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From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XV

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(Rethinking XIV)

(Original Reread links)

(Resources: 1 2 3 4 5)

Ready to get Rethinking 15 underway? :) I want to begin by saying a huge thanks to all those who dedicate their time and talent to writing essays and analyses for the various projects we introduce, along with simply participating in the discussion on a daily basis. Next, I know we have a lot of nameless guests who follow the thread, and whilst I'd love more of you to come out of the woodwork and join us, your presence here is very much appreciated. Rethinking Sansa is a dynamic, ongoing process, strengthened by the different approaches and specialties of various board members. As I've noted in the past, the only way this thread can endure and continue to be a success is if we each continue to contribute to established ideas and advanced ways of seeing her story line and its future direction. The themes of agency and identity remain the guiding principles of this thread, along with our core belief that Sansa is poised for great things in the future, whether politically or personally or a mix of the two.

To conclude, I know there are some on the board who would like to join us, but feel as though they would never be able to catch up to the conversation. Banish the thought. As noted above, it's not so much a matter of catching up as it is contributing an idea you might have or a topic you'd like to explore, or simply just joining the discussion. If you'd like a quick intro into some of the insights we've made in the past, the resources collection provides that material. As long as you're genuinely interested in serious and constructive consideration of Sansa's arc, this thread is open to you at any time.

I will be posting below the updated lists for the Male Relationships and B&B projects, the former of which is nearly complete. You can find the links to the essays which have already been completed on the B&B project in Resources 4 and 5.


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Examining the Beauty and the Beast motif in ASOIAF

A From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa Project

a. Origins, History and Symbolism of Beauty and the Beast:

1. Origins of the tale in ancient Greece and Rome: Milady of York.

1.a On the Symbolism of Psyche’s Tasks: Milady of York

1.b The transformation of Cupid and Psyche into Beauty and the Beast: Milady of York

2. The tale in other early civilisations: Milady of York

2.a An analysis of Beauty and the Beast elements in the Epic of Gilgamesh: fiekie

3. Medieval retellings of the tale across Europe up to the Renaissance:

3.a Northern Europe: Valkyrja

4. Psychological interpretations of the symbolism in Beauty and the Beast: KittensRuleBeetsDrool

5. Modern retellings:

5.a Retellings by Villeneuve: Lady Lea

Beaumont: Milady of York

5.b Contemporary variations: bgona

b. Beauty and the Beast in Popular Culture:

1. TV series: brashcandy

2. Films:

2. a Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: caro99

2. b The Crimson Flower: caro99

2. c La belle et la bête:

3. Influences in Literature: Elba the Intoner

4. Music: bgona

c. The Beast in ASOIAF:

1. Infirmity and Deformity, A Symbolic reading of the beastly figures in ASOIAF: Mahaut

2. On Fire and Lameness: Milady of York

d. Beauty and the Beast and ASOIAF (Brash and Milady)

1. Analysis of the father figures in B&B : tze

3. Awakening the Beast: Female Sexuality and Empowerment in Sansa's arc: brashcandy

Male Relationships project:

Ned (Lady Candace) completed

Jon (tze) completed

Robb (mythsandstuff) Part 1

Loras &Willas (Lady Lea) completed

Joffrey (Summerqueen) Part 1- AGOT

Sandor (Lord Bronn Stokeworth) Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Tyrion (Lyanna Stark) Part 1

Littlefinger (Pod the Impaler) completed


Jaime (Milady of York)

Lothor (Caro99) completed

Marillion (Ragnorak) completed

Sweetrobin (KRBD) completed

Dontos (Elba the Intoner) completed

Bran&Rickon (brashcandy) completed

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Well, okay, I finally gave up and came into a PtP post. I love Sansa, I can't help it.

I know there have been analyses on Sansa's relationships with different male characters, but have there been any on her relationships with any of the female characters? That would be interesting to see (I think GRRM's female characters are one of his strong points). I haven't read through the majority of the threads - just the more recent ones - so I don't know.

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Well, okay, I finally gave up and came into a PtP post. I love Sansa, I can't help it.

I know there have been analyses on Sansa's relationships with different male characters, but have there been any on her relationships with any of the female characters? That would be interesting to see (I think GRRM's female characters are one of his strong points). I haven't read through the majority of the threads - just the more recent ones - so I don't know.

Welcome Éadaoin :) And yes, we did do a project on the female influences. See Resources 1 in the OP.

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Welcome Éadaoin :) And yes, we did do a project on the female influences. See Resources 1 in the OP.

Ah, thank you! I should have looked more thoroughly.

Will try to post and contribute.

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Ah, thank you! I should have looked more thoroughly.

Will try to post and contribute.

That's fine, these things are easy to miss sometimes. Looking forward to your participation.

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DISCLAIMER: My long-promised Sansa / Littlefinger analysis is here. Of course it goes without saying that a lot of what is in here is personal opinion, with a good deal of speculation. Whenever the next ASOIAF books come out, most of our many predictions will crumble into dust.

A note on style: I had to miz book quotations into it - you'll find those in italics. Quotes from forum members will just be in regular quotes. Also, I may edit a few text errors as I see them later.

I do encourage people to read the whole thing before commenting on the sections. Some points get reiterated or dealt with from different angles. The idea is by the end it makes sense.

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, here comes the text bomb...

= = = = = = = = = =


"Littlefinger... He was my father's ward. We grew up together in Riverrun. I thought of him as a brother, but his feelings for me were ... more than brotherly. When it was announced that I was to wed Brandon Stark, Petyr challenged for the right to my hand. It was madness. He wrote to me after Brandon was killed, but I burned the letter unread. ... I knew he would rise high. ... He was always clever, even as a boy, but it is one thing to be clever, another to be wise. I wonder what the years have done to him."

Lord Petyr Baelish, a.k.a. "Littlefinger". Is there anyone outside her family as important in Sansa Stark's life ? There's the Hound, the various Lannisters, various Tyrells, Ser Ilyn, and Ser Dontos. But who has been the one to cut into Sansa's life with the alacrity of a scalpel ? Littlefinger.

Petyr Baelish smiled. “I am desperately sentimental, sweet lady. Best not tell anyone. I have spent years convincing the court that I am wicked and cruel, and I should hate to see all that hard work go for naught.”

Petyr is not some huge intimidating brute, and is not known for any great skill at arms. He's not highborn, so all the chivalry and traditions and ancient lineage that back courtly politics are nothing to do with him. He's great with making money, but not counted among those most wealthy in coin and land. Nor is he famed as one most learned and wise. Yet, if you summarize his wicked deeds, you might think he is the most nefarious and dangerous person to ever live in Westeros (or at least a serious contender).

For a man who plays the game with such foresight and self-protecting paranoia he is masterminding a grand strategy so risky, so complex, so far-reaching that one is almost awed by it. We do not even know what the grand strategy actually, but as the pieces come together, the implications of Petyr Baelish's actions are huge.

Yet first and foremost, it seems, Lord Baelish has got his eyes on Sansa Stark. Is it as her saviour or her captor ? Her educator or her corrupter ? Her adoptive father or her future husband ?

Indeed, we do not know what he intends her to be - the fact that he seems intent on crafting Sansa into something central to his ambitions makes us wonder what those intentions are. There is more to the story than just an upstart lord with immense ambitions and a genius for lethal intrigues. She is surprisingly central to his schemes, this romantic tormented girl whose mother was the girl he once nearly lost his life for.

Though this is a Sansa thread, much of what follows is an analysis of Littlefinger, an estimation of the man she has to both conspire and contend with. Petyr is the “hungry monster”, and it is the wolf who is the “hero”.

When Sansa finally looked up, a man was standing over her, staring. He was short, with a pointed beard and a silver streak in his hair, almost as old as her father. “You must be one of her daughters,” he said to her. He had grey-green eyes that did not smile when his mouth did. “you have the Tully look”.

I'm Sansa Stark,” she said, ill at ease. ... “I have not had the honour, my lord”.

Your mother was my queen of beauty once”, the man said quietly. “You have her hair.” His fingers brushed against her cheek as he stroked one auburn lock. Quite abruptly, he turned and walked away.

What do we know of Sansa Stark ?

Sansa Stark starts out as a firm believer in romance and courtly love. Her attitude towards love is one of her defining characteristics, and even after all her torments, she does not seem ready to give up on this completely. She was always wild about the songs and stories, especially of bold but noble heroes and smitten maidens. She is a normal girl in this respect, especially for her age. There is little or no guile in the way she approaches love, not beyond the sort of girlish gossip you see her share with Jeyne Poole, Beth Cassel, and probably others.

Yes, Sansa is naive and maybe a bit shallow to start with, but remember how normal that is. She begins the story as a top-tier highborn girl, and for her whole life, she was the alpha female of Winterfell's young female cohort in this respect. She excelled at lady-like activities such as singing, dancing, needlework, playing the bells and high harp, as well as all the courtly manners that a noble lady or princess should be expected to have. (If being a noble young lady was an Olympic sport, she would be a gold medallist.) It's partly natural talent, but also reflects that she wants to be good at all these things so she is not lackadaisical about it. These are her ideals, and the things that put her at the top of that world, make her the noble princess, the central character of that of that imagined story.

As I said earlier, Sansa has no guile, perhaps not of an age to have it - and this applies to political guile, social guile, and even sexual guile. She is not worldly. She has the common pre-teen longings for cute boys and kissing, and all the other magic she thinks is out there waiting for her. And monsters? They of course always look and act like monsters. She is just waiting for some handsome hero who will be just as gracious and noble as she is, and will fight the monsters to rescue and love her. Aye, and bring her gifts of flowers and lemoncakes too.

It is a set of ideals that never really leave Sansa, even as horror after horror is visited upon her, and all her dreams take an unprecedented turn for the worse. It is her great weakness, spotted by her foes (especially those she does not yet recognize as foes) and either scorned, pitied, or exploited. Yet it may yet turn out to be be a strength, if it serves as a sort of higher moral ideal, a link to her kindness and compassion, her empathy. Eventually, she uses her experiences and gradually builds up the sort of social repertoire that is better able to handle intrigues and such, but this comes about as she is immersed in danger and sorrow.

Enter Petyr Baelish. He meets Sansa at the tourney, and the first thing he sees in her is the young Tully image of her mother. He had not seen Catelyn from the day he fought his duel with Brandon Stark to the day he met her in King's Landing. He probably always had the young maid image of Catelyn in his head, and though Catelyn no longer looked the part, Sansa did. The thing that was different now was him - no longer a foolish smitten boy, but a man - a Lord, sharpened by his experiences. No doubt he had watched Sansa for a time before approaching, and seen her in awe of the spectacle, cooing over the brave and handsome young knights like Loras, but like a Lord's daughter, steel enough to look upon Ser Hugh's dying without running away or retching. (And at the same time, Catelyn was no longer the same girl he once fell for.) You can imagine the Sansa fixation begin, where suddenly Catelyn was no longer the only possibility.

The young lady is as wise as she is lovely.”... Lord Baelish stroked his pointed little beard and said, “...tell me child, why would you have sent Ser Loras ?”

Sansa had no choice but to explain about heroes and monsters. The king's councillor smiled. “Well, those are not the reasons I'd have given, but...” He had touched her cheek, his thumb lightly tracing the line of a cheekbone. “Life is not a song, sweetling. You may learn that one day to your sorrow.”

Later he hears Sansa comment on Beric Dondarrion being sent by her father to slay The Mountain (the monster). Here too is the likely conception of Littlefinger's Sansa gambit, because he sees two things:

First there confirmation that she thinks in terms of romantic dreams - the handsome young hero versus the monster. Yet, life does not work that way, as he warns Sansa - he had made himself the handsome young hero once, and look how that turned out. It is advice, perhaps delivered with a tinge of resigned sadness on his part, yet at the same time a spark of opportunity.

Second, Sansa may have good political and social instincts despite her inexperience - Littlefinger would have chosen Loras as well, arriving at the same conclusion by a different process. Name Loras to go after the Mountain, and Eddard Stark could have pitted the Tyrells against the Lannisters, involved Renly's favourite in the danger, and kept an important Stormlands knight in King's Landing for the struggle to come. But Sansa's “heroes and monsters” explanation is not a bad one either - for this is how the smallfolk see it, how the court talk and gossip would frame it. Win or lose, the chattering classes see Ser Loras as the hero and Ser Gregor the monster - and Stark would have the consensus opinion on his side.

Now, for Littlefinger, he sees all that and thinks one word - “potential”. Sansa is as beautiful as her mother ever was, maybe more; she is as highborn as she one be without actually having royal blood; she has a sweet nature and romantic heart (maybe more than her mother ever did); with some political education she may have the charisma and instincts to be a game-player. Perhaps Littlefinger has found his new queen of love and beauty, and his queen piece for his game.


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[PART 2]


What often strikes people about Sansa on first impression is how much like a younger version of Catelyn she is. First there is her looks, which are mostly Tully looks. This may seem superficial, but what there is of her self-image has grown up with this image in mind. She is her mother's daughter, for the most part. The way her mother raised her, you can see Sansa was Catelyn's pride and joy, the perfect highborn lady. When Catelyn saw her, she saw herself young and untainted by life's treacheries and tragedies. Even Eddard Stark seemed to treat her as a southron lady in the making, not that he ever had to push it. We see little of how he parented her to confirm this, but it seems like he was content to let Catelyn take the reins, while her protected and sheltered her. Sansa herself grew up with the “first daughter, second mother” image in her head. Some can say this is a result of the traditional way she was being nurtured, but nature also plays a role - her natural inclination was to gravitate towards it. Her mother says she was a “lady” at three. Not literally of course, but what this means is she had an enthusiasm and a talent for ladylike activities that would have put her in the elite rank of courtly womanhood. Sansa would be a better lady than her own mother; her mother was her example and ideal of womanhood, the person she tried to emulate and even surpass. Like many girls, Sansa dreamt of being a princess and a queen, but unlike most others, she was developing into someone who could pull it off masterfully. Her mother was proud, her father was proud, her septa was proud, and every girl in Winterfell who mattered was always grateful and deferential to her (well, all but one).

The intensity of her attempts to be the perfect lady are deeply linked to her ideals of courtly love and romance. She throws herself into this outlook to the point where she is blind to danger and deceit, and she she cannot see some people for who they really are, because everything is expected to live up to standards that simply do not match reality. She is The Princess: the mortal incarnation of The Maid, and the protagonist of her own romantic story; incongruous facts were not allowed to intrude on that. As things fall apart for her, she clings to this narrative, far longer than is wise, and as a result makes herself more vulnerable. (But hey, she was 11, and relatively sheltered from the true nature of the world.)

Ultimately Sansa starts out, as one might expect, the product of both her mother and her father's influence, as well as her home life in general. Once the story kicks off, her real individuality begins as she's forced by events to grow up - her own heartbreaks, traumas, betrayals, fears, and all the rest are experiences that neither her mother nor father had. Where others may have had support and protection, she had none from the day Joffrey assumed the throne and Eddard was taken captive; what she faced, she basically faced alone. What kind of woman Sansa becomes as a result of that is a wild-card, an unknown future even to her. Struggle for agency? A nice euphemism for the fact everyone she met has tried to make her into something that serves their interests (Littlefinger included), while she tries to grind out some version of herself that is actually her own design.

In King's Landing, there are two sorts of people. The players and the pieces. ... Every man's a piece to start with, and every maid as well. ... Everyone wants something, Alayne. And when you know what a man wants, you know what he is, and how to move him.”

It cannot be be denied Littlefinger is a man who often knows how people think, what they want, and therefore how to make them into what he wants them to be. Sansa is another one of those he manipulates, but with her, he puts in a great deal of care and effort - the question is not whether she's important to him, the question is why.

What Petyr Baelish sees and knows of Sansa Stark seems is almost all external. He knows she is her mother's daughter, by her look and by her manners, and her ideals are romantic ones. Cooing over the pretty and gallant knights, thinking life should be like the songs and stories, and she's always such a good girl whose courtesy never fails. Young Petyr loved her mother, but she was as unattainable as she was noble. He sees Sansa as Catelyn the Second (Chance) - so much like her, but younger and more beautiful. Sansa is innocent, where Catelyn was a bit wicked; she is perhaps more pliable, where her mother was openly headstrong; she is kinder and sweeter, where her mother, for all her ladylike courtesy, could at times be cruel.

Here Lord Baelish is viewing things through a lens of his own nostalgia and regret. He is not entirely blind to this fact, but this time, it it he who is different - a lord, a cunning and powerful man, a smooth operator instead of a hopeless boy. Sansa is so beautiful and with his help she can be perfect - the gods have given him a second chance here, to rewrite history with himself as the winner. (And if that victory is also revenge against the houses of Tully, Arryn, and Stark, how much sweeter it will be!)

Of course, this is not as straightforward as all that, and Littlefinger knows it. It is a complex process. First, he has to know Sansa's way of thinking, her weaknesses. Second, he has to create opportunities to exploit that, and drive her towards him alone; he cannot be heavy-handed about it, but must make it seem comfortable, and natural for her, so in the end she willingly turns to choosing him. Third, he has to earn her trust and be seen as benevolent in his aims, but also diminish those influences on her which present mental and moral obstacles to his plans.

What snags are those ? Sansa's love for her family, her homesickness, her northern heritage, her empathy and kindness, her conscience and ingrained idealism, and her desire for true love - among other things. (How he deals with these will be explained later.)


I had a dream that Joffrey would be the one to take the white hart,” she said. It had been more of a wish, actually, but it sounded better to call it a dream. Everyone knew dreams were prophetic...

A dream? Truly? Did Prince Joffrey just go up to it and touch it with his bare hand and do it no harm?”

No,” Sansa said. “He shot it with a golden arrow and brought it back to me.”

Sansa is someone who loves the romantic songs and stories, imagining herself as the imperilled maiden and her romantic prospects as her rescuers - in her heart she longs to replay Serwyn and Daeryssa, Aemon and Naerys and of course Florian and Jonquil. In keeping with the general “be careful what you wish for” themes in ASOIAF, what Sansa does not realize is that a maiden being rescued first must be put in some horrible situation which she needs rescuing from. She certainly learns what it is like to be in mortal danger, or betrayed and brutally mistreated, threatened with rape or torture or death. Even after things in her life begin to fall apart, Sansa clings hard to the idea of being rescued (How not? She found it a struggle just to survive and not be broken by pain and fear, much less escape.).

The rescue fantasies seem to be central to her thought processes, throughout the story, though there is transference in her mind about who that (handsome, gallant) rescuer might be and gradual transmutation of her sense of what rescue looks like. Still, the theme remains - her ideas of love and desire are wedded to ideas of rescue. However, the process is not a clear one. Sometimes she passes over an actual rescuer who doesn't fit into her “handsome prince” archetype, while turning her heart towards some others simply because they represent the potential of rescue. As the story progresses, you can see the different potential rescuers whom she idealizes.

First is Joffrey. Sansa is betrothed to the handsome graceful golden prince, who at one point “rescues” her from being afraid of the Hound and Ser Ilyn (and Renly and Barristan). This is perhaps the most damaging one of all - his “rescue” turns into the Mycah / Lady incident. Even after that, she ignores those who point out his unworthiness and malicious nature, acts wilfully blind to the increasing conflict between the Starks and Lannisters, and does not snap out of it until he orders her father to be executed right in front of her. After that, when she hates and fears him, she sees his outer appearance in a different (uglier, more monstrous) light.

Second is probably Loras, and his appearance overlaps with Joffrey's. He is another “beautiful” true knight, and Sansa imagines him as a hero worthy of slaying a monster (Ser Gregor). She tends to ignore the fact that he's arrogant, reckless, and not above using ethically-questionable tricks to win. But that is early on. Later, when she has her brief chance at running of to Highgarden, she reawakens her idealized view of him, this time as a potential rescuer and suitor. This ignores the fact he is A) in the Kingsguard and sworn against marrying anyone, B ) gay and mourning for Renly, and C) happens to be an ally of the Lannister enemy and guarding the life of the evil monster Joffrey.

When Sansa's told it will not be dashing knight Loras the Tyrells want her to marry, but sheltered cripple Willas, she is disappointed, but quickly transfers her fantasies onto Willas (whom she has never met), dreams of marriage and flowers and having babies, and being loved by the whole Tyrell family. Really, these fantasies are likely flowing from the idea of rescue - she can escape Joffrey, the Lannisters, and her woeful life as a captive in King's Landing. Willas represents safety, but she idealizes her potential relationship with him. It does not occur to her until later that the Tyrells are not really rescuers, but rather are just another set of captors only interested in her claim to the North. Indeed, Willas might be a nice man and her life there could be good, but when the whole thing is quashed, she comes to understand they loved her claim, not her. They like her, they may even appreciate her confiding in them, but they were not about to break their alliance with the Lannisters to save her.

Of course, it is Ser Dontos Hollard who drives home the point about Sansa's claim. Yet, he is another one she idealizes - he is her Florian. She does not have romantic feelings for him, not truly, but she views him in exactly the way her frames himself for her: a knight seeking redemption for his own sins, a genuine rescuer who protects and cares for her, homely and foolish though he is. Sansa does not see the role he plays, in deflecting away other potential rescuers - primarily the Hound, and the Tyrells. Indeed, we do not find out how sincere his feelings for Sansa actually were - all we know of him is that he guided her to the position where he would be the one to rescue her from King's Landing. And all that is something he did at the behest of someone else: Littlefinger.

As all that is going on, we get two examples of Sansa passing over potential rescuers: The Hound and The Imp. The dynamics here are quite complex (and full of irony), but in both cases, their genuine efforts to protect her do not fit her preconceived notions of rescue and therefore do not lead to romance. They do not look like her ideal of what a rescuer should be; they are closer to her image of the monsters she would need rescuing from. (Still, the shell of her preconceptions begins to crack, the more she comes in contact with them.)

This is all just the setup for the man who wants to be her Greatest Rescuer Of All : Lord Petyr Baelish. He is a man who knows what people want, and how to move them. What he knows about Sansa is: She believes in the songs and stories of knightly valour; to win her heart, to be desired by her, you have to be her gallant rescuer. It is the basis of his game with her. He is constructing an ideal version of himself in her mind, to win her trust and convert her gratitude and need for safety into desire. After all, isn't the hero who slays the monster the one who gets the girl ?


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[PART 3]


If one sums up all of Petyr Baelish's misdeeds in ASOIAF, it would be clear that a great deal of the suffering and havoc going on in Westeros is basically his doing. Some of what he does is truly nefarious, yet he seems to escape every situation unscathed, never brought low for all his treachery or blamed for his crimes. There are some truly monstrous monsters out there, yet to name Littlefinger as one of the most dangerous of all sounds ludicrous. He is not seen as one who seems fearsome or fanatical, and seems to only enable those around him to get what they want. Though few seem to trust him, almost nobody considers him fearsome, but rather as just another ambitious and corrupt official, a man with low breeding but a high level talent for mundane things (witty banter at court, counting coppers, acting as an envoy, a source of information, etc.). Like Varys plays the simpering eunuch role, so too does Littlefinger play the role of the sleaze, the likely snitch, the purveyor of vice whose only goal seems to be wealth.

If they knew the full scale of what Littlefinger has done, and to whom, he'd be seen as the wickedest man in Westeros. Here is a man who is playing a far bigger game with far bigger goals than any suspect. He upholds the very system he ruthlessly undermines. He plays the perfect courtly lord as some sort of deep-seated satire. He is (like Sansa) a well-trained bird, repeating the courtly nonsense people want to hear; but check his sigil - he is the Mocking Bird, after all. Littlefinger's always such a genial fellow, witty but deferential, clever but not admired, self-serving but always manageably so. That is why he's the one who gets away with it, the ultimate Magnificent Bastard. To paraphrase a line from a film: He's been underestimated from day one, keeps himself small, and they never see him coming. Until it's too late.

Lord Baelish is basically the Devil figure of ASOIAF: the schemer and seducer, sensing the potential weaknesses in others, manipulating the honest and dishonest alike; the paragon of lies and treachery, laughing at how easy it all is; the nihilistic agent of chaos, dancing everyone sweetly to their doom. It can legitimately asked whether he is attempting to be the master of the system, or the one who destroys it in some immensely complex act of wrath. It may even be that he does not know himself.

Petyr Baelish is not truly a demon, just a man who rose up from comparative obscurity to play the game of thrones at the elite tier. There can be much to admire in about someone like him. It is a dangerous and unforgiving environment. He is no great soldier and no great scholar. He is also not part of one of the powerful noble houses, nor does he come from any place with particular strategic importance. He's no peasant, but still too low in society to be counted among the the honoured elite. Really, it is a world that seems to be designed for looking down on him and holding him back. He is a self-made man, rising up on merit - Littlefinger is a risk-taker by necessity, someone who has no great advantage to fall back on and, thus far, no great legacy to carefully protect. All of his position and wealth and influence he gained by himself, using his own cunning and ambition and tenacity. This is something admirable, and despite all the villainy, one can appreciate his struggle for power and respect (and perhaps more).

... Sometimes it seemed to her that the Lord Protector was two people as well. He was Petyr, her protector, warm and funny and gentle... but he was also Littlefinger, the Lord she'd known at King's Landing, smiling slyly and stroking his beard as he whispered in Queen Cersei's ear. And Littlefinger was no friend of hers. When Joff had her beaten, the Imp defended her, not Littlefinger. When the mob sought to rape her, the Hound carried her to safety, not Littlefinger. When the Lannisters wed her to Tyrion against her will, Ser Garlan the Gallant gave her comfort, not Littlefinger. Littlefinger never lifted so much as his little finger for her.

"Except to get me out. ... Littlefinger was only a mask he had to wear."

Only sometime Sansa found it hard to tell where the man ended and the mask began.

The above description is a well-known theme for quite a few characters in ASOIAF. In Peter Baelish's case, what we may be seeing is not two personas but three. Sansa knows the same two that other people have seen. Eventually with enough experience, she learns to tell the difference on the surface, and how each version of Petyr Baelish relates to her. Does she know the deeper one ? Does anybody ?

The first persona is Lord Baelish. He's charismatic, courteous and gracious, generous to friends but not easily cowed by foes. He is lordly - he commands respect and gets things done. He can deal with the highborn as befits his standing, and his favour can make or break lesser lords and knights. He is confident at court, but still mindful of his place with respect to others. Lord Baelish could be someone's liege lord, someone's envoy, someone's councillor, and even someone's father if he chose to be.

The second persona is Littlefinger. Littlefinger is charming too, but his is a sly and corrupted sort of cleverness. He's the more behind-the-scenes operator, the one who understands the needs of the crooked and impious, the one who takes pleasure from his wickedness. He's dishonourable, lecherous, callous, manipulative, and cruel. Littlefinger ruthlessly uses people and discards them, and pulls others down to further his rise. Littlefinger is the lowborn schemer, the craven deceiver and backstabber one who wants power and revenge, and will always be hungry for more.

The facade of Lord Baelish is well-maintained, but most of the real players at court understand Littlefinger is what lurks underneath. Both versions of him play the game, but Littlefinger is the one who plays rough and has never met a rule he didn't break. His deceitfulness is so pronounced, even the other players of the game can have little idea what he is up to. A few (such as Varys and Tyrion) have come to understand Littlefinger as a man who really has a long reach, playing all the angles in the game, looking for ways to get his hooks into people. They perhaps tell themselves that's really all it is - even as they struggle to guess his agenda.

Sansa has seen Littlefinger and Lord Baelish, and clearly prefers nice Lord Baelish to nasty Littlefinger. But she still tells herself that Littlefinger is the mask, and Lord Baelish the more true version of him. It is understandable, since Lord Baelish is someone who seems to have the qualities Sansa admires in terms of courtly decorum and outward benevolence. As well, his act of taking her out of the Lannister's clutches makes him seem a bit more gallant and heroic than she previously would have thought. Since her rescue, she finds herself indebted to him for her safety, and as we've seen before, she tends to think better of people who seem to keep her safe. If as readers we want to scream out “no, Sansa - beware, beware !” this is understandable; she is not fully aware of the things he has really done to her family (and to Westeros in general). Sansa clearly has her doubts too - things that are nagging at the back of her mind, worrying her about him and what he really wants.

However, this brings us the the third persona, the one that is deepest down and not shown openly to anyone: Petyr. Petyr is the boy that Baelish once was, the one who loved Catelyn Tully and fought for her hand, and he is almost the antithesis of Littlefinger.

They met in the lower bailey of Riverrun. Petyr had begged her for a favour he might wear, but she had turned him away. Her lord father had promised her to Brandon Stark, and so it was to him that she gave her token. As she pressed it into his hand, she pleaded with him, "He is only a foolish boy, but I have loved him like a brother. It would grieve me to see him die". And her betrothed looked at her with the cool grey eyes of a Stark and promised to spare the boy who loved her.

The fight was over almost as soon as it began. Brandon was a man grown, and he drove Littlefinger all the way across the bailey and down the water stair, raining steel on him with every step, until the boy was staggering and bleeding from a dozen wounds. "Yield" he called more than once, but Petyr would only shake his head, and fight on, grimly. When the river was finally lapping at their ankles, Brandon finally ended it, with a brutal backhand cut that bit through Petyr's rings and leather into the soft flesh below the ribs, so deep that Catelyn was certain the wound was mortal. He looked at her as he fell and murmured "Cat" as the bright blood came flowing out between mailed fingers.

Young Petyr is more like the protagonist in one of the songs and stories Sansa loves so much. Petyr is a slight lad, but brave and clever and perhaps handsome. He came from a relatively poor and obscure home to prove his worth among one of the greatest houses in the realm. Along the way he rescues the daughters of the house when they are lost in a treacherous fog. He receives his first kiss from Catelyn Tully, the beautiful first daughter of the noble lord, and falls in love with her. Later, when he learns she is to be married off to some beastly northern warrior, the lovestruck boy challenges the full-grown killer for the right to her hand. And even when he's hopelessly overmatched, he refuses to give up and fights on, willing to die rather than give up his chance to be with the girl he loves.

When you consider it this way, Petyr sounds like exactly the kind of boy that the girl Sansa would fall in love with - gallant, brave, idealistic, and willing to sacrifice everything for his true love. A tragic love story to be sure, but the hero is the kind of boy who is destined to be a true knight. After all, shouldn't the hero who fights the monster be worthy of the girl's love ?

... Petyr seems to be gradually taking over Littlefinger. I don't know if any of you remember but the last time I was around the boards regularly I expounded on how his two halves are so different they may as well be two unique people themselves. Littlefinger is the courtesan, Petyr is the young boy who was humiliated and failed in love.

So what happened to Petyr the Hero ? Reality happened, cold and cruel. Catelyn Tully became Catelyn Stark, and it did not even really matter to which Stark, because her feelings for Petyr never equalled his feelings for her. Petyr carried a torch for her, and though he clearly could have chosen to be with some other noble woman, he never did - settling down would have meant settling for less than what he truly wanted. After his duel, the realization that Catelyn would marry Eddard Stark was the coup-de-grace after his duel with Brandon Stark. It drove home the message that there was truly no hope - it wasn't just that he couldn't fight as well with a sword, it was the whole system he was up against, one which scorned everything about him. For the first time he may have seen that the Tullys, Arryns, and Starks - and all the rest - looked down on him, and always would. Talent and intelligence didn't matter, devotion and love didn't matter, honour and courage didn't really matter. He was only as worthy as his claim, and he was the heir of some rocks and sheep pellets at best, so they would never see him as worthy at all.

Petyr was a naive boy with no control over his situation and nothing to offer Catelyn except his heart. Petyr the good-hearted and loving boy died in that duel, and was reborn as Littlefinger and Lord Baelish, rising up harder and stronger. Lord Baelish is all about power and Littlefinger is all about control, so this time the situation will bend to his will. This time, with Sansa, it will be very different. Yet, it is his persona as Petyr the Hero that may be the key to his interactions with Sansa after all. The question is whether some part of Petyr is left in him, or if he is so far gone into being Littlefinger and Lord Baelish that he can never turn back.


Sansa felt sick. ... “You told me that life was not a song. That I would learn one day to my sorrow.” She felt tears in her eyes... “Is it all lies, forever and ever, everyone and everything ?”

Almost everyone. Save you and I, of course.” He smiled.

As stated before, Petyr Baelish has become fixated on Sansa Stark, as not just the key to his ambitions for greater power, but clearly something more personal as well. She is not merely a hostage, a bargaining chip to be bet against higher and higher stakes. Nothing Petyr Baelish does it without a long-term purpose, even when he is forced to adapt to unexpected turns of events. It's clear enough the Littlefinger wants Sansa for himself. It is most telling when brings out some curiously risky behaviour in him.

Catelyn II” is the template, but as stated above, this is a very complex process. His main method here is subtlety and control of the situation Sansa finds herself in. Gradual isolation, then conversion and seduction - mental and moral first, and then emotional and sexual. To reiterate the point: He has to know Sansa's way of thinking, her weaknesses; He has to create opportunities to exploit that and drive her towards him alone - but in a way that seems comfortable and natural for her, so she willingly turns to choosing him; He has to earn her trust, but also diminish those influences on her which present mental and moral obstacles to his plans.

Of the obstacles and complications he has to deal with, the first is quite literally the presence of her family and friends at all. As early as AGOT, Littlefinger's actions achieve (among other things) the isolation of Sansa by getting rid of her father, her sister, her best friend, and her household. How much of this was his intention versus how much was Cersei and Joffrey is debatable, but he contributed to it and profited from it. Despite Sansa being a captive to a regime that is primarily Lannisters and then also Tyrells, he still manages to manipulate events to further isolate Sansa. But her clear enemies aside, his main effort is cutting her off from is anyone she can trust or confide in. She must trust only Littlefinger or those who are his agents (such as Dontos).

The second obstacle is her own memory of home and identity as a Stark. The Catelyn comparison is the more obvious part of Sansa, yet even there, Catelyn did not really seem to feel the same way Sansa feels about certain things. We don't really see what sort of young maid Catelyn was, but none of Catelyn's POVs give the impression her attitude towards love involved plunging heedlessly into romantic fantasies - especially not concerning young Petyr. (Ironically, young Petyr would perhaps have been more Sansa's type than her mother's.)

However, where Petyr's ship really hits an iceberg is with that part of Sansa which comes from her father, her Stark heritage, and Winterfell. Eddard Stark has been the main male influence in her life, and even dead he also represents things that Littlefinger has nothing to do with: honour, martial prowess, warrior's courage, and northern fatalism with regard to death. Plus there is that ability to be utterly stoic in the face of trauma, perhaps something Catelyn lacked, but which Sansa has used throughout her captivity to survive without mentally breaking down. She is less apt to become pliable or timid due to her grief. There is even a trace of her father's fierce idealism which comes out when confronted by the evil of people like Joffrey or the rough intimidation of the Hound.

Sansa starts the story as a girl who consciously chooses to be not very northern and does not really value it, but that seems to change as things go on. Seeing her father die, she finally understood that he was protecting her, not just thwarting her dreams by being cold and restrictive. It's a wake up call too, regarding Robb, Bran, Rickon, and Arya. (Maybe even Jon?) She is a Stark, and those ties of love and trust are felt most keenly after they are all gone. Plus she misses Winterfell, the home where she was happy and safe, and an honourable and dominant Lady (rather than a plaything for others to use and torment).

In part Sansa's newfound awareness of her Stark heritage helps Littlefinger's chances (so long as he can manipulate the way she thinks about it), because the seeming annihilation of her family drives home the idea that Starks are hunted and hated, and she truly has nobody to trust - except him. Still, to a larger degree it hurts his chances, because those parts of her which still have misgivings about him are probably the Stark parts, the echoes of values and traditions that counteract the sort of things Littlefinger believes in. Better for him if he takes most of her Stark background and downplays or negates it, especially the role of her father.

The third complication is Sansa's innate kindness and empathy, her conscience and idealism. Sansa is a highborn girl, but not all highborn girls are as compassionate as she is. Part of this is bound up with her belief in songs and stories, of true knights and virtuous maids. That part is subject to manipulation, and Littlefinger uses it to his advantage. Yet, deeper down, she is not someone naturally given to vicious acts or ruthless behaviour. Even towards her enemies, she often finds herself lending a helping hand and comforting them for no other reason than it is her nature to do so. Why give aid to Lancel when he is wounded? Why cry out to save Dontos ? Why say anything gentle to the Hound or Tyrion, ever ? This does not apply to everyone, though; she does hate a few people and wish them ill, though her actually saying so is exceedingly rare. Still, you get the feeling she hates hating people at all. Her world is light, and she has no wish to delve into the darkness.

For Littlefinger, this is a problem. Sansa has to unlearn all this, because (at minimum) politically it is a weakness. Baelish knows better than most people how hesitating to be ruthless got Eddard Stark killed, and he was a northern lord and warrior. Sansa's conscience prevents her from willingly deceiving and manipulating people, and her compassion wards her off committing ruthless and bloody acts. To make Sansa into someone who can successfully play the game of thrones, or at least tolerate being with someone who does, Littlefinger has to carefully demolish all her ingrained hesitancy and revulsion at these things. Sansa Stark is losing her naivete, and has had to lie her ass off just to stay alive, but to be a fit companion for Lord Baelish would require more than this. It requires a complete moral restructuring, and she has to be re-educated until she sees her previous beliefs and attitudes as a liability, as something childish needing to be discarded. Pawns feel bad about the consequences of their ruthlessness; players do not.

The fourth set of complications stems from the unique life experiences Sansa has had. Family all murdered, captivity by the Lannisters, the attentions of the Hound, of Dontos, of Littlefinger, etc. ... that is Sansa's story. Her nature starts as Catelyn + Eddard, but everything thereafter is Sansa's own, the product of her experiences. Lord Baelish is a big part of this story, and master manipulator that he is, he thinks he gets to be its author. But this is the part that is most unpredictable, because lurking outside the boundaries of Littlefinger's controlled environment, are things that Sansa has learned despite his best efforts to redact them, and things which Sansa felt which he had no part of. Just the same, the long-term brainwashing effort continues, with Littlefinger trying to adapt in ways that still bend things to his will.

Tyrion reclined on an elbow while Sansa sat staring at her hands. ... Grief had given her a haunted, vulnerable look; if anything, it had only made her more beautiful. He wanted to reach her, to break through the armour of her courtesy. ... Gently he spoke of Braavos, and met a wall of sullen courtesy as icy and unyielding as the Wall he had once walked in the North.

Sansa is not the trusting girl she started out the story as; the open and naive Sansa is gone. For very understandable reasons, she is now closed-mouthed and distrustful (to the point of paranoia). Survival has demanded that she never speak her mind openly, always present a false front, always treat people she interacts with as a potential source of danger. In other words, it is now very hard to get past her defences. Littlefinger understands this (after all, he helped cause it), and this means a long-term strategy is needed to break through her defences. He acts gradually and carefully, using circumstances to piece by piece change her opinion about what he is, her estimation of herself, and therefore what her relationship to him could be.


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[PART 4]


There was a time when Cat was all I wanted in this world. I dared to dream of the life we would make and the children she would give me... Family, Duty, Honour meant I could never have her hand. ...In a better world, you might have been mine, not Eddard Stark's. My loyal, loving daughter... You are safe now, that's all that matters. You are safe with me and sailing home.

As stated before, Littlefinger has made careful note of Sansa's tendency to desire rescue, and think in ideal terms about those who seem to rescue her. What is notable is how those who she has seen as her rescuers all turn out to be to be from the other side in the war, and aligned with her captivity: Joffrey, the Hound, Loras, Willas, Tyrion, Dontos ... and Lord Baelish. Since the War of Five Kings began, Baelish has been identified with the enemy side. He set up then betrayed her father (not that Sansa knows this). He was among those councillors who questioned her when the coup took place, and the one who made off with Jeyne Poole for “training”. He brokered the Lannister-Tyrell alliance as well. So, how can Sansa trust him, knowing whom he has publicly served?

What Littlefinger has done is to help create the conditions of her captivity, and also disposed of those she trusts, leaving her isolated. He has made sure to sideline or get rid of rival rescuers as well. One, Dontos, was always his catspaw, but he gets rid of him in the end too. Regardless of how sincere those potential rescuers may have been, Littlefinger manages to convince Sansa they were a threat (though with some, no effort was needed).

Publicly, Littlefinger was her enemy; privately, Lord Baelish killed the monster and rescued her from all those who wanted to steal her claim or rape or kill her (or perhaps in terms of his two faces, it was vice-versa). Sansa can identify with that behaviour personally, having learned the value - the necessity - of disguising one's intentions when in a hostile environment.

His grey-green eyes regarded her innocently. “Did you think we were making for Winterfell, sweetling? Winterfell has been taken, burned and sacked. All those you knew and loved are dead. ... Winterfell was the home of your childhood, Sansa, but you are no longer a child. You're a woman grown, and you need to make your own home.”

When she reaches the Vale, she is in indirect peril because her being there must be a secret, and soon enough she's put in direct peril again: Marillion wants to rape her; Aunt Lysa wants to force her to marry Sweetrobin; Lysa's jealousy towards Sansa (or rather towards Catelyn's daughter) prompts her to nearly murder Sansa. She does not feel like she is in a safe place; she is hiding who she is now, inside and out.

Clearly, Sansa has to feel safe and protected to open up to Lord Baelish, feel gratitude towards him, and trust him. As well, I think Littlefinger hopes she will see him in the same gallant light as the Knight of Flowers and other stereotypical rescuers. From that, if all goes well for him, this should create thoughts of desire, and a willingness to be with him. Can she love him in the end ? He rescued her, and nobody else.

Petyr picked up his quill again. "We shall serve him lies and Arbor Gold, and he'll drink them down and ask for more, I promise you."

"He is serving me lies as well," Sansa realized. They were comforting lies though, and kindly meant. ... If only she believed them. The things her aunt had said just before she fell had troubled Sansa greatly. "Ravings," Petyr called them. "My wife was mad, you saw that for yourself." And so she had.

All I did was build a snow castle and she meant to push me out the moon door. Petyr saved me. He loved my mother well, and ... And her ? How could she doubt it. He had saved her.

As well, as all the above, there is a more sinister subtext that she is still not safe, that her safety can evaporate in a moment. Sansa is one of the most hunted people in Westeros. The Young Wolf is dead, along with the rest of her family, and his brief kingdom being fought over between those who drown you, those who backstab and flay you, and those who burn you alive. There is the subtext of owing Lord Baelish her life. There's also some guilt over the fact Sweetrobin's mother is dead, and there is no family to take care of her helpless and hopeless cousin. Like with her, Sweetrobin's loyal lords want possession of him for his claim. This is a lot of psychological pressure to put of some young maiden. Much of it tells her to give up on her ideals, to pick the lesser evils.

In other words, her time in the Vale seems to be turning out as another sort of trap. Lord Baelish is her saviour, in a lot of ways that matter to her, but in other ways he is still her captor – she is still under someone else's power, though this time it is more subtle. The question becomes whether Sansa's clear misgivings over all this will win out, or whether in the end she will finally sideline her mistrust and view Baelish as a genuine rescuer who has brought her to a new home, and bend her feelings towards him accordingly.


Lord Littlefinger kissed her cheek. “With my wits and Cat's beauty, the world will be yours, sweetling.”

Petyr Baelish certainly sees the daughter of Catelyn Tully in Sansa, and as stated earlier, and is clearly attracted to her (well, who isn't ?). Many seem to regard Sansa as just a pretty face with a claim, but with Petyr it goes beyond this - there is the personal dimension for him that does not exist in her interaction with her other suitors and foes. Lord Baelish could have easily found some other pretty noblewoman by now, but he is not the sort to “settle” for anything less than his heart's desire. Petyr wants the girl he loved, the chance he lost, the dream of a beautiful loving woman. Lord Baelish wants the best possible claim, the loyal and graceful wife who's bloodlines can help him build a new great house that will endure beyond his own lifespan. Littlefinger wants the willing accomplice and game-winning trump card, to bring him the final victory against his so-called betters, when he finally beats them all at their own game. This is what he sees in Sansa, the potential she has that nobody else possesses.

Sansa is not someone who is likely to jump into this role on her own. Her yearning to be a good girl and her mother's daughter works in Littlefinger's favour. Her being her father's daughter does not. Underneath their brief interactions in King's Landing there was a good deal of mutual contempt between Lord Stark and Lord Baelish. However, for Sansa, Lord Stark was a good father and though she went against him in the matter of Joffrey, she still loved him. She is a Stark of Winterfell, and as long as she identifies with that heritage, it remains a problem for Littlefinger.

It is Winterfell, is it not?”

It is,” Sansa admitted.

I used to dream of it, in those years after Cat went north with Eddard Stark. In my dreams, it was ever a dark place, and cold.”

No. It was always warm, even when it snowed. ...”

Littlefinger cannot openly show his contempt for Eddard Stark, but from the beginnings of their interaction, he seems to emphasize Sansa's being like her mother and undermine everything to do with her father. He fills Sansa's head with the idea that he loved her mother, because she identifies with that sort of love and loneliness. If Lord Baelish once loved her mother, that has to mean he's got some good in him, or at least sympathizes enough with her to keep her safe from harm.

At the same time, Littlefinger emphasizes how important it is to be a player in the game. He praises her father as brave (to play into Sansa's sense of family and pride), but also hopeless and foolish at “the game” (playing up Sansa's fear of her situation and own need to lie in order to survive).

Littlefinger will of course never state that her father basically lost the game and his life in part because Littlefinger betrayed him - the knife, the gold cloaks, the trigger for the war itself. Sansa's father is dead, and as one might expect, she needs a new protective figure in her life - a father figure. Lord Baelish can play that role, gradually earning Sansa's trust and replacing Eddard Stark in her mind. He does not totally negate it either – if the plan to join her with Harry The Heir is to be believed, he will be the one to bring her back to her Stark heritage (on his terms of course), and she will no doubt be grateful.

I am not your daughter,” she thought. “I am Lord Eddard Stark's and Lady Catelyn's, the blood of Winterfell.” She did not say it, though. If not for Petyr Baelish, it would have been Sansa who went spinning through a cold blue sky to stony death below, instead of Lisa Arryn. “He is so bold.” Sansa wished she had his courage.

Sansa does not give her affections to those she does not trust anymore; that was a hard lesson she learned thanks to Joffrey and the other Lannisters. She may still give her heart to those who protect her, who represent safety. If Baelish can make her feel safe in his care, if he can build up an idea that he has that protective father-figure quality about him, then perhaps Baelish can turn her affections towards him as a potential mate. Creepy as the process is, first he must act the role of adoptive father, until she sees what a noble and good husband he would make for any woman, and then she sees herself accepting the role of his wife or paramour.

Within this context we see his comments about Sansa being the daughter he should have had, along with his praise of her mother, and even his praise of her beauty and her growing political and social abilities. Much of it is genuine praise, especially true if Baelish has fallen for her. One interesting part of this is that Lord Baelish can actually behave in quite a fatherly way when he wants to, even boosting Sansa's self-esteem when it suits him. Sansa is the maid incarnate, but being flowered and having to take care of Sweetrobin is bringing her gradually towards the role of the Mother. She always wanted these things, so despite the unwilling way it was all dumped on her, some part of her may be willing to accept it later.

You have your mother's eyes. Honest eyes, and innocent. Blue as a sunlit sea. When you are a little older, many a man will drown in those eyes.”

Sansa did not know what to say to that.

As readers we see more of the sexual subtext going on, and we may hope Sansa can detect it too, but must remember her perspective is more limited. Littlefinger has made advances towards her, even while he tells her to be careful and always play her role, he seems to relish skirting the edge of disaster. The whole incident with kissing Sansa in the snow of was dangerous for him because Lysa found out, and her rage made her act and speak unpredictably (unless Littlefinger predicted this, and meant to be seen in order to set Lysa off, as yet another scheme). However, this incident and a couple of others made Sansa wary of Littlefinger's advances too. He is not as threatening to her as others have been, but he's still a full-grown man. It has dawned on her maybe it's not just the memory of her mother motivating him, and she is well aware of what it means to be flowered - a sexual and marriage prospect. If others see her that way, it stands to reason Baelish might too. As well, we must not forget the problem of age - Baelish is close to her mother and father's age, not hers. Though such pairings are common in Westerosi society, Sansa does not seem naturally inclined towards older men.

Some think Sansa will be gradually gaining more agency as she matures, but for those that wonder why she is not more forceful in her rejections of LF's advances, or why she goes along with his schemes instead of bolting from his company at the first opportunity, consider this: Baelish rescued her. Maybe he does not equate to the dashing young man of her dreams, but yes, she is grateful to him for plucking her out of danger (more than once).

However, I don't think she's happy to be implicated in poisoning and regicide, nor truly happy being tucked away in the Vale playing the role of Baelish's natural daughter. Sansa is just looking for some form of safety, and plays the role LF devises for her because it keeps her safe. Call it a combination of gratitude and fear. She may not want him, but at the moment she needs him. She even accepts the role he creates for her – Alayne Stone – the role of a bastard daughter, which her previous self would have found demeaning.

Baelish is not seen as just a friend or a brother (as he was with Catelyn). The "daughter" thing is fake and neither feels that way seriously. He's not stunted like Tyrion, nor scarred like the Hound, and is at least moderately attractive, not to mention well-versed in the social graces. Why not see him with romantic eyes then ? (Well, if his grand plan succeeds, eventually she would.)

Sansa ... grabbed a handful of snow and flung it full in his face. Petyr yelped as the snow slid under his collar. “That was unchivalrously done, my lady.”

As was bringing me here, when you swore to take me home.” She wondered where this courage had come from, to speak with him so frankly. “From Winterfell,” she thought. “I am stronger within the walls of Winterfell.”

Yes, I played you false in that ... and in one other thing as well.”

Sansa has idealized her potential rescuers / suitors in the past, to the point of having romantic notions about them, but seems to not do this in Baelish's case. With him, she remains cautious and cool, even though his advances have been relatively gentle. The first time they had a real kiss, she did not recoil in horror, but neither did she return the affection, and since then she has been careful to return his affection in platonic ways. It's awkward for her to play the role of his daughter with this going on, but she also uses that role as a shield, to deflect his advances. This caution of hers is something Littlefinger is aware of and trying to change, but might potentially unravel his carefully woven plans. There is a reluctance there that is more than just her considering he's a generation older than she is.

Sansa knows her rescuer is no Florian, and that he can be as ruthless as he is deceitful. The things she has seen and learned about Littlefinger do not all match her kind nature, nor her Stark sense of honour. He was on the Lannister side and as the war began, he was clearly one of Cersei's underlings. Yes, he killed Joffrey and pulled her out of King's Landing, but not before he'd extracted something from the Lannisters and kept his own hands clean. He killed Dontos just to silence him, and was happy enough to see the Imp framed for it. He married her crazy aunt, but revealed it was his always her mother he loved, then dropped her aunt off a mountain. Part of her likes him and admires his unusual sort of courage, but another part of her may be aware she is not truly safe with him. Sansa's experiences teach her that everyone wants something from her (indeed, Littlefinger himself wants her to understand this), yet this fact can lead her to the conclusion that his kindness and protection might not be given away for free.

To end up being what he wants (a willing wife, ultimately) or wanting what he is planning constitutes a moral struggle. Sexual innocence is not the only sort of innocence at stake here. Lady Sansa Baelish would not be the kind of person Sansa Stark is. Otherwise, why not see herself as the future Lady Baelish ? Her moral innocence may be unwanted baggage in politics, and her chaste reluctance to fall into Lord Baelish's arms may be frustrating, but in an odd way, I think these things make Littlefinger desire her all the more.

You shouldn't kiss me. I might have been your own daughter...”

Might have been,” he admitted with a rueful smile. “But you're not, are you? You are Eddard Stark's daughter, and Cat's.”

For now, Sansa would rather be the innocent maid in the snow. She accepts her new burdens with her usual grace, and may have put aside her romantic fantasies for something more pragmatic (at least as concerns herself), and yet that too is something more associated with Alayne Stone. Deep down, Winterfell still calls to her. Deep down, something about Littlefinger's advances disturb her. Her growing awareness of what Littlefinger has done or caused may spark something of a change with regard to her views on staying with Lord Baelish or following his schemes.


Sweetling, be a good girl and bring Lord Robert to the High Hall to receive his guests.”

Yes, father.” He voice sounded thin and strained. “A liar's voice,” she thought... “A guilty voice.”

Littlefinger is a consummate schemer, someone who has mastered the game of thrones better than his more highborn peers, becoming one of the most powerful men in Westeros. Part of his game is inviting the other players into it - on his terms of course, ready for manipulation. Sansa is not immune to his manipulation, and she would normally be another one of his pawns, but he has seen something in her that makes her a potential major player - a more permanent companion and accomplice of his if he sets things up just right. He is shaping Sansa into a game player, because she has the breeding and natural social ability for it, and also because he sees an asset he can join his own fortunes to. What she lacks is the political know-how, the way of using information like a weapon, of turning people's desires and expectations into their fatal weaknesses. “Asset” has a meaning when it comes to espionage, and what is his game if not that ? Sansa has learned quite a bit without him, but going back to events even before the death of King Robert and the fall of Eddard Stark, he seemed to be one of those telling her how to play the game. His motivations seem to be a mixture of desire, spite, hubris, and maybe even a touch of nostalgia for lost innocence (his own and hers). Littlefinger's education of Sansa Stark is not without selfish reasons, clearly.

It would normally be Sansa's father (as a lord) and mother (as a highborn woman) who would teach her these things (along with a septa and a maester as hired tutors). They succeeded in as much as Sansa was on track to be an outstanding highborn lady, plus Sansa wanted to be a courtly lady and very much in that social game. Where they perhaps failed was in preparing her for the darker aspects of life, for what she had to watch out for as a young lady with a claim, and how to detect and deal with foes.

In fairness, they had likely expected to have more time to gradually ease her into it. At eleven years old, with her unexpectedly betrothed to the crown prince, it may even have seemed that she would not need to learn about struggle and deceit because the ultimate objective was met. What parent could hope for more than seeing their lovely daughter become a queen? For Sansa, with her love of songs and stories, her highborn pride and ambition, this also must have seemed the ultimate triumph - she'd be not just the alpha female of Winterfell, but all of Westeros.

Well, Sansa was not ready for the living hell that followed. Sansa's education up to that point was abruptly cut off (along with her father's head). Her innocence and naivete and dreams of love had pulled her right into a deadly trap. Everything she dreamed of turned to poison, everyone she loved died (as far as she knew), and those that did not turned out to be untrustworthy or outright enemies. Perhaps the Stark family was not a good place to learn about how to deal with deceit and treachery, since they were not practitioners of it, and tended to scorn anything dishonourable. Starks were ruthless in battle, but they were as much mocked as praised for their sense of honour. Littlefinger would be foremost among those who mocked it.

Lord Baelish is therefore an unlikely teacher for Sansa, but under the circumstances she was in, she learned the value of lying and projecting a false front, and not exclusively from him. Lord Baelish actually presents a benevolent face when he is teaching her. Sansa has had many people call her stupid or childish, but Baelish actually seems to consider her a bright and capable girl, and treats her like an adult - praising her intelligence and intuition, and boosting her self-esteem. Some part of her probably likes this, and appreciates his interest in her improvement. It has been a long time since she could act like the dutiful daughter of a lord, or could have pride in being a social player - she finally gets to act like something other than a tormented and terrified hostage. It is a renewed sense of agency, or at least the illusion of it.

Do you understand what happened here, Alayne?”

Sansa hesitated. “You gave Lord Nestor the gates of the Moon to be certain of his support.”

I did,” Petyr admitted. “... our rock is a Royce... but the lies I served him were sweeter than the truth ... Men of honour will do things for their children that they would never consider doing for themselves. ... it was clever of you to see it. Though no more than I'd expect from mine own daughter.”

Thank you.” She felt absurdly proud for puzzling it out, but confused as well. “I'm not though. Your daughter. Not truly. ...”

The phrase about a parent compromising their honour for the sake of their children brings up strange parallels here between Sansa's parents and Lord Nestor Royce, and then Nestor Royce and Sansa. Eddard Stark (though Sansa may not know this) did something which outwardly was dishonourable (his false confession to treason) for the sake of his child Sansa. Catelyn let loose the Kingslayer to save Sansa as well, destroying her own honour in the process. Her parents were aware of it when they acted though, and it was meant to be protective not comforting. Yet the message is there: children can be used against an honourable person, to break their honour and resolve. Sansa does not know that her parents did this for her - honour and loyalty defined them. Were she to understand they sacrificed even that to save her, Littlefinger's subtle lessons about how honour and love of family are potential weaknesses would be seen in a very different light. What conclusion that would lead her to is anyone's guess.

The second portion of the passage shows Sansa may be doing the much same. Lord Baelish making her into Alayne, giving her things to do around his household, and his stated plans to eventually let Sansa Stark re-emerge, are all things that allow Sansa to buy into his game playing. It is not just the obvious self-interest to tempt her into Littlefinger's game, but the fact it allows her to ease herself into the delusion of having agency. This freedom to act is likely illusory, and to some degree she knows it is fiction. She would rather see herself as a major chess piece than be an inert poker chip. As a result, she is more motivated to go along with Littlefinger and his training in the game. She needs to feel better about herself, and if Littlefinger can do that for her, she is drawn closer to him emotionally.

I'm not though. Your daughter. Not truly. I mean, I pretend to be Alayne, but you know...”

Littlefinger put a finger to her lips. “I know what I know, and so do you. Some things are best left unsaid, sweetling. ... Do you want more blood on your pretty little hands, my darling?”

Marillion's face seemed to float before her... behind him,she could see Ser Dontos. ... “No,” Sansa said. “Please.”

I am tempted to say this is no game we play, daughter, but of course it is. The game of thrones.”

I never asked to play.” The game was too dangerous. “One slip and I am dead.”

Of course, Sansa is still trying above all to survive. Leaning the intrigue game from Littlefinger helps her deal with deadly dangers. In King's Landing she was unskilled, improvising on her raw talent alone to get through each situation (and even there, she needed a few lucky interventions from unlikely people). Even in the Vale, the protection of Lord Baelish is precarious. This is partly the shared risk to both of them if Sansa is discovered. Littlefinger is cunning in that just like with Nestor Royce, he makes sure Sansa's fortunes rise or fall with his. And it is also a part of his strategy of personal dependency, with hints that she knows what she knows (and can use), and of bloodshed to follow if she does not follow his plans completely. The lives of other people hang in the balance; those who might be benevolent like Dontos, or malevolent like Marillion, or grey-area people like Tyrion - their blood is on her hands. (And this does not even include her family's blood; the guilt over that might be overwhelming if she fully understood how much they paid in blood for her safety.)

The metaphor of “falling” is unmistakable here, used in a few different ways. One slip and she is dead? That applies to the game, just as it applies to Alayne's journey down from the Eyrie. Going forward is the only way to be safe; to stray from that narrow and fearful path means death. She cannot be a Stark or Tully for that; the howling wolf-winds of honour and openness would smash her to pieces on the rocks. She must be Alayne Stone, a persona born of her precarious situation. Of course there is also another sort of “falling” at stake: morally, as in a fall from grace.

I think there definitely is a potential for corruption in Sansa’s storyline... Sansa is currently living with LF, one of the most morally depraved men in Westeros. She knows that she can’t trust him, yet she knows that she can’t trust anyone else. She is smart enough to realize that her best option is staying with LF, even though LF never “lifted his little finger” to help her. (I also suspect that LF, master of manipulation that he is, managed to make Sansa feel unconsciously guilty for Lysa’s death; and give her the impression that he “did it for her” so that she is indebted to him, basically culpable for Lysa’s death, and responsible for making LF a murderer. Like many abusers, LF uses the subtle chains of dependency, guilt, and brainwashing.) ... While staying in such close proximity to LF, and being utterly dependent upon him, it is possible that Sansa could opt to do something against her moral code. It is hypothetically possible that, seeing where kindness has gotten her, she might give some consideration to LF's moral code in her own life.

The potential for Sansa to have a moral “fall from grace” goes hand-in-hand with her being taught the game by Littlefinger, or by anyone else. The tools of the trade are deception, manipulation, and both subtle and overt kinds of coercion. It requires a distrustful outlook and callousness instead of compassion. The kind of person she may become by mastering the game may not be a good person at all. The Sansa thread is called “From Pawn To Player”, but consideration must be given to what it really means to be a player: someone who plays with other people's lives, making them into pawns, treating friends like foes and foes like friends. As I said previously, there is an element of moral struggle, of requiring a complete moral restructuring that means abandoning her personal idealism and whatever sense of ethics and honour has underpinned her life thus far. Part of her “education” - whether coming from Baelish or not - includes the idea that having a conscience is really an impediment.

Sansa Stark being taught how to unmake other people through intrigue is experiencing a loss of innocence. Even part of Sansa wants to weep at the thought of helping spin a web of lies for others to be trapped in, even when it is to her benefit. Would her late father and mother be proud of her growing abilities to match wits with the likes of Olenna Tyrell or Roose Bolton, or would they be ashamed of what that makes her ? Will she exult in her newfound power and cunning, or mourn at being made into Lady Baelish as she was once made into a Lannister ?

Each person reading about Sansa therefore partakes of her moral struggle, and comes away with different hopes expectations. Does she have it in her to be a treacherous liar, a “game player” ? Even if she can, should she ? It is natural for readers to want to see her give Littlefinger his comeuppance, to be master of her own circumstances, to be able to take the weapons of the game and wield them well. Yet, is that really something for her to aspire to? If that took place, some may want to mourn, for it would mean the conversion of the sweet and almost angelic Sansa into something darker, someone fallen. Then perhaps Lady would truly be dead and gone.

However (crackpot theory time) ... It could even be we are kidding ourselves about Sansa Stark. Maybe her natural talent for the game always had a dark side. Maybe she is more of a little bird than a wolf. Maybe she was always more of a liar than her kin, and she is destined be someone who fails in these moral struggles, either choosing to trust the wrong people or ending up on the wrong side. It wouldn't be the first time in ASOIAF we readers see our hopes dashed. Even going back to her first POV chapter in AGOT, we see Sansa get pulled into telling destructive lies - lies that she tells others, and lies she even tells herself. Sansa Stark was raised to be valiant, she was raised to be noble, she was raised to be honourable. And Sansa lied.


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[PART 5]


Can you do that? Can you be my daughter in your heart?”

I do not know, my lord“ she almost said, but that was not what he wanted to hear. “Lies and Arbor Gold,” she thought. “I am Alayne, Father. Who else would I be?”

Combine the three strategies of tension above, and one thing it leads to is the creation of a false persona for Sansa to inhabit. Or put another way, a persona comprised of falseness itself - someone who is more able to be an associate of Lord Baelish and aligned with his scheming nature. Alayne Stone is a fiction, but without a doubt Littlefinger's daughter, in the sense that Alayne is Littlefinger's creation. Alayne can be used as a vehicle to erode away Sansa's Stark identity, and thus negate her misgivings about him.

For Sansa, being Alayne is a “safe” choice. She cannot be Sansa right now, because Sansa Stark is the last of her house and the most hunted woman in Westeros. Of course, having scorned bastards in the past (especially Jon Snow) it dismayed her at first to be thought of that way, but practicality quickly won out.

Alayne can be just as important in terms of her internal identity-negation. Within Sansa's own mind, it would cause too much moral conflict to self-identify as a Stark and yet be an accomplice to what Littlefinger is doing. Alayne can do the things Sansa Stark cannot, and by being Alayne, Sansa is also giving herself moral permission to be act cunning and unscrupulous. Littlefinger created the cover story, the role of Alayne. Sansa was the one who had to create her personality. So what kind of person is Alayne Stone?

Alayne can be a “bastard brave”. It's strange to think it, considering she is a Stark of Winterfell, one would expect her to have some true steel underneath her highborn courtesy. But Sansa uses the bastardy element to help her deal with some fearful situations. Plus one gets the feeling she also thinks of Alayne as more of an adult than Sansa herself. Alayne is still virginal, but might be bit more bawdy given some prompting by people like Myranda Royce.

Being Alayne may also enable Sansa to put away her own depression and longing for love. Sansa Stark loved songs and stories, and dreamed of marrying someone important, but for love. By being Alayne, she can cope with having diminished prospects.

Sansa is clever in also using “Alayne” to try and ward off Littlefinger's advances. She is affectionate with him, but he is doing all the initiating. Twice he has kissed her on the lips, but her own kisses are platonic in nature, and he cannot really expect too much considering he has asked her to act as Alayne all the time. Yet both know it is all an act, so ultimately this deflection tactic of hers is of limited use.

Alayne also uses the persona to deal with the difficult issue of Sweetrobin, and can be a surrogate mother for him after Lysa died. Sansa might be a cousin to Sweetrobin, but despite his mental issues and her frustrations and misgivings about the child, she is able to play the role of caretaker for him. Perhaps it's a mental practice-run for Sansa's own dreams of having a child. At the same time though, Alayne might be capable of letting Sweetrobin die. Indeed, she even tries to overcome the maester's objections to using things like sweetsleep. Lord Baelish makes it seem natural and inevitable that Sweetrobin will not live long, though I imagine Alayne may suspect it is being arranged. If she was Sansa, she would not only be more upset, but as a daughter of Catelyn Tully, more obliged to actually do something to protect him.

She goes along with Littlefinger's schemes, serving his interests and obeying his commands. She can be assertive in dealing with members of Lord Baelish's household (and it is really his now, not Robert Arryn's), but is passive in regard to him and what he does. In other words, she is Littlefinger's loyal retainer and accomplish, the same as Lothor Brune or any number of others. She can even be sacrificed as a pawn if needed, along with every personal relationship tied to her, since she is fictional after all.

He is serving me lies as well,” Sansa realized. They were comforting lies, though, and she thought them kindly meant. “A lie is not so bad if it is kindly meant.” If only she believed them ...

When you get right down to it, Alayne Stone is a kindly-meaning liar. It may be true that the occasional white lie spoken for kindness is not a bad or dishonourable thing, but Sansa tells lies now that are well into grey and even bordering on black. The things she has seen and the truths she knows are staggering, to the extent that psychologically she's had trouble processing and confronting them.

Sansa repeats the line to herself about “a lie, but kindly meant” like a mantra, or an incantation to ward off evil. Whose evil ? Her own. She hates the lies she must tell, the deceitful way she must act, and as Sansa Stark she probably could not bear it. But Alayne is Littlefinger's bastard, so deceit was her mother's milk.

Sansa has used deception to protect herself, but also used deceptions that came back to hurt her. Perhaps most risky of all, she has told herself lies, maintained fictional realities in her head maybe even knowing deep down they were not true. For example, she continues to tell herself that it was Arya who caused the whole Mycah / Lady incident, rather than Joffrey's innate cruelty, and definitely rather than her own weakness when confronted by such evil. She still misses Lady, but laying Lady's bones on her own doorstep is not something she's able to do. Maybe it is too painful, or maybe (more worryingly) the fiction of what happened has permanently overwritten the facts and she really feels the fiction is true (thus the “unreliable narrator” issue comes up here, same as with the Un-Kiss).

As Alayne, she can perhaps deal with it better, or deflect and delay some of the overwhelming sadness, fear, and guilt creeping up on her from every direction at once. Sansa Stark is a girl whose past lies and misjudgement still haunt her, whose family are all dead and is hated and hunted throughout the realm, who dreams of true love but feels she will never be loved for herself, and has to sup on deceit and submission in order to survive, no matter how much she hates the taste.

It is wearing Sansa down, and being Alayne Stone the daughter of Lord Baelish makes it more palatable, but there is the danger that she will lose herself playing this role. Alayne can play the game without the restrictions of true fidelity, honour, or compassion, but the moral hazard in acting that way as Alayne is that the more she acts this way, the more it becomes a habit. Once again, if being routinely unscrupulous is what is required, is being a player really a good thing ?

Littlefinger is teaching his “daughter” the game, but if she's some prodigy at it, the day may come when she is able to turn it all against him, or wrap him around her little finger (pun definitely intended). There are already some signs she keeps certain things from Lord Baelish and plays him false by telling him things that he wants to hear. If Alayne remembers her lessons, she would know Littlefinger keeps all his pieces watching each other. Has she figured out how much he actually trusts her ? Does her watch her carefully too - or does he underestimate her wilfulness or overestimate his hold on her ?

Alayne does not really have real agency or independence, but if she is granted more autonomy of action, this may also provide an opportunity for her to use her skills for her own ends. So it remains to be seen what the consequences of that would be - Alayne playing the game for Littlefinger or against him, Sansa Stark willingly aligning with Lord Baelish or perhaps breaking free of him. The situations and decision points developing around her will soon likely force matters to come to a head. If Petyr Baelish has a weakness that can be exploited, Sansa may be the one person in a position to exploit it. She knows his methods and quite a few of his agents, largely because he tells her.


Why not just rape Sansa ? Yes, this is a horrible and provocative way to ask a question, but the question is valid - why would a seemingly sociopathic man not simply take by force what he so obviously wants? What stops him ? And why does he actually go to such lengths to involve inform and involve Sansa regarding his plans ? It seems a big bother and a bigger risk.

Littlefinger has seemingly no scruples. He poisons people and lies about it to cause further chaos. He sets people up to walk into traps. He lets other people pay for his crimes with their lives. He certainly is not above hurting women when it is to his advantage. He owns brothels, and like any pimp, you can be sure he does not run that business without a good deal of exploitation, fear, and even violence. Lord Baelish had a wife with great breeding and power, who actually did desire him, and he pushed her out the Moon Door. And then there's what he did to Jeyne Poole - training her to be utterly sexually submissive, and then handing her off as a plaything for a sadistic serial killer. It's a medieval society in a time of war and chaos, so as a Lord serving under a Lannister government, whatever sick thing he did would be considered par for the course and excused out of hand.

Truthfully, Sansa is very much in his power, and if he really wanted to force her to lay with him, she would have little leverage to defend herself. Yet, despite this, and despite his obvious sexual desire for Sansa, Baelish does not force himself on her as so many others would. If he wanted to be a monster, the quick and easy path is right there for him.

Littlefinger is a cold-blooded murderer (and just wait until Sansa finds out about his role in Ned's execution...)

Sansa is Littlefinger's weakness and he blabs all his plans to her and, more important, tells her how he does it. Bullshit them and pay them, put them in your debt, employ spies to stir shit and enable you to splatter it on others and come out smelling like a rose (see: meeting with Lords Declarant). I don't think Sansa is going to go to those extremes, but I think she will get down and dirty if she has to in order to save the North, or Rickon, or maybe even Sweetrobin (who is her family, and Sansa takes Family and Honor, if not Duty, pretty seriously). She's learning from a man who rose from being the most minor of lordlings, and short and scrawny to boot, into one of the major power players in Westeros.

I don't think it's his desire to possess Sansa that will ultimately bring him down, it's the need he has to show off, to impress her with how powerful and clever he is. That is what is leading him to tell her things he should not be telling anyone.

Lord Baelish makes his creepy advances, but does not subject her to outright rape (not that we've seen him actually rape or not rape anyone else). Littlefinger does not subject her to the sort of training Jeyne Poole got, because that would also ruin her. Of course, we know Baelish thinks his more long-term and subtle means with Sansa will ultimately bear fruit and she will want to be with him. Yet, why should he care one whit about whether she actually wants him or not ? (The Lannisters never cared - they openly planned her rape, and it was much to their dismay that Tyrion would not go through with it.) Even without rape, marriages can be arranged without the consent of the young woman, and in Westerosi society it is not considered unusual if the bride is unwilling but has to just live with it. Is there a tiny shred of conscience in Baelish about this, the one moral red line he will not cross ? Hard to imagine.

Petyr Baelish acts differently with Sansa than he acts with just about anyone else whom he wants something from. He seems determined to educate her, to convert her to his way of thinking. Strictly speaking, if you are good at the game, why would you want anyone else to be ? He also tells her things about his methods, and involves her in his schemes. She knows things already that could unmake him, but he seems to go out of his way to tell her more. It's clear he wants to impress her, to show how clever he is. Does he really need someone to share his grand joke with ? Maybe he is intellectually lonely, and can't stand that his awesome schemes go unsung.

Sounds crackpot, but she may be his fatal weakness. He is very bold, but his big risks usually involve much calculation. With Sansa, though, he seems to break his own rules about how you play the game. She knows enough to destroy him, and he does not seem to care beyond his concern that it might imperil their ability to act together.

Or maybe he just wants to be seen as a great man, not a monster. Seen by whom ? I cannot think he cares what anyone else's judgement of him is - perhaps anyone except her. He has been sneered at by the great and powerful, and paid them back masterfully and murderously for it.

I think what he wants from Sansa is really more than just another pawn, and more than just an object of sexual desire. He wants her respect and admiration. He wants a true wife, someone who is not just compliant, but complicit. Dare I say it, he may want a woman who is on his level. If he sees Sansa as naturally gifted, he wants nothing less for himself than a partner who excites him intellectually as much as physically. What he does speaks to his need to have Sansa find him worthy - worthy as a great lord, as a father (for eventual children), as a soul mate. He wants her to want him - and endangers himself to try and achieve it.

Strange to imagine cynical Lord Baelish as a man with some fantasy in his head. Yet, there may one where Sansa finally opens her eyes and says “oh Petyr, you are the finest man I know, I love you”, and then they marry and have babies and House Baelish lives on in greatness, maybe even sitting on the Iron Throne itself. It's a dream as ambitious as it is full of romantic madness.

Maybe underneath all the schemes, young Petyr is still in there. Sure, there could many ways to pick this apart as delusional, but who says Petyr is one hundred percent rational ? He could be another Rhaegar, willing to roll the dice and dare the gods to stop him from having his perfect mate - the key to everything he desires.

Now of course, what Sansa actually thinks of him, and what she wants now or may desire in the future is an open question. She is being armed from Baelish's own arsenal of emotional manipulation and political ruthlessness, and between what she knows already and what she may yet find out, a reckoning is coming.


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[PART 6]


All of the above coalesces into one big messy amorphous mass of emotions for Sansa. At this point in ASOIAF, we cannot be certain what Sansa is feeling, let alone becoming. She does not know herself. What we're seeing in Sansa has been complex, contradictory, and even paradoxical. Yet there are moments we can see coming, decision points, where circumstances may force her to act decisively. Maybe for Littlefinger, maybe against him. Most of these involve some sort of information, and some involve some sort of relationship. What it comes down to is that as these emotional gateways are passed, the Sansa that went in may not be the same Sansa that comes out.

Aunt Lysa's Revelations: This is the information H-bomb that has already dropped. Sansa has yet to fully comprehend and process what Aunt Lysa told her just before being shunted out the Moon Door. (Perhaps Littlefinger pushed her out because she was telling Sansa what Sansa was never meant to hear.) Sansa was too young to understand when it happened, but the death of Jon Arryn is basically what set off her whole betrothal and her father's going to King's Landing as Hand. It also set in motion the death of the King, the death of her family, and the fracturing of the realm in a war that saw immense levels of violence and atrocities. If it were all laid at the doorstep of the wrong people from the outset, then how much suffering need never have happened (to her or anyone else)? At the time she was told, Sansa was on the verge of being murdered by her crazy aunt, so she has naturally focused on that (hence Littlefinger's dismissal of Lysa's rantings). But with a bit of time and perhaps a bit more information, Sansa may see it clearly, and what her Aunt said will click together like puzzle pieces, forming a very ugly picture. Perhaps that will awake the dormant wolf in Sansa. Yet even if Sansa never acts on the information, the fact she has it at all still might be incredibly dangerous. If anyone but her and Littlefinger knew what Lysa's last moments were like, if they knew the secrets that were spoken, there would be seven hells to pay. Sansa is endangered just by knowing it, just for the potential she could tell it to someone one day.

The Valyrian Knife: Related to the whole Jon Arryn issue is the whole issue regarding what happened to Bran. Not so much that Jaime pushed him out a window, but rather the attempt on his life which took place later. Catelyn captured Tyrion based on the issue of the knife, and this led to the fight between her father and Jaime, and sparked the war - though the war may already have been coming. Littlefinger's lie to Catelyn and Ned about the knife was a great betrayal, but if you think about it, the lie was really just to ingratiate himself to them and get close. Nobody predicted Catelyn would seize Tyrion at the crossroads, or anything else from that point on. The getting close to Ned, though, was leading up to the moment Littlefinger decided to set him up to be betrayed and captured. That deleted Ned from Catelyn and Sansa's life quite effectively. Sansa never knew about the knife, not until Tyrion happened to delve into that subject on Joffrey's wedding day. She knows there was something to do with Tyrion being accused of of tyring to harm Bran, but now that she's in the Vale, she may learn more about the specifics - the Valyrian knife and the connection to Littlefinger's identifying it as Tyrion's, and thus Tyrion's trial by combat.

The Coup: Sansa does not know a great deal about what took place on the day her household in King's Landing was slaughtered and her father arrested for treason. As she got her rude awakening as a captive, she was fed only information they thought to tell her. Yet, Sansa has not done much thinking back to what happened that day - specifically Littlefinger's role. She knows Littlefinger was among the council when she was brought before the Queen. One thing that could spark a new outlook within her is the fact that she provided information that basically tipped the balance against her father in that conflict - there will be a lot of guilt over that, and maybe there already is some and she just blocks it out. Another thing is the fact that Littlefinger basically suckered her father into the fatal trap. If she knew how active he was in the events of that day, she may finally see him as her father's mortal enemy. There's a big difference between her father being just bad at the game, and having lost because Littlefinger betrayed him. All it would take is a bit of information about how instrumental Littlefinger was in the events that day, and the whole Lannister Coup is seen in a new light.

Jeyne Poole / False Arya: Sansa has thought little about Arya since her ordeals began. However, Arya simply disappeared. Sansa knows Jeyne Poole was captured and taken into Littlefinger's custody. She has not dwelt on the issue, but what if she did recall it, and ask Baelish what became of her best friend ? Or perhaps actually find out ? Somewhere up north is the false Arya Stark - her best friend Jeyne, trained mercilessly by Littlefinger in a brothel and sold off to the bastard of Bolton for the claim that is rightfully Sansa's. The volatile thing about this one is that if Sansa should ever be in conflict with “Arya”, Sansa could recognize the truth with just a glimpse. This would be a pretty sticky point morally, because of course even if Jeyne is on the other side, this girl was her best friend and Sansa may even feel a bit responsible. As well, Sansa knowing it's Jeyne brings her right back to the day it was decided Jeyne would be dealt with by Littlefinger. Any knowledge of what Littlefinger did with her would likely turn his image more monstrous in her eyes. As well, Sansa might not know it's even a fake Arya, but if she's found by a certain Maid of Tarth, then she soon will.

Real Arya / The Hound: If Sansa should meet that same Maid of Tarth, she may learn that her sister was a captive (or accomplice) of The Hound. People other than Brienne know this too. She has done little thinking about her sister, but who knows what sort of emotions she might feel if she found out her sister and The Hound travelled together, and how close they were to the Vale. Relief ? Jealousy ? Fear ? One wonders if she would risk her current state of semi-safety as Alayne to find her sister. On the other hand, The Hound was accused of terrible crimes at the Saltpans, so it makes one wonder whether she'd believe such accusations. Also there's the other implication - that the Hound died at the Saltpans, or her sister did, or both. Knowing any of this, it might spur a big decision about her own situation.

Sweetrobin Dying: This will be a big one. Sansa doesn't entirely like Sweetrobin, but Alayne does take care of him. There are some mothering instincts going on there, and this is a fairly helpless child. As well, she may see a parallel because Sweetrobin is also passed around and fought over because of his claim - who ever actually loved the boy himself except his own mother ? Lord Baelish insists the prognosis for Sweetrobin is a bleak one, but Sansa may be suspicious that if (when) Lord Robert dies it will not be from natural causes. The constant leechings may be sapping his strength rather than helping him. The sweetsleep being administered is clearly dangerous, but then again, Alayne once insisted on it over the Maester's objections too. The question here is, would Sansa really let herself be stand by as this child - her own cousin - dies? Would she try to save him, or would she just go along with this Harry The Heir plan which basically requires Sweetrobin's life to be written off ? We really don't know, but I suspect how she deals with this will say much about what sort of person she becomes.

Minty Kisses: Lord Baelish keep sneaking kisses with Sansa when they are alone. Two long kisses now, and clearly not platonic. These may be the most “real” kisses she has yet had. A bit of shock and worry has accompanied each. However, if it keeps happening, it's going to lead to some sort of emotional reaction. Something will awaken. It could be arousal; it could be longing for someone else; it could be fear; it could be anger. After all, we already have a previous example of what an abrupt change in a relationship a kiss can bring about - with Daenerys and Ser Jorah. Littlefinger may get more forward with his advances too. We are not yet privy to the exact nature of his schemes regarding Harry The Heir, but it's doubtful he will set aside his desires for real.

Marry, It Rhymes With Harry: If Sansa is betrothed again, this has great potential to force a decisive turn from her. First of all, it is predicated on Tyrion being dead or some other annulling factor. Maybe she never wanted to be Mrs. Imp, but either out of gratitude or some unusual outbreak of piety or Stark honour, she might reject any plan that actually sets in motion his death. Second, there is of course the fact that this is yet another marriage arranged by others, and she may balk at that, especially if her heart gets set on (a past or future) someone else. Third, there's Harry himself, who we do not know much of, aside from the fact he may be enough of a ladies' man to have a couple of bastards. Sansa may not be willing to overlook womanizing, and when it comes to bastards, she is Catelyn Tully's daughter so she may find that unacceptable (Alayne or no). So, for these and maybe other reasons, I would say that just because Lord Baelish arranged it does not mean it will actually happen.

The Last Stark - Or So She Thought: Sansa right now assumes she is the last of her family. Her parents and Robb are dead. Bran and Rickon and believed dead. Arya is assumed to be dead. Jon is believed alive, but he's a half brother and far away on the Wall. Jeyne Poole - not family, but important - she has heard nothing of her for years. Much of what Sansa has done, she has done because she feels she is utterly alone. Just hearing Jon had been named Lord Commander of the Night's Watch was enough to break her composure for a moment, and start longing for her family again. If she were to find out some of the supposedly dead are alive, this would be a shock, and might spark a change in her attitude or decisions. If she was given a chance to meet any of them again, she may take a big risk to do so. ... And then there's Lady Stoneheart. It would be a bigger shock to find out her mother has been transformed from a murder victim to a vengeful undead thing that prowls the woods with outlaws hanging people without mercy. Her mother was her template of womanhood, so who knows where such knowledge would lead.


In the end, we have looked at what Petyr Baelish's presence has meant to Sansa's past and present. What kind of future does it seem to lead her to ? What kind of person will Sansa become because of him (or despite him) ? ASOIAF has been full of surprises, so just one prediction will not do. Even several may not be enough, as the future is murky and any predictions might be invalidated later or just blur together in the chaos. Nevertheless, here's a few possible ways Sansa's future might go...

I - The Caged Bird: We hope for Sansa to become more than what she has been, a girl with inner purpose and clear agency. However, maybe in the end, she just doesn't have it in her. She will never be more than a captive, her fate never really in her hands. She will not be a player, just a pawn. She simply may not have the cunning or the will to break free of her situation and be a true daughter of Winterfell. Maybe she will survive, but always live in grief and fear, singing empty songs devoid of meaning. Perhaps she will find a way to disappear into obscurity, hiding until the end of her days. Perhaps she will finally be bedded, and not by anyone she desires. Or perhaps she will remain chaste and lonely, until all possibility of achieving love and marriage are gone. This is the saddest or most disappointing possibility - a Red Wedding of the soul. In the end, we find out that Lady's death actually predicted perfectly what Sansa would be. She lost her wolf, and with that, she lost her future.

II - Lady Baelish: This is the best-case scenario for Petyr Baelish, his goal of converting her to his lady love is achieved. In the end, Sansa chooses him, maybe for love, maybe for pragmatism. They get married, they have babies. They both are players on the same team, and she acts as his willing accomplice. The House of Baelish is their legacy, built together into a new great house. How horrible or pleasant this is depends on one's subjective judgement, and maybe on a few developments we have not seen yet. Perhaps she is never the great game-player he is, but is a loyal and dutiful wife and content to be a good mother to their children. Or maybe she does become and excellent game-player, wicked and cunning, and together they bind Westeros to their will. (Perhaps even becoming the new royal house or marrying their kids into it.) For the Sansa we know, is this a defeat, or just the triumph of the adult game over childish dreams and ideals ? Nobody would much like it, but maybe a vexed fan base is just as valid as a content one.

III - Lady Stark the Queen of Ice: Sansa Stark becomes a dangerous game-player, along the lines of Littlefinger himself, but with an image more like the Queen of Thorns, Cersei Lannister, Melisandre, or Arianne Martell. However, unlike the second option, this Sansa has nothing emotional to bind her to Littlefinger (or anyone else). She takes his knowledge, uses his own weaknesses, usurps his power, and then destroys him. This would not be out of revenge, but rather because she has become like him. Scheming, manipulating and backstabbing become second nature to her. Her old Stark values such as having compassion, acting with honour, or finding true love are buried by a blizzard of cynicism; these are childish dreams she gave up on so she would never be helpless or heartbroken again. In other words, she follows the emotional path Young Petyr did, becomes the new Littlefinger, and then removes the old one. She is a game-player, and the game makes people into monsters. This would make her story an anti-redemption arc (a corruption arc?).

IV - Fly Little Bird, Fly Or Die: Sansa is under the care of an older man whom she knows is deceitful and dangerous. He wants her to be part of his nefarious schemes. Worse, he wants her - period. It is only a matter of time before she is morally and sexually compromised. Eventually, all the lies she tells herself to endure her situation might break down, and she decides that it is time to rescue herself. She looks for an opening, finds it, and flees. Maybe she runs to somewhere in particular, or maybe to someone. It is risky as hell, and probably death for her if caught, but of all possibilities, this is the one with the most chaotic outcomes. Perhaps she may take Sweetrobin, and try to be the rescuer instead of the rescued. Perhaps she will realize there are other Starks still alive, and she will rush to rejoin them.

V - A Wolf Reborn: Perhaps after a lot of soul-searching, and a lot of fear and ethical compromise, Sansa decides enough is enough, and snaps back to being a daughter of Winterfell. She may never be like Arya / Nymeria, but we will see this Lady find her iron will, rediscover her honour, and the develop the commanding presence her mother and father once had. This would be at odds with her need for safety, but maybe she gets tired of being safe and living a lie. She is a Stark - the last Stark, and she will not be known as the only Stark who was craven or dishonourable. This version of her might try escape, and emerge afterwards as a result of being under nobody's power. Or maybe she will stay put, but stand her ground more forcefully on the things that matter to her. There may be elements of the game player in her, but this version will have a healthy contempt for the underhanded nature of game. This Sansa may also be dangerous to Lord Baelish, but for reasons of revenge. If that is in the cards, likely the cause of the transformation will be the realization of the things he has done, and what it all means. Littlefinger has much to answer for, especially where it concerns her family.

VI - Sansa The Redeemer: I save my most crackpot possibility for last. Sansa redeems Littlefinger. Maybe after the schemes play out, Lord Baelish realizes that though he wants Sansa, or maybe even loves her, he cannot have her. Her feelings are simply not there for him, and he has to pull back before he does something even he would consider monstrous. Maybe Baelish decides to be truly gallant and remorseful, to save Catelyn's daughter for real and try to make up for what he has done.

Sound out of character ? Nope, not since we know the kind of person young Petyr once was trying to be: heroic and idealistic. Death did not frighten Petyr, only the idea of giving in. He too once believed in songs and stories, in the idea of having something better than the emotional morass he has dwelled in since his rejection by Catelyn and duel with Brandon Stark. Somewhere in him, young Petyr maybe be fighting to get out, and wants to save Sansa (from himself).

There is perhaps something I call “The Sansa Effect”. Sansa is maybe more than charming, courteous, and beautiful. Maybe she is blessed - blessed with an ability to influence the emotional path of others, to break through their armour, all their rage and spite and coldness. She is a catalyst that transforms the tormented and fallen into better versions of themselves. The Hound was a man driven by deep-seated hatred, and bitterly served evil masters while being numb to his own conscience. After interaction with Sansa, he finally confronted his own terrible acts and dark desires, and it broke his loyalty to the masters he served. Tyrion was a man who subsumed his own sense of justice, honour, and love for the sake of living up to the monstrous family he belonged to. His interactions with Sansa made him try to act like a the more noble man he had the potential to be, and brought the conflict between him and the rest of his family to a head. A monster he might be, but he would not let them harm Sansa as they (and he) harmed Tysha. Lancel Lannister received kindness from Sansa, despite having treated her poorly himself. Her compassion towards him may have helped him go from arrogance to shame to piety. Dontos Hollard was a ruin of a man, a drunkard without a hope of doing anything but embarrassing himself, but Sansa saved his life and in a way enabled him to be a knight again. Even remotely, Sansa is central to Brienne becoming a quest knight and Jaime grudgingly trying to salvage his lost honour.

Perhaps not everyone is redeemable, and for some, her gentle nature brings out the worst in them (Joffrey, Cersei). Yet we do not know what run's through Littlefinger's mind any more than we know the Hound's. Perhaps he gets a redemption arc too. Maybe not that much, but perhaps through Sansa we'll see more of Petyr emerge, from behind the masks of Littlefinger and Lord Baelish.

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Very interesting analysis, Pod the Impaler. I'm going to go through and read them all when I get the chance; I find the LF/Sansa relationship to be one of the most intriguing in the series, as horrible as LF may be. For now, just a thought -

Now, for Littlefinger, he sees all that and thinks one word - “potential”. Sansa is as beautiful as her mother ever was, maybe more; she is as highborn as she one be without actually having royal blood; she has a sweet nature and romantic heart (maybe more than her mother ever did); with some political education she may have the charisma and instincts to be a game-player. Perhaps Littlefinger has found his new queen of love and beauty, and his queen piece for his game.

Am I the only one who actually thinks that Sansa starts off as more Ned's daughter than Cat's? On the surface, she even LOOKS just like Cat - but if one digs deeper, she shows a lot of Ned's characteristics. She is initially trusting, idealistic, and compassionate. Arya strikes me as more of Cat's daughter for a few reasons. I think they are both mixes of their parents, but Sansa reminds me a lot of Ned initially. She is beginning to evolve into someone more savvy than Ned ever was, but I think the base characteristics are still there.

I don't know, that's something I've been thinking on lately. People tend to say Arya is more like Ned and Sansa is more like Cat, but I would actually switch it around. :dunno:

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Am I the only one who actually thinks that Sansa starts off as more Ned's daughter than Cat's? On the surface, she even LOOKS just like Cat - but if one digs deeper, she shows a lot of Ned's characteristics. She is initially trusting, idealistic, and compassionate. Arya strikes me as more of Cat's daughter for a few reasons. I think they are both mixes of their parents, but Sansa reminds me a lot of Ned initially. She is beginning to evolve into someone more savvy than Ned ever was, but I think the base characteristics are still there.

No, many seem to feel that as well. Truthfully she is a some of both. I tend to think of it in terms of her choosing to aspire to be the kind of woman her mother was (even if she doesn't know what her mother was like at that same age). Seems to suit her general nature, yet it's true that in some ways her idealism and view of life seems more like her father. Since we know little about young Ned and less about young Catelyn, it's hard to say with certainty.

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Great posts, Pod The Impaler!

I think that the reason Littlefinger didn't rape Sansa (and I'm glad he didn't, the poor girl's been through enough) is because he wants her to be his Catelyn replacement. He wants her to fall in love with him and marry him since Catelyn didn't. That won't happen,though. I can't imagine Sansa ever changing enough to want to marry Littlefinger.

I think that eventually she will realize that he is much more scheming Littlefinger than he is kind Lord Baelish. Although he is her rescuer, he is also using her for his own purposes, as a pawn in his game. I think that Sansa will eventually see that.

I also think that Littlefinger tells Sansa everything because he underestimates her. He doesn't think that she would ever be able to take him down, or that she would be so grateful to him that the thought would never even cross her mind. But I think that eventually she will be the one to take him down.

I also don't think that Sansa will need to stop being honorable-at least not completely- in order to play the game. After all, Sansa's very likable, very courteous. She's not the type that anyone would suspect of doing anything against them ever no matter what they do so there's no need for her to have to lie that much. And even if she does have to lie, she would probably only do so to protect herself which isn't the worst reason to lie. I also think that because of her likability, she'll have no trouble finding allies. Back to Littlefinger, I doubt that many people in the Vale are happy with him. Maybe they're not doing anything now but if they find out who Sansa is, I'm sure they'll do something to help her. In fact, she may even reach out to some of them when she figures out how horrible Littlefinger really is.

Sansa is still very much a Stark on the inside. I think that no matter how much she pretends to be Alayne, no matter how much she may act like Alayne, she will never stop being Sansa Stark. I think that in the end she will take down Littlefinger in a very Stark way, in a very honorable way. She will do it because it's the right thing to do. She will find allies who are just as good as she is or at least almost as good. (Most people aren't as honorable as the Starks, after all.) I truly hope that in the process she manages to save Sweetrobin as well. The kid annoys me to death but I know Sansa will feel guilty if she just lets him die. Not only is he her cousin but she's basically become a replacement mother for him since Lysa died. I think that all that will mean she has a lot of affection for him no matter how annoying he is.

I also think that -I think someone mentioned it in a previous Pawn to Player thread- Sansa based at least part of Alayne's personality on Jon. That really shows that she's still connected to her Stark roots. Basically, Littlefinger may try to change Sansa into what he wants her to be but he won't succeed. She's a Stark and she's strong and she will rise again harder and stronger. (Oh wait that's an ironborn thing, never mind. :lol: But you get my point)

Wow, this post is kinda long. Sorry about that. I hope that some of my rambling is good at least. :blushing:

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What a great analysis on LF, Pod the Impaler! I learned some new things regarding him and also realized that Sansa could learn certain things due to Brienne if they ever meet each other.

“Catelyn II” is the template, but as stated above, this is a very complex process. His main method here is subtlety and control of the situation Sansa finds herself in. Gradual isolation, then conversion and seduction - mental and moral first, and then emotional and sexual. To reiterate the point: He has to know Sansa's way of thinking, her weaknesses; He has to create opportunities to exploit that and drive her towards him alone - but in a way that seems comfortable and natural for her, so she willingly turns to choosing him; He has to earn her trust, but also diminish those influences on her which present mental and moral obstacles to his plans.

This made me recall that that when he asks her to kiss him in Sansa’s 2nd chapter in Feast, and she does so in his cheek, when he says, “How dutiful,” it means that he perceives and can’t fool himself that Sansa still doesn’t want him like he want her in the personal emotional area. He isn’t succeeding like he would like and I hope that he never does but pray that it doesn’t make his snap out of control or something.

Now of course, what Sansa actually thinks of him, and what she wants now or may desire in the future is an open question. She is being armed from Baelish's own arsenal of emotional manipulation and political ruthlessness, and between what she knows already and what she may yet find out, a reckoning is coming.

I hope she finds out that he was the one who betrayed Ned in the throne room, and it’s a good thing that she isn’t trusting him completely and is still keeping many Stark-ish connections from her past hidden from him. Like the connection with Sandor or when she decides not to tell him that she is Winterfell’s blood, not his, or when she is looking upon the vale one morning wishing she could fly away but can’t cause she has nowhere to go.


Yes to this!! She has to decide her fate for herself. After the Lannisters and Tyrells and Petyr it is time for our girl to decide what she want to do or whom she wants to give her heart to.


I also think that Littlefinger tells Sansa everything because he underestimates her.


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Slowly making my way through the analysis, Pod, but just wanted to pause and commend your wonderful work; there's tons to digest and consider, and I look forward to providing my feedback soon :)

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I'm not done going through all of Pod's analysis, so forgive me if this is mentioned in parts 4-6. Has anyone ever suggested that LF's duel with Brandon was a kind of scheme rather than an act by a helpless boy crazed with love?

Rather than a breaking point- where LF realized that "life was not a song"-- I was wondering if the duel was something more purposeful on LF's part. Knowing he wasn't going to be elevated through status alone, I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility he staged this farce. I think there's a chance he banked on Cat's goodness and Brandon's "Stark honor" to not harm him mortally. What this little event effected is to guarantee a sense of guilt and implicit trust from Cat, which he could later use; he knew from Lysa's already present obsession with him that he did not need any similar act to guarantee her loyalty to him. By no means do I suggest that LF already had any real plan, but I wondered if this was one of his "masks" to secure Cat- who was to be in a highly prominent political position as the wife of the Warden of the North-- into his pocket.

At it's most sentimental, I'd thought LF's investment in Cat was more possessive than love as such, but I'll hold off until I'm done with Pod's analysis. :cool4:

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I think you make a good point bumps. I know Pod has characterised "Petyr" as the young innocent boy, laying it all on the line for love, but I'm inclined to think Petyr wasn't all that different from his other incarnations as Littlefinger and Lord Baelish. Recall when he takes Sansa on the tour of his holdings on the Fingers, and he tells the story of how his father took him to see the hermit in the cave who read his fortune:

"He groped me a bit and said I would be a great man, and for that my father gave him a skin of wine." Petyr snorted. "I would have told him the same thing for half a cup."

Young Petyr always had an inflated ego and ambitions towards greatness. I don't know if he was thinking that far ahead about the possibilities of having Cat in his corner, but it's not out the realm of possibility. Just as everyone else knows it's madness that he wants to duel Brandon, surely someone as smart as Petyr knows it too, especially after Cat explicitly refuses to give him her favor? We also know that he sent Cat a letter while he was convalescing, but she burnt it unread. I'd love to know what it contained.

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