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From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XIV

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Re Bronze Yohn and his possible role - here are some things I can glean:

- He does not like LF at all, and he was angry with Lysa because she would not let him call his banners for Robb. So he's pro-Stark, anti-Lannister.

- He knows Sansa and her family. He saw her at the Tourney of the Hand, and - this is more important IMO - spent time at Winterfell. Sansa remembers him talking to her mother. I emphasize his talking to Catelyn to demonstrate that he knows Catelyn and knows what she looks like. This might be more important than his having seen Sansa at the Tournament because she has grown so much since then - she was a child at that time and now looks, apparently, quite a bit older than her age and to all intents and purposes a grown woman.

- His House words are "We Remember." I surmise this might be a clue.

- I've mentioned before how merely dying one's hair is not that great of a disguise. It might work in the short term, or with people who don't know you that well, but for those who recognize your face it won't work at all, because you still look like you, but with different color hair. Even though Sansa's hair is a very distinctive part of her look, she still has other features that would make her stand out - her deep blue eyes and general resemblance to her mother. If Bronze Yohn knew what Catelyn looked like, he might get suspicious about "Alayne's" resemblance to her. What is a girl with Tully blue eyes and a strong resemblance to Catelyn Tully doing as "Alayne Stone?" Petyr might have to think fast.

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Exactly KRBD! The "We Remember" and the dying. It is kind of laughing to dye from red to brown. It is a poor one.

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Hi all, My kids are back in school so I took my little netbook, charged it up in my car, and hauled on over to a local coffee house to grab some lunch and catch up on here a bit.

First of all, Bgona, great job with the music. I haven't had a chance to listen to it all yet but you sure put in so much time on this and definitely have a real grasp of it. I really like how you related it to Sansa and the Beauty and the Beast story. I never would have thought of Meatloaf's "I will do anything for love" that way before but it works and now I'll always think of this when I listen to it. Your essay on music and songs would go so well with the first of the novels I am looking at for the literature part of our project - Phantom of the Opera, as the overall theme there is singing. (I am so close to finishing it everyone, but this stupid storm has set me back. I can't get on my home computer to finish it until I get power back at my house.)

Also, I agree that Bronze Yohn will be important to Sansa's story in the next book. There would not have been so many details of him having seen Sansa recently at the Hand's Tourney, and of being a Stark and Arryn ally and the only Lord in the Vale who will not ever support Littlefinger for this not to be important. Plus he's described as an older highborn version of the Hound!

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Oh bgona, that was a wonderful so well researched analysis upon the music that can be related to B&B!!! I am gonna listen to all those links later, but I’m happy to see that David Bowie was included cause i love him, and Meat Loaf’s song- ah! Can’t believe i heard it the other day on the radio and didn’t think of SanSan!

Here are the bits which i wanted to highlight from your post:

Sansa dreams of her songs, and of love. And these dreams are deeply rooted in her. It is a longing for love (to give and receive it). All her beauty comes from that love more than from her external appearance. And it is what gives her more strength.

We could relate Auric's music to the Sansa we met in Winterfell, with her dreams and ideals, while the Sansa Glass suggests is more the one of King’s Landing and the Vale. A more reclusive Sansa, whose dreams still exist, but they are gradually changing as if she was awakening to a new reality.

He will never forget the way she felt in King’s Landing, or the way she felt during the night of the Blackwater, as he proves in his conversation with Arya before she leaves him to die... Sandor will never lie to Sansa, and he proved he can do anything for her (saving her from the Mob, covering her up from others, like Joffrey and Boros), but he will not force her (not rape her, not force her to leave with him). Maybe one of his main regrets is forcing her to sing.

Elba- glad to hear you are okay!!!

i just can’t wait for your Phantom of the Opera analysis!! As well as the other books you’re going look at, but since I had a big crush on the phantom when i was 12, it has a special place in my heart :)

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I want to thanks to my betas Milady and Marya Stone for their patience!

The merit is all yours, bgona. You did the research and did it well, thanks for this contribution to our ever-growing project. Indeed, we learn more and more with this.

I truly enjoyed all the musical pieces mentioned. Of all the pieces analysed in this essay of yours, my favourite is, by far, the Birmingham Royal Ballet performance. Because it helped crystallise a pretty vague idea I had once when reading the Serpentine steps and the Maegor’s Holdfast rooftop scenes into a more or less clear one, or rather a less hazy one than before, and is related to touch and body language, but may sound a bit absurd because it’s so small a detail…

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Thanks Elba, Caro and Milady!! I´m so glad that you like it!

Milady the physical contact is always relevant between Sansa and Sandor. I haven´t read about Sansa touching another man at her own.

Elba I will love to read about The Phantom. (I hope that soon you will have electricity)

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Beauty and Beast

Tale as old as time,

True as it can be.

Barely even friends,

Then somebody bends,

Unexpectedly.

Just a little change,

Small, to say the least.

Both a little scared,

Neither one prepared,

Beauty and the Beast.

Ever just the same,

Ever a surprise,

Ever as before,

And ever just as sure

As the sun will rise.

Whoa, whoa, oh, whoa-oh.

Ever just the same,

Ever a surprise,

Ever as before,

Ever just as sure

As the sun will rise.

Oh, oh, oh.

Tale as old as time,

Tune as old as song,

Bittersweet and strange.

Finding you can change,

Learning you were wrong.

Certain as the sun,

(Certain as the sun)

Rising in the east,

Tale as old as time,

Song as old as rhyme,

Beauty and the Beast.

Tale as old as time,

Song as old as rhyme,

Beauty and the Beast.

This is the first complete song lyrics that I have added here. Not only because it obtained an Oscar award (that gives a certain entitlement) but also, and mostly, because it reflects Sansa. Her illusions through tales and songs (she loves the romantic ones, while Bran loves the horror ones).

The song also shows her interactions with Sandor. They are barely friends (the night of the Hand Tourney was the first spark to their friendship). And there begins a little change that will be followed by other little changes (like his cover up at Joffrey´s Tourney, his advice). They are both scared of the other: Sansa is always a little scared around Sandor. During their conversation on the roof of Maegor’s Holdfast, with Sandor using his sword in such a foolish way, he proved that he was also scared of her, and there is no need to remind you of the scariest moment for both: the night of the Battle of the Blackwater.

That "bending unexpectedly" in the first verse definitely reminds me of the night of the Hand's Tourney when Sansa reaches out and touches his shoulder in a show of sympathy for what Gregor had done. It's not a traditional relationship by any means, but in the clashing there is connection. And I love the "bittersweet and strange" which just encapsulates their interactions so well. This presentation begs the question of what their defining song will be by the end of the series.

Anyways, I'm going back to reading! I have a couple papers coming up in the near future that everyone should be pleased with ;)

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Re Bronze Yohn and his possible role - here are some things I can glean:

- He does not like LF at all, and he was angry with Lysa because she would not let him call his banners for Robb. So he's pro-Stark, anti-Lannister.

- He knows Sansa and her family. He saw her at the Tourney of the Hand, and - this is more important IMO - spent time at Winterfell. Sansa remembers him talking to her mother. I emphasize his talking to Catelyn to demonstrate that he knows Catelyn and knows what she looks like. This might be more important than his having seen Sansa at the Tournament because she has grown so much since then - she was a child at that time and now looks, apparently, quite a bit older than her age and to all intents and purposes a grown woman.

- His House words are "We Remember." I surmise this might be a clue.

- I've mentioned before how merely dying one's hair is not that great of a disguise. It might work in the short term, or with people who don't know you that well, but for those who recognize your face it won't work at all, because you still look like you, but with different color hair. Even though Sansa's hair is a very distinctive part of her look, she still has other features that would make her stand out - her deep blue eyes and general resemblance to her mother. If Bronze Yohn knew what Catelyn looked like, he might get suspicious about "Alayne's" resemblance to her. What is a girl with Tully blue eyes and a strong resemblance to Catelyn Tully doing as "Alayne Stone?" Petyr might have to think fast.

Has anyone here dyed their hair? Because I have and didn't look all that different.

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Re Bronze Yohn and his possible role - here are some things I can glean:

- He does not like LF at all, and he was angry with Lysa because she would not let him call his banners for Robb. So he's pro-Stark, anti-Lannister.

- He knows Sansa and her family. He saw her at the Tourney of the Hand, and - this is more important IMO - spent time at Winterfell. Sansa remembers him talking to her mother. I emphasize his talking to Catelyn to demonstrate that he knows Catelyn and knows what she looks like. This might be more important than his having seen Sansa at the Tournament because she has grown so much since then - she was a child at that time and now looks, apparently, quite a bit older than her age and to all intents and purposes a grown woman.

- His House words are "We Remember." I surmise this might be a clue.

- I've mentioned before how merely dying one's hair is not that great of a disguise. It might work in the short term, or with people who don't know you that well, but for those who recognize your face it won't work at all, because you still look like you, but with different color hair. Even though Sansa's hair is a very distinctive part of her look, she still has other features that would make her stand out - her deep blue eyes and general resemblance to her mother. If Bronze Yohn knew what Catelyn looked like, he might get suspicious about "Alayne's" resemblance to her. What is a girl with Tully blue eyes and a strong resemblance to Catelyn Tully doing as "Alayne Stone?" Petyr might have to think fast.

These are all excellent points. And in addition, Bronze Yohn takes one look at Sansa and flat-out asks her (in front of everyone else) "Do I know you, girl?", so clearly he'd paid enough attention to her (or to Catelyn) that he did, on some level, remember her just by her face (and he was so struck by her appearance that he gave her an opening to identify herself, rather than just keeping his thoughts to himself and kind of looking at her oddly, (as you'd expect from someone who's just sort of struck by someone's familiar appearance)). After he asks her this, he's notably silent for quite some time---the other Lords Declarant all start talking instead, so we don't really get a hint of Bronze Yohn's reaction to Nestor Royce identifying Sansa as Littlefinger's bastard daughter, and this lack of a stated reaction could be important in the future (as the point might be that Bronze Yohn was quiet because he didn't know how to deal with a brand-new wrinkle of Sansa Stark turning up in a most unexpected place).

Moreover, his last words to Littlefinger are "I like it not, but it would seem you have your year. Best use it well, my lord. Not all of us are fooled.” That last part could just be referring to Lyn Corbray's actions, of course . . . but maybe not. Littlefinger likes to play mind games in order to assure himself that he's smarter than everyone else, but this is the sort of game that might easily have backfired. Littlefinger wanted to demonstrate to himself that he could successfully fool Bronze Yohn, but given Bronze Yohn's outburst to Sansa (and the fact that neither we nor Littlefinger know Bronze Yohn's actual thoughts), Bronze Yohn might easily have left that meeting wondering why in the seven hells Littlefinger had Sansa Stark pretending to be his bastard daughter, while Littlefinger still believes he's pulled one over on Bronze Yohn.

When Catelyn first met Mya Stone, she thought to herself that Mya's cause was doomed because "no Redfort would ever marry a bastard". Yet Anya Waynwood is now supposedly willing to allow the Arryn heir to marry a bastard?? And not even a king's bastard, (as everyone in the Vale knew Mya to be)---but the bastard of a man whose grandfather was a mere hedge knight? Something doesn't smell right there. At the end of AFFC we're told that Lady Waynwood and the Knight of Ninestars randomly showed up at Lyonel Corbray's wedding, to Littlefinger's delight---but he's assuming that he's gotten these two on his side, and I think that assumption might easily be incorrect. Littlefinger told Sansa he was going to win over the Knight of Ninestars, but there's no indication that he's taken any steps to do so. Perhaps more importantly, Littlefinger's been buying up Anya Waynwood's debt, and thinks that will allow him to manipulate her---but there are two problems there: first, given Westeros's paucity of lawyers (and the breadth and complexity of Littlefinger's financial records), buying up Anya Waynwood's debt means that the surest way for her to get herself out of debt would probably be to have Littlefinger killed, not go along with his schemes (as upon his death, what would happen to that debt? It would probably be extinguished, as Littlefinger has no trueborn heirs and the Crown probably won't be in a position to ever untangle Littlefinger's financinal accounts). Second, Harry is the most eligible young man in the Vale (especially given Sweetrobin's infirmities), and one of the most eligible young men in all of Westeros. Any number of wealthy and eligible young women could bring enough of a dowry, should Lady Waynwood arrange it, to more than make up for her debts. Lady Waynwood's acquiescence here is difficult to explain, and something else has to be going on for her actions to make any real sense.

And just as a side note: the fact that Cersei hasn't sussed out Sansa's location has far more to do with Cersei's incompetence than it does to Littlefinger's cunning. When she fled King's Landing, Sansa's one remaining powerful relative was Lysa Arryn, in the Vale. The single most obvious place for Sansa to have gone after fleeing King's Landing was the Vale. And once Lysa died, would her husband Littlefinger (who publicly betrayed Ned Stark) choose to shelter Sansa? Ordinarily, you'd think not---but Cersei knows that Littlefinger once flat-out offered to marry Sansa. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at those two things---that Sansa's last powerful relative, and a man who once offered to marry her, are both found in the exact same place---and wonder if maybe, just maybe, the Reach is not actually the most logical place for Sansa to be found. (And I'd like to point out that Varys could very, very easily be well aware of Sansa's location, as we don't know what Varys actually knows, but we do know that Sansa's location, unlike Arya's, isn't exactly difficult to guess.)

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That "bending unexpectedly" in the first verse definitely reminds me of the night of the Hand's Tourney when Sansa reaches out and touches his shoulder in a show of sympathy for what Gregor had done. It's not a traditional relationship by any means, but in the clashing there is connection. And I love the "bittersweet and strange" which just encapsulates their interactions so well. This presentation begs the question of what their defining song will be by the end of the series.

Anyways, I'm going back to reading! I have a couple papers coming up in the near future that everyone should be pleased with ;)

Brash of course the bending began the night of the Hand´s Tourney (she was wearing a green dress that day, then happens the no true knights and Sansa touching his shoulder showing empathy, and the next day Sandor is wearing a green cloak, a cloak that doesn´t fit with him fighting, and Sansa watching how he fits against Jaime without noticing that her father has arrived and been sure that Sandor will win).

Their relationship being bittersweet and strange. It is strange because they seems to be so opposite each other! But is it not the saying that opposites are attracted? They are all Sandor knighthood ideals from his childhood where Sansa being the perfect lady fit so well. And Sansa has grow up at the North where she is accostume to violence and rudeness.

And bittersweet is it not an adjetive that GRRM has used to describe the end of the books? This relationship will also end up being bittersweet (not only that right now it is, but also it end will be).

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Has anyone here dyed their hair? Because I have and didn't look all that different.

I haven´t. Never. But many friends of course they have. Only one has fooled me. She is the only one that I see that changes so much when she dyes her hair. But also because normally it is followed by changes at her way of dressing and a completely different haircut, and the dye is a completely different color. Her face doesn´t have any relevant characteristic (normal size brown eyes, normal size nose, it is a really plain face without feckless, without pronounced cheeks). Only that case.

Moreover, his last words to Littlefinger are "I like it not, but it would seem you have your year. Best use it well, my lord. Not all of us are fooled.” That last part could just be referring to Lyn Corbray's actions, of course . . . but maybe not. Littlefinger likes to play mind games in order to assure himself that he's smarter than everyone else, but this is the sort of game that might easily have backfired. Littlefinger wanted to demonstrate to himself that he could successfully fool Bronze Yohn, but given Bronze Yohn's outburst to Sansa (and the fact that neither we nor Littlefinger know Bronze Yohn's actual thoughts), Bronze Yohn might easily have left that meeting wondering why in the seven hells Littlefinger had Sansa Stark pretending to be his bastard daughter, while Littlefinger still believes he's pulled one over on Bronze Yohn.

When Catelyn first met Mya Stone, she thought to herself that Mya's cause was doomed because "no Redfort would ever marry a bastard". Yet Anya Waynwood is now supposedly willing to allow the Arryn heir to marry a bastard?? And not even a king's bastard, (as everyone in the Vale knew Mya to be)---but the bastard of a man whose grandfather was a mere hedge knight? Something doesn't smell right there. At the end of AFFC we're told that Lady Waynwood and the Knight of Ninestars randomly showed up at Lyonel Corbray's wedding, to Littlefinger's delight---but he's assuming that he's gotten these two on his side, and I think that assumption might easily be incorrect. Littlefinger told Sansa he was going to win over the Knight of Ninestars, but there's no indication that he's taken any steps to do so. Perhaps more importantly, Littlefinger's been buying up Anya Waynwood's debt, and thinks that will allow him to manipulate her---but there are two problems there: first, given Westeros's paucity of lawyers (and the breadth and complexity of Littlefinger's financial records), buying up Anya Waynwood's debt means that the surest way for her to get herself out of debt would probably be to have Littlefinger killed, not go along with his schemes (as upon his death, what would happen to that debt? It would probably be extinguished, as Littlefinger has no trueborn heirs and the Crown probably won't be in a position to ever untangle Littlefinger's financinal accounts). Second, Harry is the most eligible young man in the Vale (especially given Sweetrobin's infirmities), and one of the most eligible young men in all of Westeros. Any number of wealthy and eligible young women could bring enough of a dowry, should Lady Waynwood arrange it, to more than make up for her debts. Lady Waynwood's acquiescence here is difficult to explain, and something else has to be going on for her actions to make any real sense.

And just as a side note: the fact that Cersei hasn't sussed out Sansa's location has far more to do with Cersei's incompetence than it does to Littlefinger's cunning. When she fled King's Landing, Sansa's one remaining powerful relative was Lysa Arryn, in the Vale. The single most obvious place for Sansa to have gone after fleeing King's Landing was the Vale. And once Lysa died, would her husband Littlefinger (who publicly betrayed Ned Stark) choose to shelter Sansa? Ordinarily, you'd think not---but Cersei knows that Littlefinger once flat-out offered to marry Sansa. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to look at those two things---that Sansa's last powerful relative, and a man who once offered to marry her, are both found in the exact same place---and wonder if maybe, just maybe, the Reach is not actually the most logical place for Sansa to be found. (And I'd like to point out that Varys could very, very easily be well aware of Sansa's location, as we don't know what Varys actually knows, but we do know that Sansa's location, unlike Arya's, isn't exactly difficult to guess.)

I haven´t thought about what Bronze said at LF, but it is a really interesting point!! And right now, I can´t think different. I like a lot the idea.

About the debts of Anya Waynwood, I´m sure that LF will condemn them if the marriage take shape. But I see the point that is easier to kill him. In addition, the Vale is known by their pride. And I don´t see a pride person to accept a blackmail. And Anya didn´t let stablish a marriage between HtH and Myranda because she wanted some better.

About Sansa been at the Vale. Of course Cersei should have look there. But she trusts LF (how could she???). In addition, when Sansa left KL, he wasn´t supose to be there. He was far away.

Varys doesn´t know where Sansa is. He doesn´t know. He is a spymaster and a gamemind master, but he is also out of clue at this point.

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Varys doesn´t know where Sansa is. He doesn´t know. He is a spymaster and a gamemind master, but he is also out of clue at this point.

Varys may know where Sansa is and have not told the Lannisters. It is possible that Varys also sees Sansa as a potential pawn that could be useful at a later date. Or he has no wish to see her beheaded. I'm still puzzled as to why Varys had Gendry removed from KL. more recently I have become more inclined to believe that it was Arys who ordered the death of Barra and not Cersei. He was sowing more discord between Tyrion and Cersei. To be honest I think Varys has bigger fish to fry.....like Kevin and Pycelle. :)

How many months is between the Snow Castle scene and the arrival of the Lords Declarant? (The timeline worked out in the re-read section has a flaw as it puts Lollys rape at the Bread riot, not Myrcella leaving, which means that events should be several months further ahead or Lollys had the shortest pregnancy in history). Alyane building Winterfell must have caused some rumours, and it is perfectly possible LF has set these up so that the Lords find out via gossip that he is protecting Sansa Stark and having her serve them bread and wine would be an excellent way to help confirm those rumours as they get to see her and interact with her. It could be one of these weird "they know who she is, but think LF doesn't know they know," when in fact LF set the whole thing up.

Or as mentioned previously, the only person to have seen Sansa would remember a red headed little girl in fine clothes. Alyane has brown hair (is older) and is wearing a dress only slightly better than a servants. It is similar to when Sandor dressed as a farmer to get into the Twins. No one even thought who he might really be. True a Lord's bastard will attract more attention, but she may very well still be ignored to a certain extent. Her mannerisms and actions will also be different.

Do you think we can ask GRRM for a Sansa chapter for Christmas?

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That is a very thought-provoking post, Tze.

I've been wanting to reread AGOT for Catelyn's and Tyrion's experiences in the Vale to compare them with Sansa's and you've just provided a great link with her thoughts regarding Mya.

As far as Anya Waynwood's game is concerned, are you implying that she could have Littlefinger murdered soon , making his bastard daughter who is betrothed to Harry, his heir? Or do you think Bronze Yohn is the one who convinced her to go through with the betrothal knowing that she is the heir to Winterfell and once married to Harry will be out of Littlefinger's control?

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Thanks for the help on the songs Milady and Bgona---I swear I will figure out how to make this stupid cell phone do cut and paste. Sorry I did not post these thanks earlier, but I got caught up in an argument about Daenerys on another thread.

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Great points by tze. I believe it is certainly possible for Varys to know where Sansa is, or at least have a very strong suspicion. If so, sitting on the information would make sense given his eventual plot for Lannister destabilization.

Do you think we can ask GRRM for a Sansa chapter for Christmas?

Ha! :) That would be a helluva gift, but GRRM is pretty much Scrooge incarnate, especially when it comes to Sansa info.

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Rapsie! Good to read you!

Of course, Varys may believe that Sansa is there, it is a possibility. But it is good to remember that Petyr Baelish was suppose to be arriving at the Vale when Tyrion knows of the Red Wedding. That the mountain pass where closed due to snow and the mountain clans and the only way to reach to the Vale was through the fingers. So it is difficult that he knows if she is there or not.

I have to reread the Tyrion chapter at ADWD.

--

Oooh!!! I will write it on my Santa Letter.

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Alright, Milady finally managed to convert all her sticky notes into a decent essay. The idea for this was born after the last chapters of A Clash of Kings, a very vague idea it was, and was cleared further thanks to Kittykatknits’ excellent post on the Serpentine steps, which, while very informative, did not include something that puzzled Milady on a personal level. Later, and after re-watching the Birmingham Royal Ballet performance of the B&B tale examined in bgona’s essay on music, she decided she had enough information to reexamine touching in their interactions, plus her own knowledge of psychology, a book on ancient art and literature and textual evidence from the ASOIAF books. Bear in mind that this interpretation pertains only and exclusively to body language in a interaction between a male and a female in a private setting, and doesn’t –and mustn’t– apply to social interactions of any sort.

That said, it was not planned, the idea just blossomed in a day and practically wrote itself, and here it is ready to be made public... after some hesitation.

“The things I write for love,” Milady said with regret. And gave the post button a push.

:D

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On non-verbal exp

ressions of interest and intimacy

“Every emotion of the mind has from nature its own peculiar look, tone, and gesture; and the whole frame of a man, and his whole countenance, and the variations of his voice, sound like strings in a musical instrument, just as they are moved by the affections of the mind […] They sound just as the soul's motion strikes them."

MARCUS TULIUS CICERO.

From their first scene at the Trident, where he put his hands on her shoulders, to the last scene the night of the Battle of the Blackwater, where she cupped his cheek, Sandor and Sansa’s interactions have a recurrent touch and feel component. They are always close and make eye and skin contact frequently, usually started by him. We are constantly reading descriptions of the occasions when he places his hand on her shoulder, her arm, her wrist, her chin…

Two of these gestures in special, which might appear as seemingly insignificant to the uninformed reader, caught my attention: when he grasps her wrist and when he lifts her chin.

Not until I read Professor Alan L. Boegehold, an expert in Classical philology and art, and his work on body language in archaic Greek artistic representations of couples did I understand the meaning and importance of wrist-grabbing, which led me to examine more closely the situations where Sandor had taken hold of Sansa’s extremities or face in this particular fashion, and to discover that this wrist-grabbing is present precisely in two scenes that are commonly deemed as important thresholds in their evolution as characters.

First scene, he clasps the little bird’s wrist to prevent her from falling in the Serpentine steps:

She was racing headlong down the serpentine steps when a man lurched out of a hidden doorway. Sansa caromed into him and lost her balance.
Iron fingers caught her by the wrist
before she could fall, and a deep voice rasped at her. “It’s a long roll down the serpentine, little bird. Want to kill us both?”

A Clash of Kings, pp. 511, e-book.

And he does that again in her room during the Blackwater:

“Lady,” she whimpered softly, wondering if she would meet her wolf again when she was dead.

Then something stirred behind her, and
a hand reached out of the dark and grabbed her wrist
.

A Clash of Kings, pp. 1514, e-book.

The way he touches her is exactly the same on both occasions. And the similarities don’t stop at that.

At first glance, grasping a woman’s wrist doesn’t seem anything out of the ordinary; after all, even Tyrion grabbed Cersei’s wrist to prevent her from slapping him once, and lots of other people repeat the action throughout the series. Is that a correct reading, and have we to discard it altogether?

In the present cases, no. There’s a deeper meaning in the act of clasping a wrist. Professor Boegehold says that, even if this gesture has different interpretations depending on circumstances and the genre of the people involved, when a masculine hand is on a feminine wrist

”Obviously a connection is being made, possibly it’s always an intimate connection […]”

In other words, a wrist symbolises intimacy. Grabbing it is a way to state a man’s need for intimacy with the woman he’s touching, emotionally and sexually. Taking a woman’s hand was a prelude to greater intimacy in old Greece; a sign of affection and also a gesture employed to reassure a person in the case of males.

As for lifting and caressing a woman’s chin. Boegehold writes that this gesture is meant

“to show affection and a sense of union between two people.”

A Roman and a Greek of both sexes would never misread what placing a hand on a chin was supposed to mean: to them, it was always a sign of amorous intent. It was not done at random.

Moving forward to the Middle Ages, an epoch more in accordance with Martin’s pseudo-medieval cultural setting, we see an abundant corpus of literature and art proving that the basic idea has not been modified, either, and chin touching and hand clasping belong in the first stage of the four degrees of intimacy, being the prelude to the second, which is kissing. Contemporary evolutionary psychology has proved that, while times are different, this interpretation has barely changed in our day as well, because it’s instinctive, an unconscious gesture we cannot control, and psychologists who specialise in human relationships, such as Dr. Elaine Kahn, declare that a man who touches a woman’s arm or wrist as he’s speaking to her is being forthright and direct in his approach, and if he clasps it then he’s showing affection and a healthy interest in things physical.

Now, let’s examine the two scenes in question.

The first thing to be noted in both is how they begin with Sansa musing over a figure she associates with home and safety. While she’s rushing down the steps, she is thinking, “home, he is going to take me home, he’ll keep me safe, my Florian.” And just when she’s finished thinking of how Florian was homely but not as old as Dontos, she caroms into Sandor, who is homely and young, thus indirectly and by association transferring the label of my Florian from Dontos to him. In my opinion, he found her there not because he was looking for her as she was nowhere to be seen, and just moved on purpose toward her when he saw her, but not with the intention of causing her to bump into him, which was due to Sansa’s distraction, and gripped her wrist of all parts he could have. Then he asks her where she’d been, showing his concern, and makes fun of her answer, refusing to soften his grip on her arm. Inebriated, he sways noticeably, and there’s an indication that he’s been affected by the closeness of her body against his and he continues to be due to the skin-on-skin contact that is still present, because suddenly he says:

“You look almost a woman… face, teats, and you’re taller too, almost… ah, you’re still a stupid little bird, aren’t you? Singing all the songs they taught you… sing me a song, why don’t you? Go on. Sing to me. Some song about knights and fair maids. You like knights, don’t you?”

A Clash of Kings, pp. 512, e-book.

This part intrigued me. It seems to have come from nowhere, and neither his inebriation nor the brief body contact at full speed explains it satisfactorily, but then, if we remember he’s clasping her wrist as he’s speaking and lets go his grip while he’s at it, we can fully understand both what made him say that seemingly incoherent phrase, and why those words came out of his mouth at that precise moment. We can also infer what parts of her body he’s looking at as he speaks: [He looks probably at the spot he’d been touching her and begins] You look almost a woman… [then stares at her face] face, [and her bosom] teats, [noticing her head’s a bit nearer his own face because she’s grown and has longer legs] and you’re taller too…

And his remark on songs just reinforces this interpretation. Plus, although the title of the song is not mentioned, from the short description he gave, we can have a fairly accurate idea that it can be none other than Florian and Jonquil, the very one he’d ask for before he left King’s Landing. The very one about the fool and chevalier Sansa had been recreating in her mind minutes before.

However, drunk and all, he’s painfully aware she’s too young, as evidenced by his insistence in telling her she’s almost a woman. He says almost twice in the same sentence. So, he’s aware that the intimacy he longs for, a desire he is at present unable to conceal due to an excess of wine, is not possible for this and other factors. He makes that comment on his own accord, as if to remind himself. And he also reminds himself that she’s meant for another man, as he tells her he’s taking back to her bedchamber, to keep her “safe for the king.”

In vino veritas, the Romans would say. Inebriated people tell the truth, and a drunk body tells it louder than words. After gripping her shoulder as a way of reassuring her at the bridge before Ser Boros –because that’s what placing hands on shoulders is for: reassurance and protection– he escorts her to her room, and here again his body language betrays his thoughts. She asks him why he lets people call him by his sobriquet, and he responds with the story of how his ancestor became a landed knight, revealing along the way some interesting details about himself: that it’s Grandfather Clegane the family member he’s proud of and that, despite his hatred for knights and knighthood, he’s immensely proud of the courageous action that earned him his title, and that his grandfather is his role model in regards to loyalty and sincerity, because he would do the same: risk his life, even die, but never lie.

And the biggest irony in this scene is that, by declaring this to her, Sandor Clegane, the Hound, the No-Knight, the Knighthood hater, is following the Second Precept the courtly love tradition imposed as a rule for a knight’s behaviour with his lady: Never lie to her.

To reinforce his point –because words are wind, but actions have more emotional impact– so she understands he’s referring to her and not to some abstract master and not to Joffrey, his hand goes then to her chin, cupping it and he utters:

“And that’s more than little birds can do, isn’t it? I never got my song.”

A Clash of Kings, pp. 515, e-book.

This is the second time in less than an hour he asks for a song, and the fact that this second time he’s cupping her chin as he mentions the song makes it clear that he’s not thinking of the promised, literal song Sansa had to sing as an expression of gratitude for being saved from the mob. His intent is amorous, as was the first time he asked, and this time he’s also bending towards her face, clearly prepared for the second grade of intimacy, but controlling himself, and Sansa apparently senses his intentions because she stammers that she could sing Florian and Jonquil. The Hound replies like the Hound:

“Florian and Jonquil? A fool and his cunt. Spare me. But one day I’ll have a song from you, whether you will it or no.”

A Clash of Kings, pp. 512, e-book.

His harsh words are normally interpreted as mockery and as a rejection of Florian and Jonquil, yet we have to consider the second part of this phrase to see that he’s not doing that. He’d indirectly asked for this song a moment earlier and would ask for it again during the night of the Blackwater. Now, let’s remember again what he’s doing and consider his gesture simultaneously with the words being uttered. It’s not about hatred for this song in particular, which we can guess is one he knows well and heard countless times, because it’s quite popular. He’s expressing in his peculiar manner his own frustration at that innocence of hers which allowed the obvious metaphor for intimacy to slip past her.

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I enjoyed reading that, Milady :) Thinking back to my school days, whenever a guy grabbed your wrist, you pretty much knew he was interested in you, so I can appreciate the critical commentary which you've cited.

His harsh words are normally interpreted as mockery and as a rejection of Florian and Jonquil, yet we have to consider the second part of this phrase to see that he’s not doing that. He’d indirectly asked for this song a moment earlier and would ask for it again during the night of the Blackwater. Now, let’s remember again what he’s doing and consider his gesture simultaneously with the words being uttered. It’s not about hatred for this song in particular, which we can guess is one he knows well and heard countless times, because it’s quite popular. He’s expressing in his peculiar manner his own frustration at her innocence that allowed the obvious metaphor for intimacy to slip past her.

I agree. What's always stood out to me in this scene and which your analysis supports, is just how traditionally flirtatious it is. Indeed, when he tells her that he never got his song, he's not exactly looking for a response there, is he? It's by the book "coming on to you" talk, and Sansa's very literal response does create the frustration, not the song choice itself, as you noted. It's also interesting that this comes directly after a very sobering confession about his history. At the beginning of the scene, he's swaying and drunk and we can take his comments about her developing body as evidence of an off guarded moment on his part. However, he's just escorted back to her room, on the way encountering Boros Blount - a reminder not only for Sansa of her captive status, but certainly one for Sandor on the loyalty he owes to Joffrey, and then he's revealed how his family came to be knighted by the Lannisters. He's been given personal and professional reminders that his developing feelings for Sansa are going to be problematic, but chooses to end the discussion on a very intimate note nevertheless.

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The scene at her room during the Battle of the Blackwater also begins with Sansa thinking of a protective familiar figure, her direwolf Lady. Right after murmuring her name, Sandor moves from behind and grasps her wrist, stepping once more in the place of a protector. This time, Sansa is scared and he doesn’t make it easier for her with his behaviour, his threats. Despite that, they manage to have a brief conversation where he lets her know he’s lost, he’s going, and nobody can stop him. Then she asks him why he’s here, and once again he mentions the song, still grabbing her wrist. So far, the meaning of the wrist-clasping as reaching out for a connection with the other is applicable. Then, when she says she cannot sing and asks him to let her go, he doesn’t; he is drunker than before, plus still suffering from the trauma of long days fighting and the fire on top of that–he’s no longer coherent, but battles quite desperately for words to tell her what he’s feeling:

“I could keep you safe,” he rasped. “They’re all afraid of me. No one would hurt you again, or I’d kill them.”

A Clash of Kings, pp. 1517, e-book.

Now notice what he does while he’s speaking, for it brings an additional meaning: he pulls her closer and Sansa thinks he’s going to kiss her. This time, he doesn’t touch her chin to make eye contact as if wanting to kiss her, like in the previous scene, nor does he try to caress her; he just pulls her closer as if to shield her with his body, emphasising his words in a very personal and physical manner. She closes her eyes. The Hound takes that as rejection. “Still can’t bear to look, can you?” he says. The fact that he comments on her inability to look at him and the absence of touching in an intimate way during the few seconds that follow, indicates that he was not intending to press further for a kiss nor had he intentions of forcing himself on her –when this sort of intention is present, consent, acceptance and discomfort of the woman is not a deterrent, mere lack of eye contact is not enough to stop forcible intercourse– besides, we know the importance the Hound places on being looked in the face by the little bird, linked to his need for acceptance. And from then on, the snowball of emotions rolls downhill: hurt, frustration, stress, fury, terror… He shoves her down onto the bed and puts his dagger in her throat, asking for Florian and Jonquil, and threatening her life if she failed to chirp the tune he’d told her to spare him before.

It’s a miracle that Sansa, in the midst of all that, was able to collect her wits and realise what was that he needed. She sang the Mother Prayer, a soothing song that expresses compassion, understanding and, above all, that she is not rejecting him, she’s rejecting his worst flaw, and then, as if to reinforce the message the prayer carries and get it imprinted on Sandor’s psyche, we see the touching of the chin in its female counterpoint: she cups his cheek, his burnt cheek no less.

The roles have been reversed, this is both a conscious attempt at obliterating his feelings of hurt and anger, and strangely enough, this small gesture in response to an act of violence gives Sansa her power back. Because when the person at the receiving end of the gesture that expresses this desire grasps the wrist of the person at the giving end of the gesture, it does make it clear her rejection and absence of consent, whilst if that same person reacts cupping the face of the one who initiated it, then she’s signaling her desire to share in that emotional connection; and in Sansa’s case it gives her the power to affect the other with her comforting touch in addition to her prayer; thus, she’s not an entirely defenceless and passive receiver here. She touches him, her gaze trying to focus on his face in the darkness of the room, silently asking with her hand to be looked back, and his tears tell her he’s listened to the Mother Prayer and understood. This is the second time Sansa has touched him of her own will, and the last time for both. Later, when he’s left, she wraps herself in his discarded cloak for comfort, and she stores it in her hope chest afterwards, while he goes alone down the path that will eventually take him to the Quiet Isle.

Maybe the ancients weren’t so wrong after all, and, like Cicero declared, their bodily gestures do follow the movements of their souls.

_______________________________

For further reading:

Boegehold, Alan L., When a gesture was expected, Princeton University Press, 1999.

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