instead; Ned.

And he’s not even grateful for getting a better match than a second son would expect!

He returns from war with a baby. Not a pregnant lover, a baby. So he had to have made it pretty damn soon after leaving her. In other words, it could not have been due to being away from his wife so long that his resolve broke.

Ned thus insults her on multiple fronts, directly related to the suffering she has witnessed her sister go through. It speaks a great deal to Ned’s human decency that he and Cat were able to forge such a strong relationship despite it all. Cat’s childhood was caught up in a family scandal with social rank being a key factor. She chose rank over love (well, and the fact the man who loved her was a slimy sociopath). Yet her new family isn’t really all that fussed about it. This must grate.



Arya’s break from convention presents a thorn to Cat not just for gender conformity, but because Arya doesn’t really “see” rank when she makes her friends. The presence of Jon, the unranked but deeply loved half-sibling, must have some hand in that. Which Cat would know. So Jon insults her on this issue as well, not just by existing, and being “proof” Ned doesn’t care enough about rank, but also for making Arya, and even Robb and the other siblings to some extent, not care as much about rank.

She reluctantly sells Arya into a family she knows is repugnant, but allows it because they are the “right rank” for a second daughter. In other words, social rank has outweighed so many other moral concerns.


Edmure’s role is very small, but he provides more context on Cat and Lysa’s childhood. Despite being an unimpressive specimen of Westerosi masculinity, he was never forced to marry and wasn’t censured for playing the field, like his sister was. He demonstrates that Hoster saw little inherent scope for autonomy in women, including his own daughters. It is probably intentional that his wife, Cat’s mother, is largely left in shadows.

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Harm to Children:

Joffrey is a child who murders other children.

He moves to have Bran killed after a callous comment is made that it might be for the best. Why? He gained nothing from that. Nothing at all.

He simply enjoyed hurting others, and in ASOIAF, the worst kind of hurt is that done to children. This demonstrates how rotten Joffrey is at his core.

He beats and abuses Sansa simply for being innocent. He traumatises his own younger brother by killing his cats, simply for being innocent.

In the show it seems that he ordered the murder of Robert's bastard children.

Joffrey is one of the saddest examples of the theme. Still a child, yet he loves to hurt children.


Early Life Trauma + Lack of Healthy Skills:

Just being raised by Cersei and Robert seems to neatly cover this.




Protection of Children:

Sam is widely regarded to be one of the purest characters. He's lovely, sweet, smart, etc. And he loves Gilly and her son despite who her son is.

And that is the true core of Sam's purity. He protects - repeatedly and determinedly - a child that is worthless in the eyes of the rest of the world.

He took risks, and begged others to take risks, to remove Gilly from her father's house where she was being traumatised and abused.

He broke the cycle of trauma and abuse for her, but even that is secondary to how pure his regard for children's worth is.


Early Life Trauma:

Sam had a healthy relationship with his mother, but was despised and rejected by his father. 

This parallels Gilly's baby being "despised and rejected" by its father, for not being of personal use to him. Sam rescues a "worthless" baby from a situation that echoes his own.




Protection of Children:

This is a minor character, and what happens to him in the books? Who knows? But we can see in his character arc this theme appearing: He marries Lolly and seems perfectly fine to raise her child, despite it being a bastard born of rape. Again, a child that the world around them believes is tainted and not worthy.

Yet Bronn protects it.



Cersei Lannister


Harm to Children:

Cersei is, much like Joffrey, rotten to the core. She murders a childhood friend while she herself is still a child. She has zero regard for the life of children. When Joffrey is wounded by Nymeria, the Hound brings back the butcher's boy dead. Why? 

Because he knows Cersei. He knows he'd get into trouble if he brought him back alive, and the Northerners were able to protect him. As Cersei's servant, his service includes child murder.

In the books, Cersei has Robert's bastards killed. The first act of the new reign sets the wheels in motion for its downfall: child murder.

Cersei claims to love her children, and no-one else. Yet with the prophecy introduced in her POV, we can see that in truth, she views her children as human shields for her own life. If she will not die until after they die, then keeping her children alive protects her.

She does love them as well, but on the same narcissistic and self-indulgent level she loves Jaime. Because they look like her, and she views them as being part of her.

The TV shows makes this explicit with the new baby, and her attempt to use it to make both Tyrion and Jaime protect her. Even when the baby is dead, and she knows it. 


Early Life Trauma:

I have covered their joint trauma under Jaime's entry, which is its own entry now due to length. Cersei had additional stresses in having little control over her fate. She was given to marry whoever her father wanted, and had no ability to physically defend herself from rape. 

The ability to "control" her fate with the lives of her children provides a perfect counterpoint to this part of her trauma.

Her final fate on the show, even if different to the books, still holds basic elements corresponding to her trauma.

Does being crushed under Jaime’s body count as having the life “choked” out of her? It’s not clear to say, but the death they suffered was wholly symbolic of the way they lived their inner lives; evoking claustrophobia, darkness, immense external pressure, and being hidden away from the outside world. Just the two of them. Trapped. Together.

This last point is vital to understand Jaime as well, who I have moved to his own entry.


Lack of Healthy Skills:

Only Tyrion ever chastised Cersei for her bad behaviour (unless it personally inconvenienced Tywin), and he was the family member she outright despised due to her belief in the prophecy. So of course, not only would she not listen, she would purposely be contrary.

Cersei openly displays poor coping skills in her alcoholism and completely cold use of her body for increased favours and power among men in the court.


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Robb Stark


Another character I haven't thought on deeply, but something does stand out.

Robb is at the precipice between childhood and adulthood. He still needs protection to some extent perhaps, but he is more or less now transitioned to be a protector of others as he becomes king.

But he sells his younger sister into marriage with a family he knows is cruel and miserable. This might be forgivable, but then he betrays his own promise to marry one of the Frey's. He had to know that this would make them view and treat Arya even more terribly if he ever gave her to them. But he didn't dissolve his contract with them. In fact, he tried to keep it alive, keep the promise of giving a child to a family where the much-feared and obeyed household head married young girls - still children - and somehow discarded each of them after some time. One assumes, after they were no longer children. In other words, this is a family of child abuse. Yet Robb seems set to keep his promise to give his own child sister to them.

This is his downfall.




Stannis is a man of rigid principles. Convinced of his own superiority, he works to gain power for himself, but only, he believes, to be able to bring righteous rule to the realm.

His absolute refusal to depart from these principles or his aim of putting them in place over all Westeros leads him to allow more and more evil acts to take place to achieve that.

In the end, he does appear to relinquish this goal in order to save the realm from the undead. But the show gives us a version of his downfall that fits the overall theme so closely, it's hard to believe it will be much different in the books.

He sacrifices his own child.

And everything unravels around him after that.




Another character who sacrifices her own children to achieve her goals. Defiled while still in her womb, the moment they are born they go into service destroying her enemies.

Yet, her goals are to save the world.

From the start, she is extremely ambiguous about what kind of person she is and what sort of world she's trying to create. Is she evil or good?

She's both. Mel encapsulates both the greatest good (the protection of others at one's own expense) and the greatest evil (the murder or abuse of one's own children).

And this is a heavy burden on her. The haggard and aged appearance we see without her necklace displays her inner soul: how the evil acts she has performed has ravaged her.

Curiously, she is possibly the single most selfless character in ASOIAF, yet also one of the most repellent. 





Brienne's character is an interesting counterweight to Stannis. 

She, too, has principles and ideals that she will not waver from. Good ideals, and good principles. But where Stannis will commit evil acts in the service of these principles, Brienne will not.

Protection of Children:

Her major goal is to protect the Stark daughters - two children - and yet she struggles to do this.


Lack of Healthy Survival Skills:

She will not use guile, or deceit to advance her goals. She would never blackmail, torture, take a hostage, or steal to reach them. She will only kill those who are "evil" enough to kill. In other words, if evil acts stand between her and her desire to protect others, she is trapped on the other side, looking anxiously and desperately at her desire, yet unable to wade into darkness to reach it.

I believe this refusal to compromise is Brienne's self-protection mechanism. She faces massive scorn from the rest of the world for two reasons; being bad as a woman (ugly), and then trying to be a man. Being a female warrior, her every action is under scrutiny for weaknesses. Like the saying goes, a woman has to be twice as good as a man to be considered half as good. Brienne has internalised this external pressure.

Probably compounding it is her desire to be "living up to" or "replacing" her dead brother. If she betrays her principles, she betrays her brother's memory and her father's hopes for a warrior son.

Brienne finds trauma in the same thing Jaime does: the opinions and scorn of others. She copes with it entirely differently, but that is because she doesn't believe any of that scorn is deserved. She offers hope to Jaime when he sees she can be strong against the world.

But by the time they reunite, Brienne has let herself down. She does feel she deserves some shame. Ironically, while she now would understand Jaime even better than before, her protection or help for his wounds is revealed as being inadequate.


Early Life Trauma:

So this possibly is Brienne's trauma, although I do not recall that she was so young when her brother died. Possibly, this is a case where an adult's personal grief and misery is "absorbed" or transferred to one of their offspring, a child having to parent a parent.

Like every other single character with self-protective mechanisms, they begin to cause her and those around her pain.


Harm to Children?:

In the books, the last we see of her is her finally accepting to use betrayal to defend Podrick. Does he count as a child? He's certainly innocent. 

Whereas in the TV show, we see her lose a chance to protect Sansa far earlier on in order to satisfy her revenge on Stannis. She essentially allowed further damage to Sansa to take place, to give herself personal satisfaction.

In both cases, she has begun to falter in her adherence to righteousness.

Again, I haven't given her character enough thought to figure out the exact meaning of her arc. But the theme of protecting children shines through clearly.

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Oh boy, this is an ridiculously complex one, and I've barely even started. 

Daenerys begins the story as a child with no true protector. Her brother is a danger to her rather than a defender, and he sells her into what he believes may as well be sexual slavery to gain power for himself.

Throughout the story, Dany longs for the house with the red door: The place where she was protected as a child.


Dany’s pivotal character-forming moment was the death of her brother. In this scene we see her desires for protection pulling in four directions; a symbolic drawing and quartering.

She wants to protect herself. She absolutely wants to protect the life of her child. And she does on some level want to protect her brother’s life. But the only source of protection she has cannot give her all three things.

Obviously, she chooses to extinguish the desire to protect her brother over losing her desire for Drogo’s protection. Drogo hurts her badly by killing her brother, but it’s the lesser of four possible wounds she could have suffered.

The key here is that someone with decent skills in diplomacy or consolation could have talked Viserys down, thus saving all of Dany’s protective desires. But Drogo probably had more skill in basket-weaving than smooth talking, so he uses violence.

Like Sansa, the man who loved Dany the most selflessly and whom she thus trusted to model her own survival techniques on was himself lacking severely in that area.

As a result, Dany subconsciously views violence as the starting point for protecting herself and others.

On an intellectual level, she knows diplomacy is the “right” choice. But she basically has to talk herself down from instinctive violence. Violence feels “protective” to her. Diplomacy is difficult on its face, and offers no emotional reward. Violence does.

The many, many characters who try to teach Dany healthy diplomatic skills fail because she does not trust or love any of them enough or more than she trusted and loved Drogo. 


Because Khal Drogo makes it clear he will protect her and love her, Dany loves him back enthusiastically. So much so, she is blind to how he and his people hurt other innocents.

She makes attempts to save them, but not proactively - only when she happens to see it, as though if she can't see any evil around her, none is taking place. Sure enough, the woman she believes she "rescued" had already been raped and hurt. Dany's feeble attempts to protect others leads to the poisoning of her own protector.

She then sacrifices the life of her own child to try and save him.

This is very, very integral to her character.

Still really a child herself, and so traumatised by her brother and desperate to be protected, she allows the death of her own child.

Of course, this does not work. She can't have protection and love returned to her in exchange for an evil act. Instead she loses both, then even the protection of the Dothraki. 


Now, Dany stands with only other weak and vulnerable people. She wants to protect them. She wants to be protected. She wants revenge for having lost so quickly the protection she had always desired. 

In her self-inflammation, she "murders" her own childhood self. She becomes a protector.


She creates new children to protect.


Being the mother of these children then becomes her entire identity. Not only does she come to view herself as, above all, a protector of other weak and helpless people, but she also comes to see herself as being literally, rather than metaphorically, a dragon.

The childhood trauma she suffered under her brother, who blamed his own rages and abuse and poor behaviour on the "dragon" in him, has poisoned Dany as well. He continued the cycle of trauma.

Like so many other characters, the wounds she sustained in childhood remain with her, and the tools she scrapped together in a desperate attempt to protect herself, from wherever she could find them - her brother, Khal Drogo, the dragons themselves - remain with her.


Here is the core of Dany's character, her dual strength and weakness:

When she sees her own suffering in the suffering of others, she rises to defend them as ardently and resolutely as she wishes she herself had been defended.


This is not only laudable, it's a truly pure-hearted and selfless response to the suffering in the world around oneself.

So why is it also a weakness?

Because Dany responds to the abusers and killers of other innocents not only with her intimately personal wish for protection, but also with her own intimately personal wish for revenge.


Dany hates the abusers of others so incredibly deeply, it comes to outweigh the desire to protect the abused in the first place.


I really cannot underscore that enough. Dany's aims are always noble in the genesis. 

But her unresolved anger at her many childhood traumas lead them to become cruel and vicious in the execution.

Just like her brother "taught" her, she blames her anger and violence on a joint, but separate, entity. It's not really her who wants to do those things. It's the "dragon". She can avoid taking self-responsibility. 


And just as I highlighted in Sandor Clegane's character arc, the tools Dany creates to protect herself become dangerous to herself and others.

Those tools are the dragons.

She literally "creates" them out of a desire both to be protected and a protector. And sure enough, after she has protected them through their childhood, sometimes at great personal cost, they become strong enough to protect her.

And strong enough to endanger everyone and everything around her.

But Dany can't give them up. She struggles desperately to stop the dragons from hurting innocents, but she absolutely is incapable of letting the dragons go.  They are part of her psyche so deeply at this point, she is the dragons.


And in the end, she gets so much satisfaction and sick, personal joy from destroying those who hurt others, those with evil intentions, those who would enslave and abuse the innocent... that this joy eclipses the joy she gets from having saved the innocent themselves.

What's more, when the "focus" of being a protector and saviour of people is taken from Dany and shifted to someone else, she loses that feeling of self-support that being a protector provides her.

Each time she protects her children, herself, or someone else, she is performing a self-soothing ritual to placate her still raw wounds of childhood.

Like an alcoholic or any number of addictions to dangerous behaviours or bad relationships, Dany is desperate for a cure for her pain, but the tool she is using to help herself is causing more pain, both for her and those around her. As a result, she uses even more of the only soothing she knows.

It's simply unfortunate for her and the world that her coping mechanism is watching her dragons massacre her enemies.

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Jon Snow


OK... I'll be honest, I find Jon such an uninteresting character it's hard for me to find much in his story, because I haven't been paying attention to it.

But there's some apparent foundations.

Early Life Trauma:

His trauma as a child was being an outsider. A mistake. He wasn't supposed to exist, abandoned by his own mother and unloved by his stepmother. (Cat is very much the archetypal evil stepmother in Jon's story).

Sure enough, he is made to go become even more of an outsider. Outside all society itself, in a place where romantic and family love was literally forbidden. Late in his book arc, we see Jon pine for a life like the other Stark children were "destined" for: a wife who loved him, children he could cherish like he wasn't, a home he belonged in.

So he is driven from the protection of his family, while still a child on the cusp of adulthood, and sent to a place where his exact same traumas are manifest in every aspect.


Presence of Healthy Survival Skills:

But the Brotherhood do protect Jon. They give him friendship, they give him exposure to harsh realities, they give him tools to help him survive as an adult. 

When he goes North another black brother sacrifices his own life to protect Jon.

But while it saves Jon's life, it leaves him protecting himself from that point. This is why Ghost "departs" from him at this time. He's own his own.

During this time he becomes an adult, during his major exposure to the reality of the world: The things you were taught as a child were simplifications. The truth is more complicated. The wildlings are people too, not evil savages.

To his delight, he even finds love. Despite having suffered some trauma in the Stark household and the transfer to the Wall, Jon transitions to an adult with a woman who tries to teach him, with black brothers who try to teach him. He is surrounded by those who wish to give him the skills to overcome his childhood trauma and be a protector of others.

A literal protector, since that's what the black brothers do all day.

The most blatant parallel between his loving moral foundation and Dany's is that while Ygritte offered Jon the protective family love he had always wanted most, he was unwilling to compromise his moral principles to receive it, and she died as a result.

Dany, as outlined in her entry, is willing to commit the very worst sin - sacrificing her own child - in order to try and protect the man who offers her the protective family love she always wanted.

And this isn't because she's a bad person, or even not as good as Jon. It's because she had no-one to cement her moral foundation with love - to protect it from decaying. It was "rotten concrete" underneath her, doomed to crumble under pressure.


Jon's moral upbringing in house Stark and the many tools he learns make him capable of leading and protecting others.

Buuuut... that same moral upbringing seems to make him blind to the more evil aspects of his own friends and family, and to his own men and people. He makes mistakes in his leadership due to giving others the benefit of the doubt far too often and too generously.


Harm to Children:

It's difficult for me to remember enough of his story from the books to see anything here (yet), but it's very, very interesting that the show decided to introduce the character of the boy whose parents were killed by wildlings. This boy, who Jon tries to give moral and adulthood instruction too, cannot overcome his hatred and desire for revenge. So he forms part of the group that kills Jon when Jon refuses to mass slaughter wildlings.

Jon then kills this child in turn.

This marks the turn in his character from being dedicated to selfless defense of others, to actually satisfying his own desires and needs sometimes.


Jon seems to possibly a counterpart to Dany's character, but forgive me, I can't really figure it out yet.

Jon and Dany are both potential claimants to the throne, and considering Dany is a woman, and Jon was never publicly acknowledged as legitimate, their claims are probably equally strong.

The primary contrast is that Dany was brought up “knowing” she was a ruler denied people to rule, whereas Jon was brought up not even expecting an inheritance or family future.


It's also clear that the theme of Violence vs Diplomacy that is so central to Dany plays a part in Jon's story too. He tends to fall in the opposite direction too hard; he refuses to use violence until it has already been used on him and his people. Whatever the moral correctness of this stance, Jon is actually not good enough at diplomacy to sustain it. But he wants to be. His instinct is diplomacy over violence. 

I'm not familiar enough with his story's details, so if anyone else notices clues, please let me know.

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I really can't recall if the people Jorah sold into slavery included children, but I will assume it doesn't. Though this was a clear abuse of power and cruelty to those that didn't deserve it, it wasn't child abuse.

But it was in service of love. 

So Jorah was willing to commit evil acts in a vain attempt to win a woman's love.

When he enters the story, he has been sent to spy on, and possibly kidnap or kill, Daenerys; a child.

This is his intersection with the protection of children theme.


He was willing to at least go and put himself in a position to hurt a child, representing a lax moral character.

He doesn't do it though. But was it because he could not have brought himself to hurt a child?

Or is it just because he grew to love Dany?


His interaction with Dany provides a mirrored image of his interaction with his first wife.

No matter what he does, he cannot win her true love. But for his first wife, he committed evil acts in vain. For Dany, he commits good acts in vain.


He's not a bad man. He was raised with principles and he still keeps many of them, and has lingering attachment to the ones he doesn't.

But are his acts of protection and kindness to Dany (starting from when she was a child) motivated by a desire to protect children? Or simply a desire to protect this child in particular?

Further providing evidence that a pure desire to protect selflessly and for the good of the one being protected is his increasing resentment of Dany not rewarding his love and protection in the way he wants. 

He wants to believe it's enough for him to protect her like a true knight. He wants that on an intellectual level.

But in his heart, is it enough?


I can't comment further on this character.

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Arya always belonged to the house of Black and White.

She sees the world separated into good people and bad people when the story begins. Those who do bad earn her hatred or contempt, no questions asked, no quarter given.

Her inherent personality is wild, carefree, and massively resistant to being chained or externally limited in any way.

This leads to anger against a system that attempts to limit her ability to live her life as she wishes, instead of conforming to female expectations.

Luckily for Arya, her parents, or at least her father, are not so strict on this that she has no room to move. But there is the "threat" looming in her future that once she becomes of marriageable age, all this playing around she does as a child will have to end.


In that regard, Arya has a tiny bit of Peter Pan in her. Because as a child she's being allowed to lead parts of the life she wants to lead, she fears leaving childhood. Her defiance of authority don't give her any inherent desire for protection. Instead, although she wants to be independent and protect herself, she instinctively knows that protection and childhood are linked, and she doesn't want to leave childhood. It's probably not a coincidence that Arya looks the least like their protective mother Catelyn.

Fittingly, Arya is protected frequently, where Sansa is not. She spends a brief period on the streets before her father's execution, but then she is protected by adults up until the Hound's death. It's important to note that she never seeks any of this protection. Unlike many other characters, Arya doesn't long for protection. In fact, it rankles her. But losing it may mean having to become a lady. She stays protected.

When the Hound dies, she goes on alone, seeking the means to protect herself. At this point, with her family all pretty much dead, the threat of having to become a conventional woman is gone. Arya's entry into the House of Black and White brings both a form of protection, yet also immense danger. More on that below.


In addition to her anger and defiance of external constrictions, she also responds with anger to injustice, the suffering of others, cruelty, and, actually, pretty much anything she disagrees with.

Arya views the world in black and white.

She torments Sansa when they are children, and not in response to any harm Sansa has caused her. Arya humiliates Sansa in front of Joffrey, because she thinks Sansa's fawning of him is "stupid". She and Jon frighten Sansa in the crypts, because she thinks Sansa's girlish fear is "stupid". She ruins Sansa's clothes, throws snowballs at her, plays pranks, etc. etc.

The only crime Sansa did to deserve this was not agreeing with Arya's worldview, and for being the "perfect lady" everyone expected Arya to become.


You see, if Sansa hadn't existed, Arya may have been able to make the case that being a perfect lady was simply impossible, and she must be given leeway. But Sansa's existence made that argument impossible.

If Sansa could do it, why couldn't Arya?

Sansa, in other words, represented an offence to Arya's desire to live her life the way she wanted.

So she punished Sansa, as if Sansa was at fault for this.


This is immensely black and white thinking. In addition, Arya makes immediate judgements about other characters goodness or evilness, and rarely changes her mind on these counts. She's a fairly decent judge of character, but because she can't see the shades of grey in people, those who exist at the border are assigned either one side or the other by her, which they obscures either their evil or their good. 

She needs protection from herself, but neither of her parents have the tools to do this, because they never faced this problem. Ned at least is able to recognise it, because Lyanna had a similar issue. But he can't teach her what he doesn't know.

She also, as I mentioned in Sandor's character arc, has zero introspection.


Arya doesn't know who she herself is, not really. When she meets the Hound, she has no love for him, and after he kills her friend, as far as she's concerned, he has to die. It doesn't matter that he did it at the behest of his masters.

There's no shades of grey.

Kill my friend? Dead!

Yet Arya's first kill is a young boy.

Of course she did it to protect herself. But was this boy evil? Did he deserve it?

No, he was just some putz, who for all he knew the Northerners were traitors, and he was doing a good thing taking her to the Queen. Even if he didn't care either way if it was just or not, he certainly wasn't committing some crime to follow the queen's commands.


Arya doesn't care.

Get in my way? Dead!

And she never connects this act to the Hound's murder. She's white, he's black, 'nough said.


Aside from this first murder, of another child, Arya goes out into the world and defends other children. She protects those around her while in the war camps, helps other children escape, and fights happily enough alongside the BwB, because they are protecting the innocent from soldiers and war.

Avoiding repeating what was said above, the Hound gives her the ability to see the path she is headed in, and the value in Sansa's personality and view of life. He helps to "temper" her.

So, when she enters the HoBW, she is here being taught skills to protect herself and others; the skills of adulthood.

She also is being made to pay a terrible price. This place requires all of her worst attributes and traits to be ascendant, and all of her good and noble ones to be suppressed. With no family to care about, Arya seems likely to succumb to her worse nature. She "allows" the death of the young girl with the water of the fountain. The child didn't die at her hands, but she could possibly have prevented it. She did not.

But reminders of her past, her childhood traumas at the hands of the Lannisters in particular, bring her suppressed personality back to life. 

Having her connection to ideals, hopes and dreams reforged and strengthened by Sandor would have helped her believe in the need for justice, but having the foundation laid by her parents love was critical. 

What's more, she also keeps enough of herself to not murder other innocents in her quest for revenge.

This sets her dramatically apart from her mother. Giving the revenge for the Red Wedding to her on the show highlighted this fact. While Cat killed a girl-child for no reason other than revenge and desperation, Arya spared a girl-child she really didn't have to.

Despite being a cold-hearted murderer, Arya understands that innocents are to be protected.


This is a very slapped-together analysis as well, there's certainly more to Arya's interplay with the theme of protection than I've outlined. This is pretty much tied to why she rejected Gendry though, in my mind.

Gendry was trying to offer her not only protection, but very traditional, male-and-female conventional roles, protection.

So not only was he offering her something she has no interest in (protection) he was also bundling with it the expectation that she would become a lady, of a castle, just like she always feared.

It's entirely possible that if he had turned up, still acting pathetic and in need of her protection himself, she might have let him stick around. Arya will not accept restrictions.

New additions:

+ Jaquen giving Arya entry to the HoBW can be seen as a clear example of an adult passing on their trauma to a child.

Because it's obvious on it's face (no pun intended), that nobody becomes an acolyte at HoBW and pays the price of self-annihilation without already being really messed up.

+ This made me see the HoBW itself in a new light: It's a place where traumatised people (possibly mostly children) go in an attempt to purge themselves of their trauma, through the process of repeatedly re-traumatising themselves out of mental existence.

This self-defence may look similar to the Hound's cloak, but it has many differences.

Primarily, the Hound's cloak was never a conscious attempt to destroy or bury the person underneath. Only hide them from the world. The HoBW is an attempt to hide you from yourself. The fact this is where Arya, a character who began with no self-awareness, but began to gain some under the Hound, goes, is absolutely not a coincidence.

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Margaery / Olenna Tyrell


Harm to Children:

Margarey betrayed the trust of two children, Sansa and Tommen.

She and her grandmother sold a child (Sansa) into what they had no expectation of not being a horrible situation for her.

She manipulated a child (Tommen) to gain power for herself, not caring what it did to him.

Remember Tommen was probably shown very little love as a child. Robert really couldn't have cared less about his non-heir children, and Cersei's love was narcissistic. Joffrey actively tormented him. Only his sister would have provided family love and protection, but we have no way of knowing how much.

So when Margarey offered him apparently real love and protection from the cruelties of the outside world, he fell for it terribly, fuelled by his own traumas. 

Although Margery herself does no explicit harm to him (in the show at least), there's no way they could have reigned as king and queen through their lives together without Tommen eventually gaining some understanding, and being deeply wounded.

As we see, he invested so much love into Margarey that he killed himself upon her death at his mother's hands.

And it was a love entirely false.


Early Life Trauma:

We don't get to see enough of Margarey, but we can draw on a couple of big hints to what makes her tick. The first is that Olenna obviously has faced and triumphed against men who are stupider than her holding her back. The fact she has passed the importance of this on to Margarey suggests it was Olenna's trauma, and she has continued the cycle.

Olenna's son does seem much dimmer than her. But did she really try to give him the same tools she had? Or did something impair her ability to trust men, and as a result, she focused on teaching her female descendants over her male ones. If this were true, it would be a harm committed against her male children, by intentionally making them dependant on the female members of their family.

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House Martell


This storyline is so screwed up between the show and books its almost impossible to comment on, except that it does possess the core aspect: protection or abuse of children.

Members of this House attempt to use Cersei's daughter either to gain power for themselves or gain revenge on her. She obviously will die in the books, at whose hands it's unsure. But her death is tied to this house, as was her manipulation.

In the show, they even murder one of their own children in their quest to get revenge on House Lannister.

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The theme of protecting children is so massive in Theon's arc, it pretty much entirely makes it up.

Early Life Trauma:

Theon's childhood trauma was being removed from his own family, and given to a new one. The new one protected him very well, and even gave him love, but he never felt like it was "his" He wanted love from his own family, which he believed would really belong to him.

We see in his early interactions with prostitutes that this theme of being given "real" love or affection manifests. He doesn't want to have to pay for it. But obviously, a girl's gotta eat. So he must pay.

When he meets his family and is introduced to the concept of the "iron price", it mimics this conundrum: Something isn't "really yours" if you have to pay for it. You must get it for free. And you must take it if it won't be given to you.


Lack of Healthy Survival Skills:

With Theon as with other Stark children, Ned's protection was actually so complete it had flaws: 

Theon believed all families would be like the Stark family. Of course his family would love him. That's what families did, wasn't it?


When he discovers his own family does not believe him worthy of their love, his childhood trauma of not having "earned" the love of the Stark family is freshly re-opened.

As a result, he strives to "earn" his family's love, committing more and more evil acts against the family that actually DID love him. 


Harm to Children:

At the crescendo of his trauma-induced spree of crimes, Theon murders two children.

From this instant, his entire arc is derailed onto a new track: Theon loses the family love he had been freely offered, attempting to gain love that would never actually, truly be extended to him.

He loses himself, he plunges himself into his most terrible nightmares of no-one loving or valuing him, no-one wanting or needing him.

Theon is mercilessly tormented for his crimes:

+ Rejecting true love and protection to gain false love

+ Committing terrible sins in this quest

+ Murdering other children to sustain the quest


Protection of Children:

His attempt to begin redeeming himself begin with the rescue of Jeyne/Sansa, another innocent child being tortured by Ramsay.

And his final end is giving his life in even a futile attempt to protect a child (Bran) and the family and home he belonged to, but failed to accept.


I get the impression Theon's arc is much richer in the theme than I've laid out, and I also can't really figure out the Ironborn's overall interaction outside of Theon. Because the Ironborn are boring and I never paid attention to them. :P

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Tywin Lannister


Arguably one of the most morally repugnant characters in all ASOIAF. I have always thought so, and under the lens of the theme I have outlined, this belief is upheld.

Harm to Children:

Tywin Lannister terribly, repeatedly and un-repentantly hurts and abuses his own children.

It's almost an aside that he also murdered an entire household for defying him, including many innocent children.

But the depth of his depravity, against his own offspring, I'll go in descending order of harm.

Cersei: Tywin sets Cersei up for expectations of grandeur. He never at any moment feels the need to address her bad traits or even bad behaviour. There's never any indication her murder of her friend was investigated. He possibly even knew of her and Jaime's relationship, or suspected it. Didn't care. Only when Cersei's acts interfered with the goals of House Lannister did Tywin censor her, and then when he did, it was only with insults and humiliation. He never gives gentle correction to his children. He never encourages a single virtue beyond his own extremely limited set.

His major protection of her that we see was giving her the Hound as guardian. Interestingly, this would have been while Sandor was still quite young, and had fled to House Lannister for protection himself. Cersei's external appearance of being a kind and beautiful lady may have fooled him at first, and been part of his descent into further cynicism. That, and the fact that Tywin did not protect him from Gregor beyond physically. He kept Gregor as a vassal, used him as a valued tool, and let him interact with his victim, which would have been continually re-traumatising.

Tywin was clearly instrumental in Sandor's damage as well as his own children and, well, tons of other people's too.

Jaime: As with Cersei, Tywin only cares to instil in Jaime the limited ideals of protecting their house, making it richer, more powerful. When we first meet him, he rebukes Jaime for behaving honourably in a fight with Ned. To him, honour is only useful when it helps your cause; worthless when it harms it. Unlike Cersei, as the eldest male, Tywin saw Jaime as very valuable. (Although I don't remember what we're told of his reaction to Jaime becoming a kingsguard. That seems relevant. Does anyone recall?)

So Jaime wasn't ignored or degraded as much as Cersei was, but the attention his father did give him was to enforce artificial pride in being a Lannister simply because being a Lannister was a big deal. Jaime's confidence, and even his narcissitic love for Cersei, and she for him, mirrors Tywin's narcissistic love for his own House.

This is probably why, if Tywin suspected what was happening, he didn't care. To him, there are no crimes except that which hurts house Lannister. And those of house Lannister are superior to all others. Doesn't it make sense you'd prefer them?

He himself chose one of "his own blood" for a wife.

Who he was and what he did were instrumental in creating who his children were.

Tyrion: Does this even need to be explained? Here's the core part anyway:

Tywin's incredible crime against his own son was the cause of Tyrion's immense trauma. Usually, fans render this as Tyrion not believing he was worthy of love, or any woman would ever truly love him.

But here's how to view it where it makes all of his choices as a character make more sense:

Tyrion was made to believe his family possessed the only love for him that would ever exist. No matter how humiliating, hurtful, stingy, selfish or difficult that love was, that was all he could ever have. He needed to keep it.

Although a genuinely good person at heart, Tyrion, as I mentioned briefly in Sandor's outline, enabled his family's evil on a colossal scale. He not only protected them from harm, he protected them from losing power. He protected House Lannister, just as his father wanted him to. 

Despite being a good person, he perpetuated his father's evil onto the world. Tyrion protects children and the innocent many, many, many times throughout the series. It's very prominent right from the start.

With one hand he protects people. With the other he keeps the danger in existence.

Once he learned the truth, that his father and family had hurt him more than anyone else in the world, he turned on him with immense fury, which is understandable. Unfortunately, rather than also rejecting everything evil his father had taught him - of the Lannister family's inherent greatness, of the important of respect and power, of how to gain that respect and power with whatever means - Tyrion could not rid himself of the poison he had been spoon-fed his entire life.

Essentially, Tyrion went through childhood traumatisation twice.

The first time, when his wife was mass raped, and he "learned" no woman would love him in a humiliating fashion in front of all his father's people.

The second time, when he learned that entire first trauma had been a lie, contrived solely by his father's design, to keep House Lannister "pure". His whole life had been spent suffering under this terrible, painful LIE.

Early Life "Trauma":

So why did Tywin have this immense obsession with the prestige and power of House Lannister, enough to set in motion much of the evil of the series?

His own childhood trauma.

Except, it wasn't really that traumatic.

His mother died. A trauma, but one nearly everyone must go through.

His father took a new wife. This can be difficult for a child to accept. The new woman seems to be "replacing" the mother he loved. His father's choice was a commoner. Tywin took this immensely personally. His mother's position was being soiled. Sullied. This other woman wore her jewels and spent her money and slept in her bed. She made their entire household filthy.

So, sure, that's a trauma. But in comparison to all the damage Tywin did in response? 

This is why Tywin ranks in at least the top three most evil characters in the series. He took a minor trauma and turned it into the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.


There’s been lots of speculation about Tywin’s children possibly being secret Targs. The show's direction seems to indicate that even if true, this does not become a major plot point. However, even if not confirmed explicitly as true, that doesn’t mean it’s false. (Since many things are hinted in the books and independently confirmed later)

Tyrion being a Targ sounds cool for his story, but Jaime/Cersei being Targ actually makes a ton more sense in the context of their and Tywin’s story.

If Tywin’s first offspring had been Targ, he would have hated this. He loved his wife and couldn’t have forgiven having her abused. But because he loved her, he also wouldn’t have revealed he wasn’t the father.

(It may also help explain the whole incest thing.)

But then he finally does have his own child with his wife. And not only does this child kill his beloved wife, but it’s a slap in the face to his ideals of Lannister superiority; it’s deformed, in a way that could never be hidden.

Tyrion being deformed while the children who weren’t his being whole and Lannister-beautiful, would have been a terrible wound in Tywin’s weakest spot. This could give even more explanation both for how callously he treated Tyrion, and how it made nothing Jaime or Cersei did ever good enough for him.

But as unproven, it remains only a theory. And frankly, I don't think Tywin deserves any excusing for his actions.

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The Unsullied


Not even drawing this out in individuals, the Unsullied are essentially a group of men who all underwent immense trauma as children.

On purpose. 

To make them capable of inflicting that same level of trauma on the rest of the world.


I would like to see how this plays out in Grey Worm's storyline, but I'm not familiar enough with it to do it any justice.

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Another character I'm probably not going to do justice to.

Rhaegar abandoned his own children, leaving them vulnerable, in order to protect his new child with his beloved. Although he loved his wife (respectfully) and his first children, he put them in danger rather than give up his desire; Lyanna.

This lead to the deaths of his children, his wife, his beloved, and himself.

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How sinister is this character, or how good?

It's clear that his early (not quite childhood?) trauma of being castrated is the motivating push for many of his actions, but I can't see with enough detail to understand it properly.

Another key point is his child spies, many of whom were deaf or mute or otherwise disabled.

Did he pick up and save disabled children? This would be an extremely noble act in ASOIAF's theme.

Or did he purposely disable the children to make them into better - less likely to reveal things - spies? This would be extremely evil.

Either way, the children he uses as spies are a vital clue to who his character is and what his place was in the story.


One can't help but note that while Varys speaks of protecting children many times, and even makes some efforts in that direction now and then, there is a massive amount of harm to children that he knows will happen and does nothing to prevent.

Again and again we see Varys with the info and in a position to see danger to children approaching, and he only tries to nudge others into action to protect them.

Is his physical castration symbolic of this similarly impotent behaviour, where he sees what should happen, but lets it fall to others to do it?

In the books, the one example we have of him rescuing a child himself is Young Griff. But was he a rescued child? Or a stand-in for one that Varys let die?

Only time will tell.

My initial impression is that like so many other characters, Varys has motivations that began in good intent, but he has lost sight of the individual crimes in sight of his broader goals.

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Lysa Tully


Lysa is an interesting example of the theme of childhood protection that shows the problems of going too far in the other direction. The fact she is related to the Stark family, which has similar problems on a minor scale, is certainly purposeful. 

Early Life Trauma:

So, Lysa's trauma was obviously the abortion of her lover's child her father forced her to do. In this act, both her father and herself were culpable for the death of her child, but how much choice did she truly have? We aren't given enough information to know what her father may have done to her if she refused, but his lack of deep regard for his daughter's autonomy is plain.

She suffered the loss of a child she must have been thrilled to be carrying, but a big question is flagged for me on this point:

Did she want this child because she relished having a child from the man she loved?

Or did she want this child because it gave her a binding connection to the man she loved, and knew did not fully return it?

In other words, how selfish was her desire for the baby? Did she suspect she would probably get no chance to replace with the same man? She had used Petyr's vulnerability while recovering to get into his bed. 

Alternatively, did she not forsee his continued disinterest in her, and then blame the abortion of the baby for this?

Or did she lie to herself with the second notion to convince herself it was more correct than the first?


Lysa's trauma was the connection of bearing a child to the quest for love, and the cold love she received from her own father. Her father makes her marry an old man, while she is only just a woman. She then suffers multiple miscarriages with him.

There's a hint in the air that the concoction she drank to abort the first baby caused damage that led to the miscarriages. Even if this was not true, she may have decided to believe it, as each loss of a child would have been a re-living of her initial trauma. And she did this all alone, with a man who didn't truly love her.


Lack of Healthy Survival Skills:

Her story is tragic enough already, but of course, the man she was foolishly in love with was Petyr. And he took her deep trauma, and it's link with him, and used it to manipulate her utterly and completely for his own ends.

An additional consideration is whether her husband had actually been infertile, and so Robyn is not his son, but Petyr's. Another possibility the story gives no solid info on either way. If it was true though, or Petyr even suspected it could be, it would be another crime added to his immense ledger.

In any case, the result of Lysa's trauma, re-traumatisation and then abuse of her trauma was that she was incapable of giving up her "baby" even when he stopped being a baby.

And she was willing to do whatever Petyr wanted her to, with absolutely no scrutiny, in a desperate attempt to keep the only romantic love she had ever know.


Harm to Children:

The loss of so many babies caused her to cling with terrifying desperation onto the one baby that had lived, but all she was truly doing, was causing harm to her boy, by not giving him any of the skills to navigate to adulthood.

When Sansa enters Robyn's story, she begins to give him these skills, and I believe even guide and protect him in subtle ways from Petyr. This is the beginning of Sansa's protection of other people as well as herself, but that's for her story.

Lysa also attempts to murder Sansa while she is still on the cusp of adulthood, blaming her for Petyr's behaviour.

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I'm gonna take a brief moment here to comment that GRRM is a boomer child. Raised under the shadow of nuclear weapons, which their parents generation had created to protect themselves, but which instead threatened to destroy everyone.

Then led into a pointless war in Vietnam, which seemed to simply be a meat grinder of young men for the benefit of old men.

To my mind, it is impossible to separate the era he grew up in from the theme of this story.


Additionally, Bran's ending status as essentially a magical NSA also fits in with the idealism in technology displayed by the boomers and their parents.


To we who are now young, close enough to this future to see it taking final form... I believe I am not alone in not seeing this with the same idealism GRRM may have expected.

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