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From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa X

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If GRRM has a personal grudge against singers, it would seem to be one specifically against charismatic *male* singers who are attractive to young ladies. The negative portrayals of singers seem limited to male characters in the series. Maybe back in the day a pretty-boy lead singer of a band stole the eye of a girl he liked...... :P

With all the talk about singers and Marillion, you ladies had me thinking last night. And I came up with this:

I drew a minor comparison (minor because not everything "fits" --like as far as we know he's not married ,etc) of Marillion to Orpheus of Greek mythology:

Orpheus is a legendary musician, poet, and prophet in ancient Greek religion and myth. The major stories about him are centered on his ability to charm all living things and even stones (Remember at the point when Sansa meets him she is Alayne Stone) with his music, his attempt to retrieve his wife, Eurydice, from the underworld, and his death at the hands of those who could not hear his divine music. ( I did find the part about his death at the hands of those who couldn't hear his music very interesting. Remember Sweet Robin stating Marillion's singing kept him up all night, and Sansa heard it too. I need to look back to see if LF mentioned hearing music.) As an archetype of the inspired singer, Orpheus is one of the most significant figures in the reception of classical mythology in Western culture, portrayed or alluded to in countless forms of art and popular culture including poetry, opera, and painting

Greeks of the Classical age venerated Orpheus as the greatest of all poets and musicians. Poets said that Orpheus' music and singing could charm the birds, fish and wild beasts, coax the trees and rocks into dance, and divert the course of rivers. He was one of the handful of Greek heroes to visit the Underworld and return; his music and song even had power over Hades (In past threads I've likened LF to Hades in mythology--I'm stretching it but , maybe Brash has something when she mentions he might not be dead. Perhaps, he's not and has something planned against LF).

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With all the talk about singers and Marillion, you ladies had me thinking last night. And I came up with this:

I drew a minor comparison (minor because not everything "fits" --like as far as we know he's not married ,etc) of Marillion to Orpheus of Greek mythology:

<<snip>>

Interesting comparison. I have always associated Orpheus (or Orfeo as he is called in medieval poetry), with the figure of Väinämöinen from Finnish folklore/mythology, known as the eternal bard, who can also charm all the creatures of the woods with his music. He too journeys beyond death to the 'underworld' across the 'dark stream' to the land of Tuonela. However, Väinämöinen is much more of an Odinic figure, often referred to as 'the Old Man', he is depicted with a flowing white beard and was a major inspiration for Tolkien's wizard characters. So, yes, a charmer, but hardly the pretty young singer type that Marillion appears to be.

That said, I nevertheless can see a connection there that I did not quite see before, now that you mention it. One I remembered is that Väinämöinen's magical voice and music is said to turn chaos into order. Well, Littlefinger is the ultimate Loki character for me in this series, creating and thriving on chaos. Interestingly, it is he who makes that famous statement that life is not a song. LF wouldn't like life to be as well-ordered as a song, because then he wouldn't be able to create so much chaos. Perhaps this is stretching it a bit, but maybe this is yet another sign that Sansa may learn to use songs to her advantage, against LF. I have no idea how exactly, but it seems to me there are two things about songs that cause characters to heap such scorn upon them -- first, that songs often contain lies (either intentionally as propaganda or romantically in terms of a 'happy ending' tale where there was none in reality), and conversely, that songs may sometimes contain uncomfortable or dangerous truths that one does not wish to be spread (see Joff torturing the singer). We have already seen Manderly request a number of songs to be played as sort of a soundtrack for the Pink Wedding (see: the Rat Cook, and Danny Flint). This is an excellent example of someone who was previously underestimated using songs to play the game of (Northern) thrones.

Perhaps songs are one way to create order out of chaos.....perhaps that is what the Song of Ice and Fire is.....bringing these currently chaotic natural forces back into some kind of balance? More like this is totally crackpot but there you go. :P

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Perhaps songs are one way to create order out of chaos.....perhaps that is what the Song of Ice and Fire is.....bringing these currently chaotic natural forces back into some kind of balance? More like this is totally crackpot but there you go. :P

No no, I do think it's credible :) Songs by their very nature are an attempt to make meaning of something, to give it an interpretation and thereby have some kind of power over those who hear, either to outright influence views, or simply as a means of entertainment. Perhaps the larger theme is that all the characters are searching for their songs, or living a song... as you noted, trying to bring order in the chaos.

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ETA: Lyanna being taken with Rhaegar's sad songs makes her seem a bit like the old naive Sansa - not grasping the hidden messages - although this could just be me being cynical :)

Both Lyanna and Rhaegar always struck me as being rather foolish. We don't know if they were in love or not although I'm inclined to think they were. If so, Lyanna's reaction is very similar to Sansa here. Her actions show a rather naive understanding of the world and ramifications of her actions - assuming she went willingly of course. If not, gives a whole different spin on her reaction.

My half baked theory on this: the title of this series is yet another subtle jab at typical fantasy. A few years after the events, songs made about them will feature The Prince in Disguise, the Exiled Princess, The Ugly Imp With A Heart of Gold, the Warrior Maiden and so on-leaving out the dark and dirty details and telling the story in broad clean strokes.

I think this is quite likely to be true. There is precedent. I'm thinking about the songs of Joffrey at the PW. He was such a brave boy...

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@ Winter and KittyKat

Well there was some fun had with that idea in the Future Songs of Westeros Thread

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I can totally see the title being ironic later on in the ASoIaF universe, even though I'd prefer if at least *something* in this series played it straight. Honestly, one of the things that attracted me to this book series in the first place was the title. I too love songs and singing. I hope in the end it is not meant in an entirely sarcastic manner. I realize I may be much more foolish than Lyanna or Sansa ever were by holding onto this notion. :P What can I say, I am a Romantic (with a capital "R") and I actually think GRRM is too, he's just a big ol' Troll as well. ;)

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Interesting comparison. I have always associated Orpheus (or Orfeo as he is called in medieval poetry), with the figure of Väinämöinen from Finnish folklore/mythology, known as the eternal bard, who can also charm all the creatures of the woods with his music. He too journeys beyond death to the 'underworld' across the 'dark stream' to the land of Tuonela. However, Väinämöinen is much more of an Odinic figure, often referred to as 'the Old Man', he is depicted with a flowing white beard and was a major inspiration for Tolkien's wizard characters. So, yes, a charmer, but hardly the pretty young singer type that Marillion appears to be.

Oh, I do like this! (I've never heard of Väinämöinen before). Thank you for providing that link, Valkyrja! :cheers:

ETA: A little OT but I like the part in your link where the creation of the world is mentioned. :

At first there were only primal waters and Sky. But Sky also had a daughter named Ilmatar. One day, seeking a resting place Ilmatar descended to the waters. There she swam and floated for 700 years until she noticed a beautiful bird also searching for a resting place. Ilmatar raised her knee towards the bird so it could land, which it did. The bird then laid six eggs made of gold and one made of iron. As the bird incubated her eggs Ilmatar's knee grew warmer and warmer until finally she was burned by the heat and reacted by jerking her leg. This motion dislodged the eggs, which then fell and shattered in the waters. Land was formed from the lower part of one of the eggshells while sky formed from the top. The egg whites turned into the moon and stars, and the yolk became the sun.

It reminds how Dany’s handmaids talked about how dragons were born. (I think they said the moon wandered too close to the sun, thus making it crack open and the dragons poured out of it). :)

That said, I nevertheless can see a connection there that I did not quite see before, now that you mention it. One I remembered is that Väinämöinen's magical voice and music is said to turn chaos into order. Well, Littlefinger is the ultimate Loki character for me in this series, creating and thriving on chaos. Interestingly, it is he who makes that famous statement that life is not a song. LF wouldn't like life to be as well-ordered as a song, because then he wouldn't be able to create so much chaos. Perhaps this is stretching it a bit, but maybe this is yet another sign that Sansa may learn to use songs to her advantage, against LF. I have no idea how exactly, but it seems to me there are two things about songs that cause characters to heap such scorn upon them -- first, that songs often contain lies (either intentionally as propaganda or romantically in terms of a 'happy ending' tale where there was none in reality), and secondly, that songs may sometimes contain uncomfortable or dangerous truths that one does not wish to be spread (see Joff torturing the singer). We have already seen Manderly request a number of songs to be played as sort of a soundtrack for the Pink Wedding (see: the Rat Cook, and Danny Flint). This is an excellent example of someone who was previously underestimated using songs to play the game of (Northern) thrones.

I do have some ideas about some of the things you talked about here, but I'll have to flesh them out/get them together (and hopefully post them later today!) :D

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Good point. It got me to thinking that Sandor more than anyone else has been closely aligned with nearly all the members of the Stark family, excluding Bran and Rickon who didn't come South, and Catelyn. Given Cat's involvement with Jaime and Brienne and proximity to the Quiet Isle, I'd say he could meet Sansa's mother after all. This is in contrast to LF's involvement with the Starks, which has consisted of lies and treachery, even going so far as to provide a fake Arya to be exploited for control of the North. I don't think Sandor will be the one to kill LF necessarily, but Martin does seem to want the men and their motives to be in "stark" opposition when it comes to Sansa.

Yes, I love this! I brought up a similar observation -- can't remember where, maybe earlier in this thread ---- about Sandor, of all people, unwittingly upholding Brienne's vows (short of returning the Stark girls to their mother). I'm toying with the idea of doing a Sandor/Brienne analysis. I think it would be fascinating to compare and contrast their journeys.

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Love this discussion on songs! This is a subject near and dear to my heart.

@ Lord Bronn, ok maybe Rhaegar is not the best example either, but he's a heck of a lot better than Marillion or Daeron. Really, the only one who speaks badly about him is Robert and Robert is hardly unbiased in this regard. Even Ned doesn't really say anything bad about him and even doubts whether Rhaegar visited brothels.

Also, I had forgotten about the songs Manderly requests at Winterfell. They give a hint to the true meaning of what is going on at that feast after the Pink wedding. So, the songs do have a greater role. There's also the story of Bael the Bard which has hidden meaning to Jon's story and that comes out of Wiinterfell too.

Yes, Brash Lyanna's running off with Rhaegar does seem to suggest a very romantic naive nature just like Sansa was in the beginning of the book. There are all these comparisons to how Arya is turning out to be like Lyanna. Who knew that Sansa has some of her qualities as well.

I love reading the posts on the mythology too. Welcome back Queen of Winter I really missed those. Also, I know absolutely nothing about Norse mythology sad to say. That's one of the things Iike about these threads, when people are not getting at each others' throats, you learn a lot from people with other backgrounds and experiences. And Valkyrja, I think your point about maybe the songs are all about bringing order out of chaos makes a lot of sense. It seems to me that he idea behind the Prince that was Promised have to do with defending the world against the darkness to come, the War for the Dawn that Maester Aemon mentioned. Then of course there's the religious song of the Mother which comes to gentle Sandor's rage, another form of making order out of chaos.

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Perhaps songs are one way to create order out of chaos.....perhaps that is what the Song of Ice and Fire is.....bringing these currently chaotic natural forces back into some kind of balance? More like this is totally crackpot but there you go. :P

I like this observation, because it ties in with my own theory based on the smattering of threes throughout the books, three symbolizing order and balance. Body, mind, and spirit; mineral, animal, vegetable; the trinity, etc....

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I love reading the posts on the mythology too. Welcome back Queen of Winter I really missed those.Also, I know absolutely nothing about Norse mythology sad to say

Thank you Elba! :grouphug: It's good to be back, though the threads have been moving awfully fast recently. Not to fear, I do have a lot of thoughts about some recent posts that were made, as well as mythological stuff simmering in my brain (if you can stand more of it! You might be sorry! ;) )

. That's one of the things Iike about these threads, when people are not getting at each others' throats, you learn a lot from people with other backgrounds and experiences. And Valkyrja, I think your point about maybe the songs are all about bringing order out of chaos makes a lot of sense. It seems to me that he idea behind the Prince that was Promised have to do with defending the world against the darkness to come, the War for the Dawn that Maester Aemon mentioned. Then of course there's the religious song of the Mother which comes to gentle Sandor's rage, another form of making order out of chaos.

I've definitely learned a lot from our Sansa thread discussions. Some members have given me food for thought and have made me look at things from a different prespective, which is always a good thing! :thumbsup:

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If GRRM has a personal grudge against singers, it would seem to be one specifically against charismatic *male* singers who are attractive to young ladies. The negative portrayals of singers seem limited to male characters in the series. Maybe back in the day a pretty-boy lead singer of a band stole the eye of a girl he liked...... :P

Now that you mention it, are there any female singers in the series? We have female characters that sing, Sansa mainly. But, those that actually practice it as something approaching a profession? Am I just not thinking of them?

Yes, I love this! I brought up a similar observation -- can't remember where, maybe earlier in this thread ---- about Sandor, of all people, unwittingly upholding Brienne's vows (short of returning the Stark girls to their mother). I'm toying with the idea of doing a Sandor/Brienne analysis. I think it would be fascinating to compare and contrast their journeys.

Have you seen the posts that Lyanna Stark put together comparing the relationships between Sandor/Sansa and Jaime/Brienne? I'll see if I can dig those up and post a link for you. They were a great read.

There may also be a bit of foreshadowing regarding Sandor upholding some of Brienne's vows too. In Clash, Sansa is running on the Serpentine steps and thinking to herself that her Florian would take her home to WF. The very next line has Sandor coming out of the shadows to catch her. It's a pretty deliberate placement of lines and has always made me wonder.

I love reading the posts on the mythology too. Welcome back Queen of Winter I really missed those. Also, I know absolutely nothing about Norse mythology sad to say. That's one of the things Iike about these threads, when people are not getting at each others' throats, you learn a lot from people with other backgrounds and experiences. And Valkyrja, I think your point about maybe the songs are all about bringing order out of chaos makes a lot of sense. It seems to me that he idea behind the Prince that was Promised have to do with defending the world against the darkness to come, the War for the Dawn that Maester Aemon mentioned. Then of course there's the religious song of the Mother which comes to gentle Sandor's rage, another form of making order out of chaos.

I don't know much about mythology either, just the bit I picked up on Roman and Greek gods in school. This is a very educational thread indeed. It's also a refuge at times, especially considering a couple of active thread topics right now.

Edit: The two comparison link

http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/69551-from-pawn-to-player-rethinking-sansa-vi/#entry3345875

http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/69551-from-pawn-to-player-rethinking-sansa-vi/page__st__20#entry3349024

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Now that you mention it, are there any female singers in the series? We have female characters that sing, Sansa mainly. But, those that actually practice it as something approaching a profession? Am I just not thinking of them?

I really can't think of any either. Maybe there was one at the Purple wedding? I have to go back and look but I think one of the singers that was supposed to perform at the purple wedding might have been a woman. Other than that, I got nothing.

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Dontos Hollard

So, I originally thought that the first time we see Dontos is the chapter at Joff's name day tourney when he shows up drunk to the joust and Sansa saves him, but then I realized that's not right. The first time we actually see Dontos is in AGOT, Sansa V. It's only a sentence in Sansa's chapter when she goes to see Joffrey holding court for the first time and to plead for her father's life after Ned has been imprisoned, but it is very telling. As she slips her way in among the lords who are there she notices that none of them want to have anything to do with her and shy away from her “as if she had the grey plague.”

Here's what we see specifically from Dontos:

“when funny drunken Ser Dontos started to hail her, Ser Balon Swann whispered in his ear and he turned away.”

So, Sansa has become a pariah and all the people there watching court ignore her, but interestingly, Ser Dontos is the only one who does not do so right away. He's the only one to make a motion to greet her, and only after Balon Swann whispers something to him does he turn away. The way this looks to me is that Dontos had no problem showing some courtesy to Sansa until Swann probably told him that it would not look good to the Lannisters if he appeared too friendly to her.

However, after researching a bit about how Dontos came to be at court in King's Landing, it's pretty evident that he has been an outcast there too from the time he arrived as a boy. In a Brienne chapter in Feast we learn about his family history. Dontos is the only surviving member of House Hollard. House Hollard was a close ally and vassal of House Darklyn of Duskendale. They were involved in the kidnapping of King Aerys in what became known as the Defiance of Duskendale. After being held for six months, Barristan Selmy rescued the King and then Aerys had all the members of those two houses destroyed . Barristan asked that Dontos be spared as he had no part in the defiance so he was taken to King's Landing as a squire and never returned to Duskendale.

From what we learn about his family history, we see that Dontos has one major thing in common with Sansa. He is also from a family that came to be known as traitors to a king and he saw his whole family destroyed at a young age. Therefore, it's easy to see why Dontos would sympathize with Sansa here as she is going through something very similar to what happened to him. It also makes the fact that he is often so drunk a lot more understandable to me.

Also, we know that Sansa is very good at learning about other houses and history as part of her proper training as a lady. I have to think that Sansa would have heard about the Hollard family history and it's destruction. I think this could have played a part in why she felt the need to save Dontos in her first chapter in Clash, after he shows up drunk and Joff wants him killed. Sansa is really in a similar position to Dontos at that point.

When we get to Joff's name day tourney in Sansa's first chapter in Clash, I just noted on this reread that just before Dontos is called to joust, Sansa realizes the Joff is getting bored which makes her anxious so she resovlves “to keep quiet, no matter what.” So, it is interesting then that after Dontos turns up naked and thouroughly drunk and Joff resolves to drown him that Sansa gasps and protests out loud despite herself. We know from the reread that Sansa is a compassionate person, but given that she knows how speaking up against Joff when he's in a bad mood is only going to get her beaten, I wonder if there's more going on than just her natural compassion here. Given their similar situations as outsiders in KL from families that were deemed traitors to their Kings, I wonder if Sansa's natural empathic ability has kicked in. She admits that she hadn't meant to speak out and she must be mad to have done so, but she can't help it because she knows Ser Dontos meant no harm.

In Clash, Sansa II, Sansa gets the note about going to the godswood if she wants to go home. Sansa wonders if this is the answer to her prayers for a true knight to be sent to save her. Though terrified that it is a trap, she summons her courage and steals away to the godswood that night. When she gets there she notes that the godswood has a certain power, especially at night. Again she prays for a friend or a true knight. When she finally sees that it is Dontos who has come to meet her she is “heartbroken.” He's drunk again but says he wants to help her as she helped him, and Sansa does not know what to think. Sansa says how she prayed for a knight to come save her not a drunken old fool. Here's Dontos's reply:

“'I deserved that, though . . . I know it's queer, but . . . all those years I was a knight, I was truly a fool, and now that I am a fool I think . . . I think I may find it in me to be a knight again, sweet lady. And all because of you . . . your grace, your courage. You saved me, not only from Joffrey, but from myself.'”

Then he mentions how the singers tell of another fool that was the greatest knight of all and Sansa thinks of Florian. Dontos says he will be her Florian. This seems to turn the tide for Sansa as she feels lightheaded and thinks it would be mad to trust him but she seems to be willing to consider it. Later he swears to the old gods that he will send her home and that really convinces her. They make their plans to continue meeting only in the godswood and to pretend that they don't know each other when they are in public. By the time Sansa leaves the meeting, she seems almost giddy thinking that he is her Florian and is going to take her home. She even turns around before she leaves and gives him a kiss on the cheek.

This scenario represents another deconstruction of Sansa's ideal of a true knight. The three men that protect her in Kings Landing, the Hound, Dontos and Tyrion, are about as opposite of a knight as you can get. In Dontos's case, he's a drunken fool but he is her Florian, from one of her favorite songs about a fool who was a gallant knight and saved his love Jonquil. She even notes that Florian was homely too, so she's recognizing another example of knighthood and gallantry not necessarily being equal to handsome looking.

This quote from ACOK, Sansa III, just after Joffrey has Sansa beaten and Tyrion has her taken to his quarters states it the most clearly:

“Knights are sworn to defend the weak, protect women, and fight for the right, but none of them did a thing. Only Ser Dontos had tried to help, and he was no longer a knight, no more than the Imp was, nor the Hound . . . .”

Another thing I noticed is that Dontos gives Sansa some good advice during their meetings. In their first meeting in the godswood he says to her that if he seems to be mocking her or indifferent, he doesn't mean it. He has a role to play here and so does she and they must be careful not to make any mistakes or it will mean their heads. This is good advice for surviving in King's Landing. Sansa does seem to do her part by playing “dumb” and tractable but in her thoughts and less guarded moments we see that she is neither of those things.

Some other advice Dontos gives Sansa include telling her to be brave (Clash, Sansa III) just before Joffrey has her beaten; and that he hears all sorts of things as a fool that he never heard as a knight because people talk around hiim as if he's not there (ACOK, Sansa IV). In this same chapter when Sansa says how Cersei and Joff think she's stupid, Dontos tells her to let them think that as she is safer that way. They all watch each other and spy on each other constantly but no one spares a thought on someonoe like Lollys Stokeworth. Again, this is great survival advice as at the very least it allows Sansa some breathing space to be able to meet Dontos to plan her escape. Also playing dumb and having people underestimate you can turn out to be a real benefit in the long run.

Some more advice and warnings come in Sansa's last chapter in Clash, after Joffrey publicly sets her aside to wed Margaery. Sansa is so happy to be released from having to wed Joff and thinks she's finally free and will never have to kiss him or bear him any children. Dontos has to give her the truth that the Lannisters will never be done with her because she's too valuable as a hostage. Joff is still the king which means that he can do whatever he wants with Sansa and no one will say anything about it. Though Sansa's idealism in thinking that she would be free of Joff are sadly crushed once again, Dontos knows the reality of the situation and is giving her the truth that she needs to be aware of, and once again he tells her to be brave.

But perhaps the most important harsh piece of advice he gives Sansa comes later on in Storm after Sansa tells Dontos that she is going to Highgarden to marry Willas (ASOS, Sansa II). She expects him to be happy for her but instead he is upset and tells her that the Tyrell's are like the Lannisters only with flowers. When she insists that she will be safe in Highgarden with Willas he tells her “these Tyrells care nothing for you. It's your claim they mean to wed.” Sansa is shocked by this information. This is the first time she has ever thought about her claim to Winterfell as she had always assumed one of her brothers would have it. She doesn't believe it at first and convinces herself that Willas has Highgarden so wouldn't want Winterfell. As we all know, Dontos was absolutely right and it becomes a big issue for Sansa as we see later how she laments over no one ever loving her for herself only her claim.

In fact, in ASOS, Sansa III, the chapter when she is forced to wed Tyrion, these are her thoughts just as as Cersei tells her she will be marrying Tyrion:

My claim, she thought, sickened. Dontos the Fool was not so foolish after all; he had seen the truth of it. Sansa backed away from the queen. “I won't.”

Sansa has a physical reaction to this realization. We know that the time period when Sansa is married to Tyrion is a real low point for her. She has no voice and seems depressed to the point of being borderline suicidal. As I read this scene again where she realizes Dontos was right about people only wanting her for her claim, I got the sense that this is the beginning of her downward spiral.

Also, I was trying to think of what it symbolically meant for Tyrion to have to climb on Dontos's back at his wedding to Sansa so he could place the cloak on her. I mean, we know that it emphasizes what a farce of a marriage it is when at the cloak exhange, which is the most important part of the ceremony for representing that the husband will protect his new wife and accept her into his house, Tyrion has to stand on the back of a fool to do it. But I kept wondering if it was meaningful that Dontos in particular is the fool that is used since Moonboy is the Lannister fool. Now I think I know the reason. Dontos is the one to tell Sansa that people will only want her for her claim and since the forced marriage to Tyrion is all about the Lannisters taking the claim to Winterfell, it makes sense that Dontos is the fool that Tyrion uses to stand on his back so he can exchange the cloak. Or, I could just be reading way too much into all of this. ;-)

Another thing is that before rereading these chapters I had thought that the Hound was the only person to speak the harsh truth to Sansa, but after studying these chapters I realize that Dontos does this too. He's also having an influence on changing Sansa's idealistic world view and getting her to recognize the reality of her situation which, though brutal, can only help her later on as she learns how to deal with the realities of her life.

This brings me to my last big point about Dontos, which is that I believe he is Sansa's only real friend in King's Landing. I thought she had absolutely none, as the Tyrell friendships all proved false and I wouldn't count what she had with the Hound as a friendship, but after reading through all her interactions with Dontos, he does appear to be a true friend to Sansa. In the chapter where she first meets him in the godswood I noted how she prays for “a friend or a true knight”. Sansa's prayers seem to be coming true in unexpected ways, and I think Dontos showing up just after this is one of those ways. He does help her get out of King's Landing in the end.

So, then what do we make of LF's comment after he has poor Dontos killed that he sold her out for a promise of ten thousand dragons? (ASOS, Sansa V) When I first read this I was sickened at the thought that once again Sansa was just being used and that Dontos didn't care about her at all. But now, after a couple of rereads, and knowing what I know about LF's habit of denigrating any man to whom Sansa showed any kind of friendship or positive feelings other than himself, I really don't believe it at all. Sure, Dontos was taking money for his help but that in and of itself is not such a big deal. He was risking his life after all in helping Sansa escape. Why shouldn't he get some other compensation for putting his life on the line? I also get the feeling that Petyr likely suggested the payment himself as a way to get Dontos to do what he needed him to do. A close reading of the text also suggests that Dontos was sincere. Here are some quotes which suggest Dontos truly wanted to help Sansa out and also be like a true knight for once in his life:

In the chapter in which Sansa first meets Dontos in the godswood, he is shaking as he explains how she spoke up and saved him and that his life is hers. (ACOK, Sansa II)

In the chapter when Joff has Sansa beaten, Dontos tries to diffuse Joff's anger by hitting Sansa with the melon, but I noted that he actually speaks up for her too. After Lancel reads the list of Robb's treasons, Dontos says she is “shocked witless.” (ACOK, Sansa III) Dontos did not have to do anything here at all so the fact that he speaks up for her and then tries to diffuse Joff's anger is really telling.

In the chapter when Sansa marries Tyrion, Dontos looks at Sansa with “big round eyes”. He is the only one described this way whereas everyone else there is simply described as being present. Again, he seems to be the only one showing her pity here. (ASOS, Sansa III)

When Dontos takes Sansa out of the godswood the night of her escape, he is wearing his coat of arms and dresses that way to be a true knight that one time for her. Later, just before they climb down the cliff wall Sansa notices that he is crying. (ASOS, Sansa V)

What do you all think? Was Dontos sincere? Was he a true friend to Sansa? Do you sympathise with him? Or does the fact that he expected money for his help ruin any sense of genuine sincerity he might have had otherwise? I think overall he was a positive presence for Sansa as he gave her much needed advice, and except for not telling her about the money he was expecting, he was otherwise honest with her. He helped Sansa get through a really tough time in her life when she was very depressed and he did get her out of King's Landing. He did his “part”, played his role perfectly and did not deserve to die so cruelly like that at the end of Sansa's escape.

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Re: Tyrion standing on Dontos' back:

The wedding took place only because Dontos betrayed Sansa's plans to run away and marry Willas.

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Re: Tyrion standing on Dontos' back:

The wedding took place only because Dontos betrayed Sansa's plans to run away and marry Willas.

Whilst this is a possibility I'm not so sure we can discount the likelihood that LF knew all along the Tyrells would try something like this, or that he even "suggested" it himself.

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Re: Tyrion standing on Dontos' back:

The wedding took place only because Dontos betrayed Sansa's plans to run away and marry Willas.

I'm not sure he did, or if he did, it was not intentional.

There is a possibility that LF had suggested the Willas / Sansa marriage to the Tyrells ( afterall they know about the hairnet which was given to Sansa via Dontos by LF). Also LF was planning for Tyrion to be framed. It would have been almost impossible if Sansa and Tyrion hadn't been married as Sansa would have been the number 1 suspect. Also in all ickyness, I think LF was hoping to take a non-maiden, but newly widowed Sansa to the Eyrie.

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Great analysis is great, Elba! I really enjoyed reading this :) And the similarity you highlighted between their experiences in court, linked to familial treason, was really insightful.

Also, I was trying to think of what it symbolically meant for Tyrion to have to climb on Dontos's back at his wedding to Sansa so he could place the cloak on her. I mean, we know that it emphasizes what a farce of a marriage it is when at the cloak exhange, which is the most important part of the ceremony for representing that the husband will protect his new wife and accept her into his house, Tyrion has to stand on the back of a fool to do it. But I kept wondering if it was meaningful that Dontos in particular is the fool that is used since Moonboy is the Lannister fool. Now I think I know the reason. Dontos is the one to tell Sansa that people will only want her for her claim and since the forced marriage to Tyrion is all about the Lannisters taking the claim to Winterfell, it makes sense that Dontos is the fool that Tyrion uses to stand on his back so he can exchange the cloak. Or, I could just be reading way too much into all of this. ;-)

I think you could be right that this has symbolic significance. I think Dontos, no matter his involvement with LF, remained Sansa's fool knight throughout their time in KL. She's the one who saved his life afterall by turning him into a fool. Even though she feels completely dejected during the wedding ceremony, the fact that Tyrion has to stand on the back of her fool, symbolises perhaps that's the joke's on the Lannisters, not Sansa.

Another thing is that before rereading these chapters I had thought that the Hound was the only person to speak the harsh truth to Sansa, but after studying these chapters I realize that Dontos does this too. He's also having an influence on changing Sansa's idealistic world view and getting her to recognize the reality of her situation which, though brutal, can only help her later on as she learns how to deal with the realities of her life.

Good point. Both men deliver unpleasant truths, but in completely different styles. And interestingly enough, Sansa wishes Dontos had some of the Hound's ferocity. Dontos is also the one who advises her to return to her room on the night of the Blackwater, leading to that fateful encounter with Sandor.

This brings me to my last big point about Dontos, which is that I believe he is Sansa's only real friend in King's Landing. I thought she had absolutely none, as the Tyrell friendships all proved false and I wouldn't count what she had with the Hound as a friendship, but after reading through all her interactions with Dontos, he does appear to be a true friend to Sansa. In the chapter where she first meets him in the godswood I noted how she prays for “a friend or a true knight”. Sansa's prayers seem to be coming true in unexpected ways, and I think Dontos showing up just after this is one of those ways. He does help her get out of King's Landing in the end.

I agree with this. I think sometimes we imagine that friends have to be completely selfless and act a certain way to qualify as such, but I do think Sansa's relationship with Dontos proves otherwise. It's through this that we also see Sansa's power in effecting change within others; Dontos is inspired to be a knight or at least act like a knight once again when he's helping her escape. Her interaction with Dontos also helps to heighten the contrast of what she shares with the Hound. Many readers still assert that her relationship with Sandor has no romantic elements and that he was only helping her out because she reminded him of the sister he'd lost. I think when you compare Sansa's experiences with both men in KL, you can see clear differences, both in tone and mood (see for example when Dontos comes to her in the morning after the Blackwater to announce that they've been saved). Finally, Dontos acting as Sansa's Florian contributes to another worthy lesson in Sansa's maturity. The beautiful maiden/damsel in distress does not have to fall in love with the homely knight; some stories can be meaningful without the traditional ending.

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What do you all think? Was Dontos sincere? Was he a true friend to Sansa? Do you sympathise with him? Or does the fact that he expected money for his help ruin any sense of genuine sincerity he might have had otherwise? I think overall he was a positive presence for Sansa as he gave her much needed advice, and except for not telling her about the money he was expecting, he was otherwise honest with her. He helped Sansa get through a really tough time in her life when she was very depressed and he did get her out of King's Landing. He did his “part”, played his role perfectly and did not deserve to die so cruelly like that at the end of Sansa's escape.

I think he was half-sincere.

Much of what he said could have been Littlefinger's doing, calculated to save Sansa for LF alone. What Dontos says about her claim ? That sounds like Littlefinger talking. (And if not for Dontos, Sansa might have escaped with the Hound, so it's possible LF noticed something was going on there and interceded using Dontos.)

I don't know that Dontos would have been selling her out for booze money, but perhaps promises of safety elsewhere, and being restored to knighthood, something which Littlefinger could have convinced him he could do.

Dontos was a kind fellow, I thought, and when he was killed it was kind of sad. But I cannot say how much of that was genuine heroism and gratitude how much was Littlefinger's calculated manipulation.

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There is a possibility that LF had suggested the Willas / Sansa marriage to the Tyrells ( afterall they know about the hairnet which was given to Sansa via Dontos by LF). Also LF was planning for Tyrion to be framed. It would have been almost impossible if Sansa and Tyrion hadn't been married as Sansa would have been the number 1 suspect. Also in all ickyness, I think LF was hoping to take a non-maiden, but newly widowed Sansa to the Eyrie.

Aye, it sounds like something LF would do. Suggest it, to get close to the Tyrells, but then also be the one to tip the Lannisters off about it, so Sansa would never actually marry someone more suitable.

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