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From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XV

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Hello, folks, I finally finished another paper for the B&B project.

I had the idea to write about both Sandor and Jaime together, but the essay got too long and there'll be probably more essays for this section dedicated exclusively to the Beasts, but for the time being, I have focused on Sandor's transformation into the Hound from a psychological point of view. I only have addressed his childhood for now, the adult is for later.

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The Two Faces of the Beast I

“He is driven by hate. That is how he survives, that’s why he never loses.”

VALHALLA RISING.

By fire transformed: The making of the Hound

There came Ser Jaime Lannister with hair as bright as beaten gold, and there Sandor Clegane with his terrible burned face.

When we are introduced to the Hound of the Lannisters in the first POV of Lord Eddard Stark, we also learn about the central characteristic that defines him: his burnt face. It’s not his impressive height, his status or his fame as a warrior the first things that are mentioned. Martin has the reader focus on the scar this man bears. He doesn’t tell us much besides that it is “terrible.” Because of this, in the beginning, we do not pay much attention to it; a very natural conclusion would be that surely that man had gotten his scar in a fight, given the violent times this saga is based on, and then forget it.

But Martin doesn’t let us forget; in every chapter he appears afterwards, his face is the centre of attention, and his raspy voice, again and again, and curiosity makes the reader wonder who this man is, and in what circumstances he got the scars and which object caused them. We finally discover more about them through Sansa's eyes:

The left side of his face was a ruin. His ear had been burned away; there was nothing left but a hole. His eye was still good, but all around it was a twisted mass of scar, slick black flesh hard as leather, pocked with craters and fissured by deep cracks that gleamed red and wet when he moved. Down by his jaw, you could see a hint of bone where the flesh had been seared away.

She is not just being overly dramatic when describing details such as how the reddish light illuminates the interstices of his skin or the hint of bone in the jaw; because highly sensitive children like Sansa have a tendency to pay more attention to details, not less, when they’re particularly scared, as if they were exploring with their minds rather than their limbs, she’s registering every minute detail of how it looks like under those circumstances; and if that had happened in daylight, her description wouldn’t have been less detailed, though there would’ve been some variations due to a change of circumstances.

At this point, we know how the Hound looks like, yet we still ignore why he seems so fixated on his burns, a type of wound that surely is of no great importance in a society where battles are commonplace and prowess at war is highly prized.

In the Ancient world, wounds and scars were a source of pride, not an aesthetic concern to be eliminated through cosmetic surgery. The solid Greek hoplites and rude Roman legionaries bore their wounds and scars as if they were awards for bravery, for they were a testament to eminent service to their homeland, to their valor and their worth as men. A scar meant that a man had fought courageously, had survived, and therefore was a citizen worthy of everybody’s respect.

Moreover, they were so proud of their wounds and scars that it was not unusual for them to brag about them and compete to see who had the worst ones and how many, where and when they’d received them. Alexander III the Great, the King of Macedonia and Persia from whose name derives the Hound’s, was immensely proud of his scars and would tell his soldiers:

“Come now, whoever of you has wounds, let him strip and show them, and I will show mine in turn; for there is no part of my body, in front at any rate, remaining free from wounds; nor is there any kind of weapon used either for close combat or for hurling at the enemy, the traces of which I do not bear on my person. For I have been wounded with the sword in close fight, I have been shot with arrows, and I have been struck with missiles projected from engines of war; and though oftentimes I have been hit with stones and bolts of wood for the sake of your lives, your glory, and your wealth..
.”

Arrian’s Anabasis of Alexander, Book VII:10.

And in the Memorabilia of Greek general and historian Xenophon we learn that, like later in Rome, military service was a prerequisite to be elected to public office in any Hellene polis, and one way a candidate had of publicising his image as a capable leader was to show his scars:

“…since my name first appeared on the muster-roll I have literally worn myself out with military service—now as a captain, now as a colonel—and have received all these wounds from the enemy, look you! (at the same time, and suiting the action to the word, he bared his arms and proceeded to show the scars of ancient wounds).”

The scars on the front of the body were the most impressive and considered the noblest. What where the reasons? In ancient battle tactics, the rule was to draw up the best men in front and rear, with those of inferior ability in between, where they may be led on by the former and pushed on by the hinder. It was an honour to be chosen to lead an attack, for it was a reward, as in the case of the exaggeratedly competitive armies of Alexander, where the finest troops were placed in the front line and push-and-shove matches ensued in order to have the honour of being the first to assault a city’s walls. Because of that, burns were extremely common, in fact, they were one of the leading causes of injuries amongst élite soldiers, along with projectiles (arrows, javelins, stones), due to the use of boiling oil, incendiary arrows, torches, bitumen, naphtha, etc., to repel assaults and destroy siege engines.

In the Middle Ages, the attitude wasn’t so dissimilar. Scars not related to illnesses were still seen as symbols of a man’s ability to survive and of bravery. Those who acquired theirs due to wounds enjoyed a particular social status in this epoch, because scars were amongst the requisites for a newly appointed and green knight to fulfill in his debut on the field so he could be considered a preudome, a man of worth.

It’s not surprising, then, that Sandor comments about the assumptions people have made about the origins of his scars:

“Most of them, they think it was some battle. A siege, a burning tower, an enemy with a torch. One fool asked if it was dragonsbreath.”

The Hound is famous throughout Westeros as one of the best warriors of the Realm, and his bravery has nothing to envy someone else’s in terms of risk-taking and daring, as we can infer from his performance at the Battle of the Blackwater, when he went aboard a ship wrapped in green flame mounted on his warhorse, despite his terror of fire. Therefore, it’s only natural that people around him should think he was burnt in the line of duty; and because we know that the common folk and his peers alike talked about him when he’s not nearby, it’s not illogical to assume that probably they whispered in awe behind his back, wondering about such an occasion and assessing his aptitudes as a fighter. Sandor Clegane could have had a wife and a family, his disfigurement was not in itself the cause of his solitude. He has the skills, the fame, he’s young, he’s physically fit, he has no genetically transmitted infirmities, he’s got a highly prestigious and well-paid position at court, he’s intelligent though not an erudite, he can obtain riches, lands and a title if he wants to, and he can protect his loved ones.

Definitely, it’s not the scar per se: if he’d not born it with a faint tinge of pride, at least he’d not have minded it so much. It’s how he got it what matters to him.

“I was younger than you, six, maybe seven. A woodcarver set up shop in the village under my father’s keep, and to buy favor he sent us gifts. The old man made marvelous toys. I don’t remember what I got, but it was Gregor’s gift I wanted. A wooden knight, all painted up, every joint pegged separate and fixed with strings, so you could make him fight.”

It’s frequent for children to covet other children’s toys even if they’re not objectively better than theirs; psychologists will explain that they feel the need to have the same things the other has, yet aren’t mature enough to understand that they can have it without taking it from the other; that it’s a comprehensible expression of curiosity, a desire for experiencing novelty, to manipulate objects that are new to them; and it’s also the manner they have of symbolically expressing their fears, hopes and feelings through their choice of toy. But there was a price the littlest Clegane had to pay for this innocent enough action:

“So I took his knight, but there was no joy to it, I tell you. I was scared all the while, and true enough, he found me. There was a brazier in the room. Gregor never said a word, just picked me up under his arm and shoved the side of my face down in the burning coals and held me there while I screamed and screamed.”

Sandor’s pleas after a second burning in ASOS echo his childish screams:

“Please,[…]I’m burned. Help me. Someone. Help me.” He was crying. “Please.”

This is certainly a shocking overreaction on the part of Gregor, from whichever angle you examine it. I dispute any assumption that this scene might be overdone just to elicit sympathy. As part of my research, I had to look for cases at a paediatric burn unit, where there’s the example of an eight-year-old boy burnt by his own biological father, and whose mother lied to the paediatricians––and later the police––telling them there’d been a fire in their house and he’d been accidentally burnt. The old adage that real life is stranger than fiction is once more proven true, but it is because realistic fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities, and Martin did.

Moreover, Gregor wasn’t going to only burn his face and then let him go.

“You saw how strong he is. Even then, it took three grown men to drag him off me.”

He was going to keep his face against the hot coals until it turned black, and the smallest boy suffocated and his body went limp, had these three men not intervened. For playing with a toy he didn’t even use, he was going to murder his brother.

“My father told everyone my bedding had caught fire, and our maester gave me ointments. Ointments!”

There’s bitterness in these words. Ointments, indeed, is all he got. It’s improbable that his father was a weak-willed man afraid of his extremely brutal son, or that he felt sorry and powerless to do anything to contain his violent demeanour. Ser Clegane, as head of the House, had the moral obligation and the legal right to punish his eldest son for this attempted murder, for that’s what it was according to the law in Medieval England, and nobody would’ve thought less of him for whatever harsh measures he took against a son to protect another son, who needed it most. He overlooked the incident willingly, possibly to cover his own back and save himself from a scandal, but his own the-ends-justify-the-means attitude is an indication that he himself had no sweet temper, that he was prone to using physical violence, that he was also an abuser; and demonstrates coldness in his choice of protecting Gregor’s reputation. Moreover, by his silence, he encouraged his son’s aggressiveness, which got worse over time, and probably had him eventually killed in that hunting “accident.” His attitude wasn’t the rule in the Middle Ages; as studies by renowned Medievalists such as Hans-Werner Goetz and Barbara Hanawalt have demonstrated, contrary to modern belief, there was no general indifference toward children’s safety and well-being despite the violence and social and economic hardships of the times; they were mostly treated lovingly, protected as much as possible, and abuse and maltreatment were both a sin and a felony.

Had there been another adult to care for him, justice would’ve have been done. But Sandor was alone in this, with no proof but his word, and his father had lied and probably threatened or bribed the witnesses to keep it confidential. It’s true that child abuse was rampant in the Middle Ages, beatings, mutilation and infanticide were too common, and there were no Child Protection Services. But it would be a mistake to believe that they were completely defenceless and there were no laws and no institution to protect them. For instance, the clergy had the authority to cite a parent to answer for accusations of infanticide, abortion, abandonment, molestation, injuries and fatal neglect. Ecclesiastical courts could impose fines on defendants if found guilty, even excommunicate them, which in such a religious period was a grave punishment, for it meant damnation for a person’s soul. And that’s how it was usually for the smallfolk. Using English Medieval law as an example, Sandor’s father and brother could have ended up in a secular court, either his liege lord––if Tywin Lannister had cared for his people as Lord Stark––or any of the King’s courts, where royal officials were guided by gender, social status and marital status in their decisions throughout the legal process in terms of indicting, prosecuting, and sentencing; and this was a legitimate male child of a landed knight.

His age––six or seven––is also a factor to take into consideration, for at seven children begin to think logically about objects, events and people, but are very concrete in their thinking: they think in tangible, definite, exact, and unidirectional terms, based on real and concrete experiences rather than on abstractions. This means little Sandor was old enough to be able to comprehend memories, feelings and actions to judge his brother and his father’s demeanour and reach a conclusion on his own. This decision of his progenitor, the adult who was supposed to love him, to care for him and protect him, imprinted on the child’s mind that he was unloved and totally vulnerable to further abuse, that there was no justice and goodness wasn’t rewarded, that his own knightly father had made a mockery of his vows, that bad people could live and prosper doing bad things and go unpunished. The seeds of the Hound had been planted.

The psychological sequelae of this type of trauma can continue into adulthood. The physical pain is unbearable, so Sandor must have spent weeks drugged with milk of the poppy to ease it. Child psychiatrists like Dr. Frederick Stoddard and others have been studying the long-term consequences of burns in children aged 3 to 7, and their findings show that they suffer the most terrifying nightmares in the first weeks after a burn injury, which leaves them intermittently panicky and confused for hours. They’re fearful of falling asleep because they have vivid visions of monsters, often they cannot concile sleep due to nightmares where they see themselves burning again, and may develop insomnia as a result. Then comes prolonged and apparently illogical weeping, demands to be cuddled and consoled, and overwhelming rage that leads to verbal and physical aggression. Some have also suicidal ideations. Based on the developmental theories of child psychologists Jean Piaget and Maria Nágy about the emotional reactions of children younger than ten, we can know that Sandor went through three emotional phases: first, protest, in which he displayed the anxious behaviour described by Dr. Stoddard; then despair, in which he grieved and wept alone, and finally detachment, in which he created his own infantile understanding of the events in order to make sense of what happened to him and explain his relatives’ actions.

Children’s post-burn adjustment depends on nine variables related to parental and peer support, age, pre-burn personality and psychological functioning, location, extension and nature of the burn, visible scarring and demographics (gender, status). Studies have demonstrated that of these, three have the biggest impact; in order: body location (where the burn is), burn injury (severity of the burn) and parental adjustment (reaction and support of the father and mother). These three variables worked against Sandor: the burn is on his face, very visible, making him the target of appearance-related teasing, by the description of his scar, we know his injuries were grave, and his father gave him no emotional support. In fact, familial support––and peer acceptance––is so crucial that absence of that means the adjustment will take longer, be more problematic and it’s more likely that sequels will persist into adulthood. The most common long-term psychological outcomes are: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and low self-esteem. Sandor Clegane has all of these, most notoriously the first two: he fears fire, although he seems to have an above-average resilience, to judge by his performance at the Blackwater and the fight with Dondarrion; and he suffers from chronic depression which he tries to escape through wine.

While the smallest dog had to cope with all of this, the biggest dog continued to live a reasonably normal life, and became a knight.

“Gregor got his ointments too. Four years later, they anointed him with the seven oils and he recited his knightly vows and Rhaegar Targaryen tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Arise, Ser Gregor.’”

Ironically, he would soon break these vows killing the wife and child of the man who’d knighted him. That he can describe this scene indicates that Sandor might have been present in the ceremony or was told by an eyewitness. To see his brother get rewarded with knighthood must have been the death blow to any ideals about justice and knights he might have been still entertaining in the bottom of his mind and hadn’t died years before, consumed by the fire.

Fire holds a double-edged symbolism, because its nature is ambiguous: it serves and it destroys, it’s purifying and murderous. The Greeks possessed an interesting allegory about fire’s power to transform; in a variant of the Achilles’ myth that goes contrary to the usual rendition, Thetis, his mother, wanted to make her baby an immortal, but she needed to destroy his mortal persona first. So, instead of dipping the infant Achilles in the waters of the Styx as the standard version goes, she put him in a sacred fire, a fire that only burnt his skin, which was no more than a shroud of mortality wrapping his real undying self. The fire burnt away the persona of Achilles the child and revealed the persona of Achilles the hero, and thus he started his hero journey wandering down the paths of love and war, hope and misery, honour and glory. The Hound may lack the epic dimension of classical heroes, but both sides of fire are present in his life: the flames created the beast known as the Hound; by fire he did penance for his crimes, and thus, like in the Grecian myth, a second burning might have marked his rebirth; and fire may have healed that almost fatal wound and helped him find his peace.

__________________________

For further reading:

Barrett, Deirdre, Trauma and Dreams, "Chapter II: Dreams and nightmares of burned children," pp. 25, Harvard University Press, 2001.

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I think LF must know about Dany: he was involved I. The initial arguements with King Bob and Ned about Dany and the FM. He will have been keeping a track on her.

P.S. Nothing wrong with going on about Dany. She rocks.

True, he was. I forgot about that. Silly me. And yes she does. :) I'm glad to meet another Dany fan.

PART 4 (The end!)

Sansa Stark continues this tradition of heroines who manage to maintain their courage and dignity in the face of patriarchal oppression which often manifests as explicit or implicit sexual threats. As we see with Little Red Riding Hood and the tiger’s bride, female sexuality has been constructed as an exploitable resource, and the challenge for these young girls is to recognize the legitimacy of their desires (or lack thereof), and to reclaim what has been repressed and subsumed by various societal forces. As I have tried to show with the discussion of Carter’s short stories, there is a serious need to rethink what constitutes feminine agency and authority. Like LRRH who must go through the forest to reach Grandma’s house, and the tiger’s bride who has to venture to the beast’s palazzo, Sansa too experiences has fearful experiences and emerges not cowed or demoralized but stronger and more resilient. In the discussion to follow, I am going to focus on three events in Sansa’s storyline, which I think work to illustrate her gradual empowerment throughout the novels. Like Carter, Martin shows a similar reliance on the female gaze in Sansa’s story, and is equally invested I would argue in deconstructing masculinity and femininity as discrete categories.

The first event under analysis is the meeting between Sandor and Sansa on the night of the Blackwater battle. Returning to her room, she finds the Hound in her bed, and is initially terrified and perplexed by his presence. On first glance, the scene appears to plays out as a typical representation of the woman as damsel in distress, at the mercy of a powerful, domineering male figure. The reading that tends to result from such a view is that Sandor went to Sansa’s room on that night to rape her, and she was lucky to escape with her innocence intact. What I want to suggest however, is that Sansa does not indeed escape untouched or unaffected by this incident, but it doesn’t take the form of trauma or sense of violation.

Sandor, despite his later resorting to violence in a desperate moment, is not the all powerful masculine authority in this scene. He has just deserted the hellish Blackwater battle where he had to confront his fear of fire in an even more destructive form. His perceived failures, on both the personal and public front, weighs heavy:

What soon becomes clear is that the Hound isn’t there to terrorize or assault Sansa, but wants her to accompany him when he leaves the city. This, however, is contingent upon her consent, a necessity that constructs Sansa not as passive receiver, but rather someone with the power to make a choice, to decide what it is that she wants to do.

Sandor’s insistent “look at me” also gives Sansa the control of the look in this moment. He is the one asking for recognition and acceptance, offering himself up as the object of desire for her contemplation. What happens next illustrates the inherently problematic nature of the gaze for adequately attending to both male and female sensibilities. When Sansa closes her eyes (as he pulls her closer), Sandor takes it as a rejection, and reacts violently. The gaze is what he has relied on throughout most of his interaction with Sansa as a way for him to make meaning and sense of their relationship and how she feels about him. We only have to think back to their first conversation after the tourney feast to realize that the same is not true for Sansa. What she has used as her means of knowing and communicating her feelings for Sandor is the sense of touch; from her active and instinctive reaching out to him in moments of empathy and compassion, to the sensation of comfort and protection in wearing his cloak. There can be little wonder then that after the violent threat has passed, Sansa proceeds to touch Sandor:

Martin deliberately subjugates the sense of sight in this description, relying instead on what Sansa feels to communicate to her and the reader about Sandor’s emotional state. As noted before, touch (and taste) implicates the subject (Sansa) with the object (Sandor) in a much more intimate and meaningful manner. What is interesting to consider is the productive potential of this implication/incorporation for Sansa’s sexuality. We’ve noted in the past that the unkiss is a way for Sansa to assume agency over her sexual development/awakening, and I think this reading remains valid. However, to tease out additional strands, what is a kiss if not a means of tasting, indeed, the harmony of both touch and taste? The unkiss shouldn’t be written off as foolish fantasy as many readers tend to do, but warrants appreciation as the next logical step in the development of Sansa’s autonomous desires, and a construction of “truth” for her that corresponds to a very real internal logic.

The next event under consideration is Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion, specifically the wedding night. Once again, Martin deconstructs the traditional association between masculinity and mastery, and ends the chapter with Sansa’s firm rejection of Tyrion. It is evident that what little power Tyrion has in this scene comes not from any innate sense of power and authority, but rather that he is relying on patriarchal sanctions – the law of the father (and literally his father) – to legitimize his actions and give him the courage to rape his wife. It’s a distasteful prospect for Tyrion, and we see him struggling not only between his own personal sense of right and wrong vs. the public mandate that he has been given to “take what is his by right,” but also with his desire for Sansa and his awareness of her complete lack of interest in him.

What’s interesting in a chapter which is from Sansa’s POV is how much “inside” information Martin gives us into Tyrion’s psyche and his anxieties. Whilst we could argue about the authorial handling of the chapter with respect to certain details, I think Martin’s overall achievement was in showing how both Sansa and Tyrion end up rejecting their respective patriarchal mouthpieces – Septa Mordane and Tywin Lannister. However, and this is a big however, Sansa dismissal of the Septa’s words is founded on concrete lack of desire for her husband, transforming Tyrion’s offer of a reprieve into an outright rejection of him as an object of desire.

It’s important to understand just why Sansa’s active deployment of the gaze is so central to the question of her sexuality and agency.

Sansa’s looking takes on distinct properties of the male gaze in this scene. She not only looks at Tyrion, but zeroes in and singles out each of his imperfections that are distasteful to her. It is not a passive rejection, in that she thinks to herself that she is merely not attracted to him, but a remarkably active appraisal, that judges at the same time as it looks, establishing Sansa’s right to find pleasure in her husband and asserting that female erotic desires are just as valid as male ones. Somehow, I don’t think such active truth seeking is what Septa Mordane had in mind when she told Sansa all men were beautiful.

This scene also seems pertinent to the theory by Linda Williams on the “flash of sympathetic identification” that can take place between the girl and the monster in the horror film, which is not related to sexual desire, but to the awareness on the girl’s part that she and the monster have been constructed as lacking within normative male identity:

There can be no happy ending for this beauty and beast pairing and to stress, there should not be. This is not an example of the classic fairytales and myths where one can magically fall in love with a suitor visiting them in the dark of night.

I should note here that Tyrion has not yet embraced his “monster” persona at this point in the story; he’s still trying to embody the ideals of a good husband and desirable partner for Sansa. In order words, he is still invested in the patriarchal aspiration of a loving family despite his awareness of why it can’t work; he’s still a Lannister. And it is perhaps for this reason that he is opened to the symbolic power of Sansa’s rejection as a castrating force, a devastating blow to the male psyche which Tyrion spends the remainder of the time in his marriage trying to disavow, first through voyeurism, then via fetishistic scopophilia. Let’s recall what Mulvey says about how these operate:

The male unconscious has two avenues of escape from this castration anxiety:

preoccupation with the re-enactment of the original trauma (investigating the

woman, demystifying her mystery), counterbalanced by the devaluation,

punishment or saving of the guilty object (an avenue typified by the concerns

of the film noir); or else complete disavowal of castration by the substitution of a

fetish object so that it becomes reassuring rather than dangerous (hence overvaluation,

the cult of the female star). This second avenue, fetishistic scopophilia, builds up the

physical beauty of the object, transforming it into something satisfying in itself.

The first avenue, voyeurism, on the contrary, has associations with sadism: pleasure

lies in ascertaining guilt (immediately associated with castration), asserting control

and subjecting the guilty person through punishment or forgiveness. Sadism demands

a story, depends on making something happen, forcing a change in another person, a

battle of will and strength, victory/defeat, all occurring in a linear time with a beginning

and an end. Fetishistic scopophilia, on the other hand, can exist outside linear time as

the erotic instinct is focused on the look alone.

Tyrion the Voyeur – I’m just going to pull some quotes from the text to begin the discussion:

He’d risked his skin to avoid the bedding ritual, hoping to preserve the privacy of his bedchamber, but that hope had been dashed quick enough. Either Sansa had been stupid enough to confide in one of bedmaids, every one of whom was a spy for Cersei, or Varys and his little birds were to blame.

Sansa’s misery was deepening every day. Tyrion would have gladly broken through her courtesy to give her what solace he might, but it was no good.

I want her, he realized. I want Winterfell, yes, but I want her as well, child or woman or whatever she is. I want to comfort her. I want to hear her laugh. I want her to comfort her. I want her to come to me willingly, to bring me her joys and her sorrows and her lust.

“The last thing my wife needs is more songs,” said Tyrion.

Tyrion the Fetishist

She is just as comely as the Tyrell girl. Her hair was a rich autumn auburn, her eyes a deep Tully blue. 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 armor of her courtesy.

Sansa wore a gown of silvery satin trimmed in vair with dagged sleeves that almost touched the floor… Tyrion had never seen her look more lovely, yet she wore sorrow on those long satin sleeves. “Lady Sansa,” he told her, “you shall be the most beautiful woman in the hall tonight.”

----

In the examples for Tyrion as voyeur, we see him alternating between the devaluation of Sansa, suggesting that she may have been stupid enough to confide in her bedmaids, to wanting to get past her courtesy armor and have her confide in him, and finally in controlling what she hears when he tells the singer that his wife needs no more songs. The case for Tyrion as fetishist can be made if we consider how he begins an over-valuation of Sansa’s looks, going so far as to compliment her in front of his mistress, and seeming to gain perverse pleasure from the association of her beauty with the sorrow and grief she is experiencing.

It all underscores the dysfunction in their relationship. For Tyrion, Sansa herself represents the lack that threatens him – he is barred from touching her in any intimate manner, and we witness the trauma of this symbolic castration playing out in the marriage, with the end result that he is no closer to knowing the real Sansa throughout their time together. Ultimately, whilst we could argue that Sansa has some passive moments on her wedding night to Tyrion, in the final analysis, this is far outweighed by the importance of the female gaze in helping her to overcome the patriarchal directives from Septa Mordane, challenge the expectation of women’s subjugation within marriage and participating in the symbolic castration of her husband by rejecting his reprieve. I consider these to be very significant achievements, contradicting Sansa’s victim status and moving her closer to an awakening of her beast.

The final incident concerns Marillion’s attempted rape of Sansa when she is in the Fingers at Littlefinger’s keep. As the wedding celebrations between LF and Lysa wind down, Sansa decides to take a walk, reminiscing on her marriage to Tyrion – one that was of course completely devoid of any pleasure or happiness, something that appears in stark contrast to the sexual nirvana Lysa is experiencing inside. As she thinks of Tyrion, and the lies he told her about being the Knight of Flowers in the dark, her thoughts naturally turn to Sandor Clegane, the one who warned her about the liars in KL, and she wonders what has become of him. When she re-enters the hall, Marillion pounces, telling her that he can make her sing louder than the Lady Lysa. Despite Sansa’s protests, Marillion is still persisting until Lothor Brune appears and stops him.

My reading of this dream, concerning the Sandor bits, has always been that it’s an erotic dream, but the part where Sansa awakens and expresses longing for Lady always seemed if not to be an anomaly exactly, at least to indicate that Martin chooses to give us no reaction to the dream at all. Others have read it as a sign that the dream was actually traumatic, not erotic, and this is why Sansa wants comfort from her wolf. It was not until I read Carter’s stories, and appreciated the feminist outlook that the wolf/beast is symbolic of the female libido that I finally grasped that this statement by Sansa is the response to the dream, and convincingly establishes its erotic nature. When Sansa wishes that the old dog were Lady, she’s not expressing a desire for comfort or protection, but rather to embody the beast herself and be able to adequately respond to the dream’s content. We know that Sansa is a warg, and even though she loses her wolf early in the story, she’s still connected to the animal in memory and thought. By seeking to reclaim her animal identity, Sansa is rebelling against the stifling societal constructions for women under patriarchy, and moving towards a conscious pursuit of agency and empowerment. The dream moves from death to life, from suffering to pleasure, appropriate metaphors for the journey women must undertake in patriarchal societies as they strive for autonomy. As Ben Barootes states:

Contemporary British fiction is fraught with the opposition of the human and

the beast and its parallel binaries – the prudish and the lusty, civility and abandon,

repression and assertion, reason and passion. The oft-reproduced and reinterpreted

story of Beauty and the Beast best categorizes such a contrast. Beauty, the female,

is virginal and self-controlled. The male beast on the other hand, represents unbridled

sexuality – an utter lack of restraint. Traditionally, Beauty and her social mores win,

transforming the Beast into a fine gentleman of suppressed urges and desires.

However, if the young woman opts to embrace her sexuality – if she gives in to her

desires and becomes master of her flesh – it is she who is transformed…

Lyanna Stark has observed that we have to pay attention to what Sansa is exactly seeing in the dream. Tyrion took off his clothes before he went to the bed, so what Sansa is looking at here is a naked Sandor, heightening the dream’s eroticism. I agree with this reading, but want to take it a little further: the important point related to this is not only that Sansa is seeing a naked Sandor in her dream, but that she is seeing at all. We’ve established that the gaze connotes desire, but in the real life version of this night, Sansa’s eyes are tightly closed when Tyrion gets into bed with her:

Compare this to dream above where we see Sansa’s eyes are fully open, able to identify the man with the scar on one side of his face as he climbs into the bed. Martin also craftily creates an intertextual link with the tale of LRRH through Sansa’s observation that “… only then he was bigger than Tyrion had any right to be,” recalling of course the ritual exchange that takes place before LRRH is “devoured” by the wolf. I like to think that this is more in keeping with ‘The Company of Wolves’ than the version by Perrault.

In conclusion, I hope the essay goes some way towards freeing Sansa from imprisonment within the damsel in distress trope forever and ever. The three young women discussed in the paper are vulnerable to patriarchal exploitation and objectification within the male gaze, but this does not render them weak or passive. The path to female empowerment and autonomy remains in Sansa’s ability to ultimately awaken her beast – and claim what has been denied of female sexuality and subjectivity from time immemorial. The three analyses I did above confirm to me that she is indeed on this trajectory, and it is little wonder that she hears the ghost wolf as she is making her way down from the Eyrie in A Feast for Crows.

ETA:

I'm going to produce a list on my sources and a bibliography a little later. Apologies for not adding them in with the document, but I'm wiped out.

Great post brashcandy! I confess that when I first saw Sansa in the show and in the first couple of books, I thought she was the helpless damsel in distress. But that changed around the middle/end of the third book. I definitely think that as the books go on Sansa is wanting more and more to take control of her life and her sexuality. The unkiss and the dream about Tyrion turning into Sandor definitely shows that Sansa has sexual desires. Whether she will ever be able to act on them-and with someone she loves- is the question. While I don't think Sansa will stay trapped in the Vale forever, I doubt that GRRM would be nice enough to give Sansa her happy ending with a brave,gentle, and strong man *cough cough maybe even Sandor cough cough*. What do you all think?

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*“Both Carter and Martin can be said to be on quest not to show the beastly nature in men, but to awaken the beast in their heroines.”

From that really good essay you wrote, i can totally agree to this statement! So many parallels between Carter’s LRRH and Sansa’s interactions with Sandor. But the story also gave us a hint of why her relationship with Tyrion didn’t work and will never probably do so in the marriage sense.

Williams goes on to state two examples of the female look within the cinema, but notes that these examples – the silent screen vamp and the “good girl” heroine – are quite problematic. The former’s “dubious moral status” requires punishment by the end.”

Reminds me of how society condemned characters like Cersei, Scarlett O’Hara or Becky Sharp. So pretending that Cersei is from the Middle-ages sort of time frame, in the 19th century it was still a big deal.

What are we to take away from the ending of Perrault’s tale?

The lesson for young girls is that they should “know better” than to associate with strange men, who will ultimately be the cause of their demise...

Maybe this can sort of be applied to be one of the reasons why Sansa didn’t trust Sandor at first. He didn’t fit her “charming prince” ideal and of course that he was sort of a stranger during Ned’s tourney, but the moment Sandor changed things between them by telling her of his scars and being the first one ever (well, maybe arya did it first) that her courtesies didn’t always produce the effect she thought they did, we can see that Sandor won’t be the cause of her demise because she ends up fearing for him, not fearing him.

Like in the tiger story: “The girl is not afraid for herself, but for the beast”

& this can also be applied to the book about the tiger and belle with the warning belle’s nurse told her.

The end of this version echoes Perrault’s as well, as LRRH is now chastened by the error of her ways: The sexual imagery of the blood on snow is immediately noticeable in Carter’s description.”

So yes, this is just like Sandor’s bloody white cloak!

This description has led some critics to claim that the story merely details Little Red Riding Hood’s passive acceptance of rape; however, what we see is not a damsel in distress, but a girl actively deciding to take her own pleasure in this interaction. The man no longer represents a threat to her, not because she has decided to let him have his way, but because she is responding to her own desires.”

This is what reminded me of Tyrion. She is not acceoting her rape or even trying to fool herself that she can take pleasure out of the situation just cause Tyrion tells her that he can be the Knight of Flowers.

“If we recall the theoretical outline in Part I of this essay, LRRH’s fear, not of the man-wolf himself, but of his gaze, makes perfect sense. Within the gaze, she is trapped and terrified, objectified within a system that denies her agency. For this brief moment in the story, she is the victim. And what is it that breaks this tension? That causes LRRH to “cease to be afraid”? It is the appeal to another sense, the howling of the wolves, which disrupts the mastery of the stranger’s gaze, and inspires a feeling of sympathy in LRRH when she looks out the window.

Like on the rooftop when she realizes that what she fears is not Sandor’s scars but his angry eyes. She doesn’t know how to handle that for a moment but in the end of that scene we see that she didn’t only question Sandor’s view of the world but told him to his face sort of that he hadn’t convinvecd her that the world was as awful as he described.

The part of wolves howling evokes the moment in Feast for Crows when Sansa is heading for the Gates of the Moon and hears the wolves and thus takes strength from that, echoing her strong Stark roots.

“In taking the wolf into herself, LRRH’s own bestial nature is underscored, along with her partner who is no longer half beast. We learnt in the first part of the story that the burning of a werewolf’s clothes meant that they would be condemned to live as a wolf forever, and in the moment of their passion LRRH throws the man-wolf’s clothing into the fire.”

Sandor is no longer The Hound like he used to be. Now he is healoing in the QI and a future could be possible between him and Sansa, whom i can see taking the wolf into herself. And it’s interesting the image of burning the werewolf’s clothes. Makes me think of the hound’s helm leaving sandor or sansa wrapping herself on sandor’s cloak cause she maybe missed him, despite him still being the hound a bit after the UnKiss. And of course, sandor’s life gave a horrible twist when gregor burned his face. Maybe in the future we can also see sandor letting go of his thirst for revenge.

*This is now about the tiger/beast tale:

Throughout this initial meeting between the girl and Milord, she is the one who stares at him, subjecting him to her gaze while the valet is making the perverse request, and he is the one to evade her eyes.

The detailed description that the girl gives of the Beast proves that,

reciprocally, the female gaze is an element to be taken into account and does not

permit itself to be passive.”

As i read this i imagined a future sansa doing this!

Milord wants to set up a ritual staging of the male gaze, with the girl acting as lifeless object for his pleasure, but in denying his request, it is the girl’s subjectivity which we are meant to recognize and credit.”

I feel as if this is one of the reasons why people misunderstand sansa and choose to symphatize with tyrion during the bedding scene. He didn’t force himself on her, but he did satisfy his “ritual staging of male gaze” and because sansa did not deny his request, is she supposed to be weak and passive? No, she is supposed to be a hostage and has learned what can go wrong if she doesn’t “please” joffrey. She doesn’t know tyrion very well and thinks of him as a lannister, a man belonging to the family of cersei and joff who have not treated her kindly.

The beast’s room is no longer filled with the scent of the heavy perfume, but his natural rank animal scent. Approaching the animal, she realizes that his “appetite need not be my extinction.” Indeed, she realizes that the beast is more afraid of her than she is of him.

Also maybe could apply to how sansa would’ve thought men who dressed up in fashion like loras, renly, joff i guess, but in her memories of sandor we could assume she is attracted to the pure masculinity he is and his scent and well, houndish nature J & this is in part cause you of what you said here Brash, “What I want to suggest however, is that Sansa does not indeed escape untouched or unaffected by this incident, but it doesn’t take the form of trauma or sense of violation.”

And why? Cause sandor recognized she should have a choice and a voice, unlike Tyrion or LF or even willas cause his female relatives would’ve wanted probably a quiet obedient wife for the heir to highgarden.

Just loved these parts: “What is interesting to consider is the productive potential of this implication/incorporation for Sansa’s sexuality. We’ve noted in the past that the unkiss is a way for Sansa to assume agency over her sexual development/awakening, and I think this reading remains valid. However, to tease out additional strands, what is a kiss if not a means of tasting, indeed, the harmony of both touch and taste? The unkiss shouldn’t be written off as foolish fantasy as many readers tend to do, but warrants appreciation as the next logical step in the development of Sansa’s autonomous desires, and a construction of “truth” for her that corresponds to a very real internal logic.”

Lyanna Stark has observed that we have to pay attention to what Sansa is exactly seeing in the dream. Tyrion took off his clothes before he went to the bed, so what Sansa is looking at here is a naked Sandor, heightening the dream’s eroticism. I agree with this reading, but want to take it a little further: the important point related to this is not only that Sansa is seeing a naked Sandor in her dream, but that she is seeing at all. We’ve established that the gaze connotes desire, but in the real life version of this night, Sansa’s eyes are tightly closed when Tyrion gets into bed with her.”

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Lummel, over PM you had mentioned LF's remark of the war of the 3 queens as evidence that he knows about Dany; Dany hadn't occurred to me at first, but rather Cersei-Marg-Sansa. For some reason I'd taken this remark to suggest that he intended to make Sansa a queen.

Littlefinger called it the "three queens", but really what it might be is five queens

- Cersei

- Margaery

- Myrcella (whom Dorne might crown)

- Daenerys (who has to show up eventually, some in Westeros know about her and her dragons)

... and the fifth would be a wild-card: perhaps Sansa as part of LF's designs, or perhaps Arianne Martell, should she marry "Aegon".

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What a wonderful, wonderful analysis brash! :)

EDIT: And now Milady posted too! *does a happy dance*

I'll comment more later, but just wanted to highlight some things that stood out to me and that I think, like you, people often misinterpret since we are programmed to see women as victims and damsels in distress. Due to this stereotypical reading, any agency on the woman's part gets ignored.

The first event under analysis is the meeting between Sandor and Sansa on the night of the Blackwater battle. Returning to her room, she finds the Hound in her bed, and is initially terrified and perplexed by his presence. On first glance, the scene appears to plays out as a typical representation of the woman as damsel in distress, at the mercy of a powerful, domineering male figure. The reading that tends to result from such a view is that Sandor went to Sansa’s room on that night to rape her, and she was lucky to escape with her innocence intact. What I want to suggest however, is that Sansa does not indeed escape untouched or unaffected by this incident, but it doesn’t take the form of trauma or sense of violation.

...

What soon becomes clear is that the Hound isn’t there to terrorize or assault Sansa, but wants her to accompany him when he leaves the city. This, however, is contingent upon her consent, a necessity that constructs Sansa not as passive receiver, but rather someone with the power to make a choice, to decide what it is that she wants to do.

This, I think, really highlights something very important people tend to skip. Sandor is upset when Sansa does not immidiately give her consent. When she looks away from him, or when she uses avoidance. Hence what he is aiming for is not brutalising her; he is after her consent. He wants her to agree to come with him and to accept him. This is also why the "he meant to rape her" makes no sense. Had he the intention of raping her, why be upset at her lack of consent? I doubt Gregor was much upset that Elia did not consent to have sex with him when he raped her.

Further, as is obvious when looked at the situation deconstructed in this fashion is that Sansa was initially afraid, but at the end of the scene she is not afraid. Instead, she reaches out to him of her own volition. She is not forced and not a victim when she does so. It's by her own free will. So I agree very strongly with that it does not take the form of trauma and does not give Sansa a sense of violation, because in the end, she had taken charge of the situation and reached out on her own accord. (Like the very illustrative LRRH example you listed brash, excellent stuff.)

My reading of this dream, concerning the Sandor bits, has always been that it’s an erotic dream, but the part where Sansa awakens and expresses longing for Lady always seemed if not to be an anomaly exactly, at least to indicate that Martin chooses to give us no reaction to the dream at all. Others have read it as a sign that the dream was actually traumatic, not erotic, and this is why Sansa wants comfort from her wolf. It was not until I read Carter’s stories, and appreciated the feminist outlook that the wolf/beast is symbolic of the female libido that I finally grasped that this statement by Sansa is the response to the dream, and convincingly establishes its erotic nature. When Sansa wishes that the old dog were Lady, she’s not expressing a desire for comfort or protection, but rather to embody the beast herself and be able to adequately respond to the dream’s content. We know that Sansa is a warg, and even though she loses her wolf early in the story, she’s still connected to the animal in memory and thought.

This is spot on, I think and further supported in the text of AGOT where we see that Septa Mordane is not happy with Sansa's relationship with Lady as it makes her "as wilful as Arya", i.e. the link to beastliness with regards to the direwolves is already there from early on. Despite Lady being the gentlest and most "civilised" of the direwolves, she is still able, as a pup, to clear a path for Sansa through crowd with no difficulty. Lady is despite her nature still a beast, and a dangerous beast.

Also, the old dog is a weak substitute for a real direwolf. Lady would be far fiercer and more dangerous than the old blind dog, and from early on gets to symbolise the fiercer, wilful part of Sansa's personality where she goes against society's conventions on how to act as a "proper lady".

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Thanks for your responses Caro and Lyanna :)

This is spot on, I think and further supported in the text of AGOT where we see that Septa Mordane is not happy with Sansa's relationship with Lady as it makes her "as wilful as Arya", i.e. the link to beastliness with regards to the direwolves is already there from early on. Despite Lady being the gentlest and most "civilised" of the direwolves, she is still able, as a pup, to clear a path for Sansa through crowd with no difficulty. Lady is despite her nature still a beast, and a dangerous beast.

Also, the old dog is a weak substitute for a real direwolf. Lady would be far fiercer and more dangerous than the old blind dog, and from early on gets to symbolise the fiercer, wilful part of Sansa's personality where she goes against society's conventions on how to act as a "proper lady".

Precisely. You know in the past the traditional reading has tended to associate Sandor with the old blind dog, but it's always never quite fit right due to the fact that he was (and would likely still remain) a very capable protector. However, if we think of the blind dog as representing victimized womanhood, then it opens up new possibilities for analyzing how Sansa wants to be freed from that situation, the danger of which is evident by men like Marillion. And it really drives home the point of how the unlocking of female sexuality leads to autonomy for women. It is through the dream of genuine sexual desire that Sansa has a firm image linked to being fiercer, more empowered, more like her direwolf.

I'm glad you liked the analysis on LRRH too, Lyanna :) Both stories were an absolute pleasure to analyse and I'd recommend everyone to read them:

The Company of Wolves

The Tiger's Bride

Carter also did another Beauty and the Beast revision story which is called The Courtship of Mr. Lyon. I'll read that in the future and probably present an analysis too.

There's really lots more that I wanted to discuss in both stories - especially the motifs of red and white/blood on snow/blood on white roses. In both stories there seems to be an association between women and snow, which is quite interesting considering Sansa's affiliations and of course her keeping of the bloody cloak. Overall, I think the red on white points to female sexuality, the shedding of innocence and all that, but the snow itself seems to be used to symbolize female strength and endurance. Still mulling that over!

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Williams goes on to state two examples of the female look within the cinema, but notes that these examples – the silent screen vamp and the “good girl” heroine – are quite problematic. The former’s “dubious moral status” requires punishment by the end.”

Reminds me of how society condemned characters like Cersei, Scarlett O’Hara or Becky Sharp. So pretending that Cersei is from the Middle-ages sort of time frame, in the 19th century it was still a big deal.

Yes, I definitely thought of Cersei when I read that :) It's telling how society limits women to either being the good girl or the bad woman, and neither role escapes punishment.

What are we to take away from the ending of Perrault’s tale?

The lesson for young girls is that they should “know better” than to associate with strange men, who will ultimately be the cause of their demise...

Maybe this can sort of be applied to be one of the reasons why Sansa didn’t trust Sandor at first. He didn’t fit her “charming prince” ideal and of course that he was sort of a stranger during Ned’s tourney, but the moment Sandor changed things between them by telling her of his scars and being the first one ever (well, maybe arya did it first) that her courtesies didn’t always produce the effect she thought they did, we can see that Sandor won’t be the cause of her demise because she ends up fearing for him, not fearing him.

Indeed. I think you're spot on in identifying the connection between Perrault's warning and the encounter between Sandor and Sansa after the tourney feast. Had Sansa not engaged this "strange" man, her future would have been a lot more bleak.

The end of this version echoes Perrault’s as well, as LRRH is now chastened by the error of her ways: The sexual imagery of the blood on snow is immediately noticeable in Carter’s description.”

So yes, this is just like Sandor’s bloody white cloak!

Yup! Just noted this above too ;)

“If we recall the theoretical outline in Part I of this essay, LRRH’s fear, not of the man-wolf himself, but of his gaze, makes perfect sense. Within the gaze, she is trapped and terrified, objectified within a system that denies her agency. For this brief moment in the story, she is the victim. And what is it that breaks this tension? That causes LRRH to “cease to be afraid”? It is the appeal to another sense, the howling of the wolves, which disrupts the mastery of the stranger’s gaze, and inspires a feeling of sympathy in LRRH when she looks out the window.

Like on the rooftop when she realizes that what she fears is not Sandor’s scars but his angry eyes. She doesn’t know how to handle that for a moment but in the end of that scene we see that she didn’t only question Sandor’s view of the world but told him to his face sort of that he hadn’t convinvecd her that the world was as awful as he described.

Ah yes, great point. And do you notice how most of the times they meet, when Sandor is telling Sansa to look at him it's either really dark or they're so close together that touching would be easier instead of looking? I don't want to minimize the importance of "the look" in their relationship, but I do think that Martin wants to critique Sandor's reliance on it as a way of knowing, even as he ultimately empowers Sansa by placing himself as object. It requires touching and looking for them to move past power inequalities and find mutual pleasure.

The part of wolves howling evokes the moment in Feast for Crows when Sansa is heading for the Gates of the Moon and hears the wolves and thus takes strength from that, echoing her strong Stark roots.

Great catch.

“In taking the wolf into herself, LRRH’s own bestial nature is underscored, along with her partner who is no longer half beast. We learnt in the first part of the story that the burning of a werewolf’s clothes meant that they would be condemned to live as a wolf forever, and in the moment of their passion LRRH throws the man-wolf’s clothing into the fire.”

Sandor is no longer The Hound like he used to be. Now he is healoing in the QI and a future could be possible between him and Sansa, whom i can see taking the wolf into herself. And it’s interesting the image of burning the werewolf’s clothes. Makes me think of the hound’s helm leaving sandor or sansa wrapping herself on sandor’s cloak cause she maybe missed him, despite him still being the hound a bit after the UnKiss. And of course, sandor’s life gave a horrible twist when gregor burned his face. Maybe in the future we can also see sandor letting go of his thirst for revenge.

Yeah, definitely something there to tease out. Both LRRH and the werewolf in The Company of Wolves are reborn through fire. They cast their clothes in and with it their old selves and identities.

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Yes, I definitely thought of Cersei when I read that :) It's telling how society limits women to either being the good girl or the bad woman, and neither role escapes punishment.

...

Indeed. I think you're spot on in identifying the connection between Perrault's warning and the encounter between Sandor and Sansa after the tourney feast. Had Sansa not engaged this "strange" man, her future would have been a lot more bleak.

These two also seem rather connected to me. The Good Girl toes the line and becomes a Proper Lady while the Bad Woman is the evil siren type instead. LRRH in the traditional story works as a warning of how not to act: don't stray from the path, don't talk to strangers etc etc. but that is also so very much a structure to control women's desires and agency.

Butterbumps! touched earlier in a post on how letting someone love you can lead to connotations of how women are supposed to passively reciprocate a man's love (really heavy heteronormativity there) and the warnings above seem to tie into that too. Women ought to love the men that are "proper" and "right" for them, not the strangers. Instead, women need to be prevented from experiencing and expressing this desire, and it needs to be described as frightening and morally wrong.

Sansa is interesting since she really starts out very strongly having been conditioned into the perfect woman in a patriarchal society. She has bought everything they are selling, you might say. She's toeing the line, she's being the good girl, playing the role, appreciating the type of men she is supposed to appreciate (the gallant and handsome knight) and repeating the words she has been taught. Then as things start crumbling around her, she's forced to actually reasses all those things. In light of the crumbling of Sansa's own buying into the system, it then should follow naturally that she will have to come face to face with her own desire. Interestingly, we see her embracing the connection with Sandor while also rejecting Tyrion seemingly based on the same underlying reasoning. Instead of accepting someone else's view of what she's supposed to like/dislike, desire/not desire, she is making up her own mind.

Ah yes, great point. And do you notice how most of the times they meet, when Sandor is telling Sansa to look at him it's either really dark or they're so close together that touching would be easier instead of looking? I don't want to minimize the importance of "the look" in their relationship, but I do think that Martin wants to critique Sandor's reliance on it as a way of knowing, even as he ultimately empowers Sansa by placing himself as object. It requires touching and looking for them to move past power inequalities and find mutual pleasure.

It's also interesting since looking implies distance, while touching is inherently more intimate and implies a generally more intimate connection. While Sandor puts the emphasis on the look, as readers we note that their relationship is characterised by a lot of touching in a similar way to Jaime's and Brienne's.

Yeah, definitely something there to tease out. Both LRRH and the werewolf in The Company of Wolves are reborn through fire. They cast their clothes in and with it their old selves and identities.

Milday made some great points above*** about fire being both a damaging and life giving force in Sandor's life, and he's interesting in that he seems to have had more than one metaphorical rebirth (I think Ragnarok pointed this out, that both the cave scene with Beric and then the subsequent "dying" at the Trident can be seen as death and rebirth scenarios, and that in this case, Sandor is one of the few who's had more than one such incident.)

Fire is also recurring in his arc, and fire definitely seems tied to his rebirth scenarios as well, symbolically.

*** I will get to that post too, I promise! I just feel I need to read it at least once more and mull it over. :)

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She resolves to send the mechanical maid to her father (who is once again wealthy) and goes to find the beast in his den. Conditions in the castle have changed as well, with the valet also feeling secure in revealing his animal nature. The beast’s room is no longer filled with the scent of the heavy perfume, but his natural rank animal scent. Approaching the animal, she realizes that his “appetite need not be my extinction.” Indeed, she realizes that the beast is more afraid of her than she is of him. She stretches out her hand to signal the wish for contact, and the beast in return sniffs the air but can smell no fear.

The transformation that occurs at the end of the story is of the girl into a beast herself, and once again Carter foregrounds the importance of touch and taste in creating intimacy and breaking down the binaries of beast/beauty, self/other, masculine/feminine. According to Jenny Fabian, the intense shaking of the house symbolizes the crumbling of “the very edifice of gender construction.” Thomas Bonnici captures the essential significance of Angela Carter’s work:

By means of the time-battered and problem-ridden fairy-tales, Carter has

tried to denounce patriarchy and its containment ideology … the reciprocity

the gaze, equal sexual relationship and the appreciation of female desire

produces a world vision, if not fully women-centered, at least, of poise and

balance. If the formula of beast equals female sensuality is correct, then

Carter has struck on the much debated elements in feminist trends. Patriarchy

has created such conditionings on the female that the free expression of

sensuality and voice became impossible and differentiated her from the

male in her most inherent rights. Through Carter’s fiction and especially

through her rewriting of the old fairy-tales, the reader in feminist thought

succeeds in visualizing the fearless approach of the female towards

sensuality, her recovery of subjectivity and a new empowerment.

If we recall the theoretical outline in Part I of this essay, LRRH’s fear, not of the man-wolf himself, but of his gaze, makes perfect sense. Within the gaze, she is trapped and terrified, objectified within a system that denies her agency. For this brief moment in the story, she is the victim. And what is it that breaks this tension? That causes LRRH to “cease to be afraid”? It is the appeal to another sense, the howling of the wolves, which disrupts the mastery of the stranger’s gaze, and inspires a feeling of sympathy in LRRH when she looks out the window. Perhaps Williams’ theory on the female gaze in the horror film holds some relevance here. Although the man-wolf attests that these wolves are his brothers, it is LRRH who seems to have created a bond/affinity with them in that instant. The stranger is a werewolf, part human himself, but LRRH’s sympathy is given to these pure “monsters” and it is this potential identification that awakens her own animal desires and ends her fear, what Williams refers to as the power of a non-phallic sexuality. As Merja Makinen states:

Reading Carter’s fairytales as her female protagonists’ confrontations with desire,

in all its unruly ‘animalness’, yields rich rewards… Read the beasts as the projections

of a feminine libido, and they become exactly that autonomous desire which the

female characters need to recognize and reappropriate as a part of themselves.

By the time the exchange picks back up between the two, touch is the sense which is now foregrounded, and LRRH is leading the way. She talks of his big arms and he replies that these will be better to hug her with; we are moving towards the territory of equality and mutual pleasure, not exploitation and assault. As the story comes to a close, we are given a forecast of future harmony between LRRH and the wolf:

This brings to mind Elisabeth Grosz’s point about how taste functions in implicating the subject with the object – as there is actual ingestion taking place. In presenting her vision of equitable gender relations, Carter has elevated the other senses of sound, touch and taste, and revealed how these can contribute to pleasure and a more profound happiness outside of the traditional patriarchal reliance on sight. In taking the wolf into herself, LRRH’s own bestial nature is underscored, along with her partner who is no longer half beast. We learnt in the first part of the story that the burning of a werewolf’s clothes meant that they would be condemned to live as a wolf forever, and in the moment of their passion LRRH throws the man-wolf’s clothing into the fire. She has secured her beast and in the final lines of the story, she sleeps “sweet and sound” in her grandmother’s bed, “between the paws of the tender wolf”.

I really love this idea of the other senses besides the gaze being a source of empowerment for the female. I want to focus on the sense of smell here because that is also a very significant aspect of Sandor and Sansa's interactions. When he grabs her in her room the night of the Battle he smells of vomit and blood and fire. These are very realistic, raw smells. Sandor never tries to disguise them with more genteel perfumy scents as opposed to Petyr Baelish whose breath always smells minty (except for the last chapter in AFFC when Sansa can smell some wine on his breath). It is a means of seeing the "real" man on a more intimate level and coming to accept that reality.

Also, this part about the ugly woman who is pregnant but no one knows who the father is and was likely raped screamed Lollys to me.

The fact that this tale represents an implicit warning for female sexuality becomes evident in the girl’s continued recollections of the things she could not reveal to her nurse during this time. In the company of “giggling nursemaids” she learns of “mysteries of what the bulls did to the cows” and hears of the gossip concerning the waggoner’s daughter, who has gotten pregnant, but is so notoriously ugly that no one can imagine who the father is.

Quote

Yet, to her shame, her belly swelled amid the cruel mockery of the ostlers and her son was born of a bear, they whispered. Born with a full pelt and teeth; that proved it. But when he grew up, he was a good shepherd, although he never married, living outside the village and could make the wind blow any way he wanted to besides being able to tell which eggs would become cocks, which hens.

The girl’s rustic education in the realities of sex between animals and those between humans and beasts acts as a kind of perverse preparation for her current predicament. Despite the nurse’s best efforts, she is not totally an innocent.

Sansa has heard the rumors of Lollys becoming pregnant and I think it's a direct parallel to what you wrote above. Despite Septa Mordane's best efforts, Sansa is not totally innocent. Poor Lollys, because of her disability, will never be in a position to take control or assert consent of her desires. She is a foil to Sansa in this sense.

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Great point concerning smell, Elba. Come to think of it, the bloody cloak she huddles under must not have smelt very pleasant either. As you noted, it really goes to that acceptance of the "real" man, and it adds support to the knowledge she is gaining from her other senses. No Knight of Flowers for Sansa, huh. :)

The story of the waggoner's daughter in The Tiger's Bride is an interesting one. I see it as pointing to how society valorizes beauty and marginalizes the women who don't fit that standard. Ironically, as we see with the tale the nurse gives to frighten the beautiful child into patriarchal submission, it is the ugly women who are allowed freedom in the end via their marginalization (this woman supposedly sleeps with a bear). This is something the girl learns at the end when she transforms into a tiger, and plans to send the clockwork maid back to her father.

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The story of the waggoner's daughter in The Tiger's Bride is an interesting one. I see it as pointing to how society valorizes beauty and marginalizes the women who don't fit that standard. Ironically, as we see with the tale the nurse gives to frighten the beautiful child into patriarchal submission, it is the ugly women who are allowed freedom in the end via their marginalization (this woman supposedly sleeps with a bear). This is something the girl learns at the end when she transforms into a tiger, and plans to send the clockwork maid back to her father.

Alysane Mormont, the Bear Island heiress, claims her children were fathered by bears. She's also described as not conventionally attractive. However, her sister Dacey was, and she enjoyed the same freedom as her sister, and her death wasn't related to her beauty or to her specific defiance of patriarchal authority - she was on the wrong side of the war.

The Mormonts don't appear to have patriarchs at all. Jeor may have been one but when he went to the Wall, he left no patriarch in his place.

Likewise Meera Reed, who seems to be average-looking, has a father but no apparent patriarch - she's free to cart her younger brother all the way from the Neck to Winterfell, with no guards and no authority figures; later, off she, the same sickly brother, a crippled boy and a simple-minded man go to way beyond the Wall. She doesn't say "I have to ask my father." I'm assuming from these examples that the Bear Island and Crannogmen cultures are different from Westeros as a whole. I do think it's an interesting point that average-looking Meera and plain Alysane Mormont have more freedom than conventionally beautiful Sansa, Cersei, or even Arianne Martell.

Arya is plainer than Sansa - at least at this point - and Ned indulged her wishes to live as a tomboy and mingle with the servants. Sansa never expressed those urges - she was absolutely conventional - but if it were Sansa who had wanted to flout Westerosi norms of what it meant to be a "lady," or if Arya had been the pretty one - would Ned have been this indulgent? In any case, Arya's having her way was dependent on her having an indulgent patriarch. Tywin would not have indulged her no matter what she looked like.

Edited: I wanted to add this here rather than a new post: Both Meera and Alysane come from relatively poor families (by noble standards). Crannogmen don't marry outside their culture (as far as we know) and Alysane's claim to Bear Island is not the tempting claim that Sansa has to Winterfell. I believe that being both "poor" and "plain" are qualities that Meera and Alysane and her sisters use to stay free, instead of under patriarchal control.

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Yes, the Mormonts! I don't know why they didn't immediately occur to me with the mention of bears :)

Arya is plainer than Sansa - at least at this point - and Ned indulged her wishes to live as a tomboy and mingle with the servants. Sansa never expressed those urges - she was absolutely conventional - but if it were Sansa who had wanted to flout Westerosi norms of what it meant to be a "lady," or if Arya had been the pretty one - would Ned have been this indulgent? In any case, Arya's having her way was dependent on her having an indulgent patriarch. Tywin would not have indulged her no matter what she looked like.

Yup. It goes back to what Lyanna noted upthread about how Sansa has been conditioned to be the perfect lady in patriarchal society, and we know that her beauty has a lot to do with this. Look at how Arya is treated by Septa Mordane, for example. Women are given very little chance in society to have an autonomous identity, since from the time they're born they're already being drafted for whatever role is deemed appropriate. This is perhaps one reason why Lady is killed off so early in the narrative. Not to take away Sansa's "Starkness" or as foreshadowing of her death, but to have her find her back to a "beastly" self that is no longer based on societal norms and constructs, but founded on her own transformative, creative, genuine experiences.

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Yes, the Mormonts! I don't know why they didn't immediately occur to me with the mention of bears :)

Yup. It goes back to what Lyanna noted upthread about how Sansa has been conditioned to be the perfect lady in patriarchal society, and we know that her beauty has a lot to do with this. Look at how Arya is treated by Septa Mordane, for example. Women are given very little chance in society to have an autonomous identity, since from the time they're born they're already being drafted for whatever role is deemed appropriate. This is perhaps one reason why Lady is killed off so early in the narrative. Not to take away Sansa's "Starkness" or as foreshadowing of her death, but to have her find her back to a "beastly" self that is no longer based on societal norms and constructs, but founded on her own transformative, creative, genuine experiences.

I like that. It works with Arya too. Although not dead, she has been cut off physically from her wolf. And she's taking an extremely uncommon path (even the kindly man has said that women are rare in the House of Black and White).

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In reading brashcandy and milady's essays I started thinking about one aspect that hit me about the Beasts in Sansa's life, particularly about Tyrion, whom I find to be much more interesting than the Hound (sorry!) which is the Romantic sensibility that surrounds their beastiness.

As milady says

"Sandor Clegane could have had a wife and a family, his disfigurement was not in itself the cause of his solitude."

The same point can be made for Tyrion and Littlefinger. Tyrion is not fit, nor strong but he is smart, witty and powerful in his own way. Plus he is a Lannister. Littlefinger is a man of many resources, he has one of the most important roles at court and a case can be made that he is probably the master at protecting what he wants protected. And yet, neither Sandor, nor Tyrion (until Sansa), nor Littlefinger are married. The three of them, as brashcandy pointed out in her essay and as many of you remarked in the previous posts about LF want Sansa to come to them, to choose them and they are reluctant to use violence or coercion, arms that they would use in general.

The explanation that keeps being the more plausible to me is that the beasts are slighted children at heart. LF has openly been rejected by Catelyn and the Hound and Tyrion are sistematically rejected for their uglyness. In what seems to me a little out of the Medieval context, they seem to have what I like to call the "last pick of the sports team" syndrome. They want to be singled out by Sansa. They want her to recognize them not as inevitable but as desirable. In more serious terms, their sensibility in this sense seems to be Romantic in nature. Indeed, more than once in reading Tyrion (since he seems to have this same unresolved issue towards Cersei that chose his brother and not him) my head kept returning to some of my favorite poems, written by a poet called Giacomo Leopardi. He was a short, slightly deformed man (he was hunchbacked and he had bad eyesight due to his relentless studying ever since he was a kid) who had been gifted with an intellect out of the ordinary. He was an avid reader and a connoisseur of different disciplines. Sounds familiar? He had a fundamental pessimism that informed all his poetry, he was a recluse and he lived in the 19th century. But, even with all his caveats, look what he writes in one of his poems:

"You sleep, for slumber in your quiet rooms

Peacefully welcomes you; and not a care

Consumes; and little do you know or guess

How great a wound you opened in my heart.

You sleep: this sky above which so benign

Appears to view, I face around to greet.

And ancient Nature the omnipotent

Which fashioned me for pain. From you I sever

Hope, she said. Yes, even hope. May nothing

Illuminate your eyes but helpless tears.

This was fiesta day; now from its play

You take repose; and maybe you remember

In dreams how many pleased you, and how many

Today you pleased: but I, not that I hoped to,

Come into your mind. Meanwhile I ask

How long I have to live, and here to earth

I fling myself, cry, quake. Oh horrible

In such green season!"

Even more than in this poem, there is an entire poem dedicated to Saffo's suicide due to an unrequited love (I can't find the translation for that one).

Compare "May nothing illuminate your eyes but helpless tears" with Sandor's behaviour in the scene that brashcandy reported ("What have you lost?" "All" and then his tears) or "In dreams how many pleased you, and how many Today you pleased: but I, not that I hoped to, Come into your mind." to Tyrion's thoughts when the idea of marrying Sansa materializes (I don't have the books with me and I can't look up the quote) or again "And little do you know or guess how great a wound you opened in my heart." with how LF took his rejection from Cat. It seems that centuries separe them but I find remarkable how the main feeling remains the same. They have been wounded and they howl their pain. Sansa is their revenge on Mother Nature. They seem to be characters ahead of their time, at least in this sense.

Or it might be that I am in love with these poems and somehow I find links to them everywhere ;)

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The three of them, as brashcandy pointed out in her essay and as many of you remarked in the previous posts about LF want Sansa to come to them, to choose them and they are reluctant to use violence or coercion, arms that they would use in general.

Well I didn't quite make that point ;) Sandor definitely is the one who wants Sansa to come to him and is really mindful of her consent and quite ashamed when he gets violent for a moment. Tyrion is concerned about her consent as well, but I'd argue that it's a bit more complicated than what we see with Sandor, and involves a lot of complex self esteem/identity issues on his part. Concerning his methods - as I noted in the essay about the voyeurism, I'd say he does subject Sansa to visual violence, and had she not escaped the marriage when she did, I'm not sure how that all would have played out. LF is absolutely willing to use violence, not against her as yet, but certainly against others in order to manipulate her feelings and implicate her in these crimes. We've talked before of his subtle sexual coercion too, grooming her in a long term plan to lower her defences. I see the point you're making about the three of them wanting her to come to them, but there are crucial differences between the men and their approach to Sansa.

Or it might be that I am in love with these poems and somehow I find links to them everywhere ;)

I'd take any excuse for reading a poem, thank you! :) I'm going to read that over again, and see if there's anything I can add.

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That amazing research

Oh gods Milady, wow... really good research there and it's very sad but unfortunately a reality by the cases you presented. regarding sandor, again, you've made me feel even more for this character. :crying: So harsh but yes, you're right. it's the fact that his brother did that to him the shocking thing. Really good research!

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As milady says

"Sandor Clegane could have had a wife and a family, his disfigurement was not in itself the cause of his solitude."

The same point can be made for Tyrion and Littlefinger. Tyrion is not fit, nor strong but he is smart, witty and powerful in his own way. Plus he is a Lannister.

I think that this is comparing an acquired deformity to an inherited one, and I’d argue that such a comparison is problematic. The psychological state of a person who is born with an infirmity or a deformity, like Tyrion, is different from that of someone who was made a deformed person later in life, like Sandor, in the same way that a person who is born blind and deaf differs from a person who’s slowly losing sight and hearing due to some illness. Whilst both have the same limitations and must face the same prejudices and rejection from society, their mental functioning cannot and must not be compared if we mean to understand them from an objective standpoint. A person with a hereditary illness must adjust to it yes or yes since they have use of reason or even earlier, as babies; they do not know any alternatives, they do not know how it is to be healthy, whereas a person who acquired a disability has to adjust and re-adjust constantly over the years, both physically and emotionally, they have to rework on a new body image, and they have known what’s it like to be healthy, not monstrous; they have their memories of a former self that they have to discard to create a new identity as a deformed or infirm person, so it’s harder for them psychologically speaking and the sequels last longer.

Moreover, in the case of Tyrion, dwarfism has genetic origins, unlike scars, and was considered a sign that you are cursed by the gods, and there are a lot of negative traits people associated with them that they didn’t with scarred and burnt persons. He may have all the riches of Casterly Rock behind his back and be able to give a woman everything material and protection, but his deformity is hereditary, therefore, even if a woman accepts him either because of his gold or his wits, it carries more weight than in the case of Sandor, and that’s because of biological predisposition, not mere shallowness, for they instinctively know that they could have deformed children, whereas with Sandor once women get past his scars and his rage, they know there is no risk of having a disfigured baby but one big and healthy.

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Seriously, wow you guys are amazing. I just want to say that you guys have definitely changed my life, I never really thought about agency or womans views but wow I totally look at myself with new eyes. I have never really read about feminism, wasn't really offered in school, but if you could give me some feminism 101 books and more I would love to check it out.

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