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From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XIII


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From Greek Egg to Roman Chicken and Beyond: Evolution of the Myth

And what inspired this legend? There is no doubt about Apuleius’ authorship of The Golden Ass, but the storyline might not be his own. There are various hypotheses about his sources of inspiration:

It was taken from a still extant Greek novel
The Ass
, ascribed to satirist Lucian of Samosata (Maria Tatar’s theory), but probably the work of an anonymous writer scholars refer to as Pseudo-Lucian, and this is based upon
The Metamorphoses
by Lucius of Patrae. Apuleius greatly improved it, cutting down one or two of the scenes of the original and then enlarged it with an abundance of enjoyable stories of love, sorcery, jests, and outlaws, that probably belonged to earlier works from Greek and Roman literature now sadly lost. (Graham Anderson’s theory).

It was a very ancient folktale Apuleius heard or read and elaborated on his own. (Louis Purser’s theory).

Apuleius may have introduced Eros and Psyche in a contemporary folktale because there’s no proof of earlier versions of this specific myth before him (Michael Grant’s theory).

It was a popular current folktale already furnished with mythological elements that Apuleius related, and no earlier renditions of this myth have anything in common with his writings (Jan-Öjvind Swahn’s theory).

It was derived from an oral story Apuleius was familiar with (Alex Scobie’s theory)

It was an adaptation by Apuleius of an old Oriental tale, most probably Egyptian (Richard Reitzenstein’s theory), or a Greek story derived from Indian sources (Jerry Griswold’s theory).

It was the result of a dream experience in which a woman dreamt she’d been married to a supernatural male until her happiness is shattered when she breaks a promise or a taboo. It might have been the core storyline in the original that inspired all later renditions (Ernest Tegethoff’s theory).

It has religious origins, either Psyche alone was a goddess or both she and Cupid were gods from the ancient Persian religion (Karl Kerenyi’s theory), or she’s a version of the myth of goddess Isis (Reinhold Merkelbach’s theory).

Artistic representations from as far back as the 4
century B.C. prove that Eros and Psyche were popular mythical figures, but they don’t show any narrative similar to Apuleius’ version, which is quite different (Carl Schlam’s theory).

There’s no way of knowing where and when this tale originated, and neither if it appeared first in oral or written form, so it’s up for debate (Stith Thompson’s theory).

Whichever the inspiration for his plot was, we can assert that Apuleius’
Cupid and Psyche
has endured the test of time better than many other myths from Classical Antiquity, which attests to its importance as a philosophical allegory of the progress of the rational soul towards intellectual love, in the words of Robert Graves. Unlike many Greco-Roman tales that have unfortunately disappeared or have changed too greatly over the ages, this was preserved in its original version to this day, and the first attempt at interpreting it, made by Fulgentius circa the 5
century B.C., has been preserved as well
. Translations from the extinct Latin tongue into the language of the common folk appeared in the Renaissance: the Spanish translation by Diego López de Cortegana in 1513, and the English translation by William Adlington in 1566 were the first, and both played a double role: firstly, these translations served as a stimulus for writers to compose their own versions, and soon poetical and theatrical renditions of
Eros and Psyche
were published across Europe, and the fashion went on thanks to later English writers who turned to classical sources for inspiration. According to Stith Thompson, one of the scholars who developed the
Aarne-Thompson Tale Type Index
, there are fifteen variants of Eros and Psyche’s story in existence; and most retellings follow the Roman plotline closely. They can be divided in four groups to see how much they’ve deviated from Apuleius’ text:

century retellings (Milton, Harvey, etc.):

Cupid and Psyche have twin sons instead of a daughter.

Tragic ending: Psyche does not find Cupid again, at least not here on Earth.

2. 17th and 18th century retellings (Corneille, Molière, Racine, La Fontaine, etc.):

Psyche has two suitors who are killed by Cupid.

Her sister’s names are Aglaura and Cidippe, a thing Apuleius doesn’t mention.

Cupid fell in love when he shot himself willingly. Apuleius doesn’t tell how it happened.

The oil from the lamp fell not on Cupid’s shoulder but his cheek, thus burning one side of his face.

Psyche’s pregnancy and quest for her husband are omitted.

They omit all Psyche’s tasks but the fourth.

3. 19th century retellings (Tighe, Bridges, Keats):

Psyche is from Crete; the Roman tale says nothing about her city of birth.

One version omits that Psyche is worshipped for her beauty.

The beast the oracle prophesied would be Psyche’s husband is a dragon.

Cupid had to poison her, but fails and falls in love with her.

Another version says that the reason Cupid loved her was because the Fates sentenced him to fall in love with a mortal as punishment for his misbehaviour.

It’s not stated that Psyche is pregnant with Cupid's child throughout her search for him.

Venus doesn’t treat Psyche so cruelly.

A knight and his squire help her with the only task Venus imposed on her, which in the Apuleius’ version was the last.

century retellings (Bulfinch, Hodges, Peabody, etc.):

The role of the envious sisters is minimal, they’re not destroyed.

Psyche’s attempts at suicide aren’t included.

There’s no appeal for help to Ceres and Juno.

Venus’ harsh punishment of Psyche is understated, she just asks for her to bring her the waters from the Styx.

Jupiter doesn’t play so big a role; Venus relents after all tasks are completed.

Moreover, these translations inspired men and women from all other creative trades of life: painters, sculptors, songwriters, opera composers, filmmakers, etc.; therefore this tale’s role in the cultural and artistic revival from the Renaissance onwards was significant, and from the epoch of the Enlightenment to this day it has been the subject of numerous analyses by philosophers, psychologists, social scientists, historians, folklorists and mythographers. And secondly, the most important for the project at hand, is that this translated legend influenced some writers to create new plots with elements taken from it, from Parmetella by Italian poet Giambattista Basile in 1646 to the most recent Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis. Amongst those countless writings shaped by this myth, one outshines the others: a tale published in 1740 with the title Beauty and the Beast by French author Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Gallon de Villeneuve, that in turn inspired Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont to write another variant published five years after the former, and hers is the version so many know –and cherish– in our time, the most popular folktale of all times, the one that inspired a then relatively unknown scriptwriter named Martin for both a TV serial and the books we love.


[1] It’s commonly believed this means “soul,” but in the extinct classical Greek language it was associated with “butterfly.”

[2] All quotes are from Apuleius’ The Golden Ass, UK reprint of the translation by W. Adlington, Woods & Sons Ltd, 1921.

[3] Adepts of bird symbology should note that Venus is constantly surrounded and attended to by birds of all kinds: seagulls, sparrows, doves, etc., but no birds of prey.

[4] Pleasure, delight.

[5] For interested readers: Fulgentius: Mythologies, translated by L. G. Whitbread,. Ohio State University Press, 1971. The relevant passage is in Book 3:6.

[6] Books VII-VIII of Nonnos: Dionysiaca, Volume I, Books 1-15; translated by H. J. Rose, Loeb Classical Library Collection, 1940.

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First: Thanks Milady I have enjoy greatly all!! (even when my mind is half funtioning).

Quickly before going to sleep and forgot this ideas:

The idea of breaking a promise also remains me to Eve (again). It is if women should learn to be quiet and doing what men told them.

Another idea is the search of the lover. Always it has to be a separation to proof how deep are the feelings.

And nothing more cause my mind has decided to go to sleep and dream at Cupid burned cheek.

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Coming out of bed just to add ideas and be able to sleep:

Sex (Cupid) + Thoughts (Psyque) = Enjoyment of marriage.

Also I have found things that brought to my mind Romeo and Juliet with the poison at the end.

Now back to my less than 5 hours of sleep.

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I am actually surprised that he said that he's attracted to her. I figured he'd miss that, too. (Not a big fan of season 2.)

yeah, here's the link to the interview were he said it:

wonder1859!! that's so cool :D
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The inclusion of a jealous Venus would point toward Cersei and her own prophesy. Maggy the Frog does have the look and attitude of one of the Greek fates and Cersei is certainly on the typical Greek self fulfilling prophesy through avoidance of same path. That would make Sansa the younger and more beautiful candidate to cast her down. The parallel of Sansa marrying the son of Venus is also there but not the love aspects.

There is one jealous sister in Arya (not two) and Joffrey has his hand bitten rather than his shoulder (or cheek) burned. This also happens in the scene where Sansa "sees" Joffrey's true form. Sansa contemplates suicide, specifically throwing herself off a tower, though that's to kill Joffrey rather than because she is denied him.

Sansa's father sacrifices himself instead of making offers to the Oracle.

Those are the parallel elements I see so far.


Truly wonderful job. Properly formatted and with footnotes too. I feel so inadequate :crying:

(ps: don't stop footnoting, a very hard habit to get back into once broken)

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Milady, that was just Mind-Blowing!! beautiful and i just feel so much wiser- i learned so many things and i loved them too! you pointed out many things, so i'll come back with my thoughts later, but i just had to tell you what a wonderful job you did with this intro to the B&B analysis!

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Milady, that was a wonderful set of posts, thank you. So much to consider! Like Ragnorak, I saw the parallels between Venus and Cersei who are jealous and paranoid about being replaced by the younger, beautiful girl. Cersei doesn't seem to credit Sansa as much of a threat during her time in KL, but we know she's growing more beautiful everyday, and has already shown that she would be a more compassionate and competent ruler than Cersei. I'll add my thoughts later on the relationship between Cupid and Psyche.

ETA: It's also interesting that Psyche completes her tasks whilst pregnant. Sansa isn't pregnant, but she is acting as a mother figure to SR.

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First off, Milady that. was. AMAZING!! I always loved the Cupid and Psyche story though it's been a long time since I read it. Okay so, I can't comment too much right now but did want to say that it's interesting that you mentioned Snow White too because especially after seeing the movie "Mirror Mirror" it's so obvious that Snow White influences a lot of Sansa's story. And Ragnorak comments ont his as well with Cersei as the jealous step mother afraid of another younger and more beautiful woman coming along to take it all away. Also, Joff may not have had a burned cheek, but we all know of another man in Sansa's life who does ;-).

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I found some more parallels. Pysche is left on a mountain, and taken to a fair vale just as Sansa is taken to the Vale, and is left at the Eyrie which rests on the mountain of the Giant's Lance.

A knight and a squire help Psyche with the only task Venus imposed on Psyche. Brienne and Pod are on their way to help Sansa by protecting her from Cersei.

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Could Myranda and Mya play the role of the jealous sisters? Also, it seems like in all the retellings outside of the classical period, only the fourth quest is highlighted. Given our observations about Sansa as Persephone and the underworld, this seems important.

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Personally, I found Catelyn FAR more annoying than either of her daughters, and I really don't get what LF sees in her.

A gorgeous, unattainable prize, who, in being "won" by him, will improve his status and ego. Much as Tyrion, similar to LF's character in many ways (at times, LF's struck me as Tyrion taken to his most immoral, logical extreme), saw Catelyn's daughter, Sansa. Tyrion "loved" Sansa without ever putting her needs above his own selfish desires-- and worse, without even ever fully seeing Sansa as a human being. Tyrion continues to be unable to see women as human beings when they are attractive, young, and unwanting of his advances-- as we see with Illario's utterly helpless sex slave whom he despises for showing distaste for him, decides to force to sleep with him (he knows she can't say no), and then threatens to murder to get "the fear he needed."

Honestly, when Sansa does not desire Tyrion, she speaks of the "anger" in his eyes-- shocked, apparently, that the 12 year old girl whom he forced into marriage is unwilling to have sex with him. Sansa's extreme youth and virginity are what protected her from getting the same treatment Ilario's slave did (whose fate-- and whether or not Tyrion returned to rape her-- GRRM never bothers to include. It seems she matters as little to him as she did to Tyrion, and GRRM's extensive empathy with Tyrion as the latter abuses sex slaves is (and subtle dehumanization of said sex slaves) remains one of the most troubling aspects of these books. (Especially since he spends pages of time demonizing Cersei for having utterly consensual sex in AFFC-- which he presents as revolting and evil, rather than presinting it as sad and forgivable, as he does Tyrion's abuse of helpless sex slaves.) As does his portrayal of Tyrion as decent/ noble for not raping Sansa.

But back to LF-- I think he essentially saw Cat as a prize-- as a beautiful, high born, unattainable daughter of Hoster Tully. He may have admired her other qualities-- which personal I believe she has, but clearly not all agree-- but it seems as though the fantasy component here was very high. Like Tyrion in nearly all of his relationships, it seems as though LF did not see Cat herself-- after all, if he did, he'd have to face the painful prospect that she didn't truly love him, a major wound to his ego-but merely the unattainable fantasy girl he chose to project upon her.

LF's relationship with Sansa is essentially the same, in many ways. He never fully sees her, he sees what he wants to see. He sees both the daughter he "should" have had with his "true love", Catelyn Tully; he sees his chance to get an unattainable, extremely high born, gorgeous girll-- and in doing so, to say "up yours" to Brandon, Hoster, Cat herself, and all the others who told him they were too good for him before. He sees his chance to get an even younger, hotter image of the one that got away. He sees an impressionable young child whom he can train to be a protege, reflecting his own scheming image back at him. (In the package of a gorgeous young woman, of course.) When LF looks at Sansa he sees, in short, his own fantasies reflected back at him.

He does not fully see her-- both because he lacks the empathy, and because that would ruin his little fantasy-- shake the way he has chosen to see things. And I think it is this that will lead to his downfall.

However, I think the idea that LF truly "loved" Cat and "saw something in her" is questionable. He was, after all, willing to rip apart her entire family when her daughter was denied to him in marriage. I also suspect he probably knew of the Red Wedding, and did nothing to help his "love."

As for the idea that Sansa was annoying at the beginnning of AGOT, I disagree-- though GRRM does indeed do a hell of a job for making her seem so.

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But back to the topic: Beauty and the Beast has always fascinated me because it is essentially based on a fascinating dichotomy. On the one hand, some versions of the tale (particularly the "tarted up French version" by Charles Perrault-- carry some unsavory connotations. That a woman must learn to look past looks, demeanor, and her own desires-- beauty likes the beast but is disgusted, and really desires the handsome, young prince that keeps appearing to her in her dreams-- and only then find true happiness and "transform" her formerly "bestial" (abusive? Cruel? Ugly? Old?) mate. Since the tale was written for well to do young ladies in a time where young girls were basically sold off as teenagers into marriages with often much, much older, more experienced, and not infrequently, very ugly men, Perrault's moral about the importance of a woman looking past appearances, disregarding her innate sexual desire and innate physical disgust, thus made much sense in context.

However, on the other hand, Beauty and the Beast is also a tale in which the female heroine has and exercises massive power-- all through the freedom of choice. In few Perrault tales does a heroine not only demonstrate to save herself, but the ability to save-- and transform-- others. (For instance, in Bluebeard, the Heroine's sister is standing right there in the castle, but both girls are reduced to helplessly waiting for their brothers to arrive.)

The tale also metaphorically suggests a woman's personal transformation towards "wild", "untamed" adult sexuality, a more symbolical than physical transformation. (In "The Tiger's Bride," by Angela Carter, Beauty is transformed into a beast herself at the end, symbolically embracing her own aggressive adult sexuality.)

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Wow, Milady, what a fantastic job you've done. And footnotes! I don't even know how to do footnotes without a proper word processor. I'm in awe!

As a tangent to the great analysis, I'd like to just comment on something that tends to pop up sometimes about how "Beauty and the Beast" is cliché. But can something almost as old as time itself be cliché?

A quick googling yields the following explanation of "cliché": A cliché or cliche is an expression, idea, or element of an artistic work which has been overused to the point of losing its original meaning or effect.

It definitely seems to be a theme people don't get tired of, in that it gets retold with variations through time. The theme itself seems in that way to be quite timeless, while the variations reflect to a degree the time in which they were written. However, I don't think a theme that has been retold and reinterpreted several times is automatically "tired" and "cliché". Even the plot varies sometimes, so it cannot even be called "predictable", which often seems to be something detractors of the theme uses as an excuse for why it's "tired" and "cliché".

And has "Beauty and the Beast" lost its original meaning and effect? I guess that depends on how you view it, but it seems despite being an old tale, some elements remain constant.


Sorry for bailing on you last night, my internet died somehow and wouldn't come back :o

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I just have to chime in here and say that you've done a wonderful job of introducing the subject, Milady of York! I am very impressed, both by your content and delivery! I too feel as though I have been out of academia for far too long, as I can promise you my presentation will not be nearly as erudite! ;)

Excellent, excellent job....this incarnation of the P2P thread is shaping up to be an especially good one. :)

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