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brashcandy

From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XVI

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Love and Marriage Go Together Like a Horse and Carriage…right?

Arranged marriages

Marriage within the noble classes is largely an arranged affair. The reasoning behind the marriage can vary but it is generally used to cement alliances and strengthen ties between families. Typically, the engaged couple is given a chance to meet and spend time together before their marriage, such as Myrcella and Trystan in Dorne. However, one of the first couples we encounter in the series is that of Ned and Catelyn, who married as practically strangers in order to solidly a political alliance. Catelyn’s thoughts tell us that their wedding night and early marriage had a very dutiful feel to it, reflecting a sentiment that would be common within many arranged marriages. Another female character who has been married to solidify a political advantage for her family would be that of Marg, three times married and yet still a maid. According to LF, this is not necessarily her choice yet duty to family has dictated her path. In Clash, we have Lady Hornwood, recently widowed and currently managing the Hornwood estates. In her case, there is no question that she will marry again; the only unknown is who will be the bridge groom.

<snip>

There's also the Dornish solution of paramours that seems to be frowned upon elsewhere. I think Oberyn and Ellaria is presented very much as a union of love. We're not given a name or husband for the Princess of Dorne that was Oberyn, Doran and Elia's mother but Oberyn mentions she had a paramour as well. I imagine this is trickier for women in Dorne while married given the hereditary nature of succession but it seems a common and accepted practice. A bastard Ellaria Sand is hardly a fit match for someone of Oberyn's birth but that doesn't seem to matter to anyone in Dorne and their children are certainly treated as equals to trueborn offspring or very close in the halls of Sunspear. In Dorne the paramour route seems to somewhat circumvent the love and birth station obstacles.

The really disasterous love matches seem to involve a broken vow. If Lyanna was not betrothed to Robert her running off with Rhaegar probably wouldn't have ignited the flames of war. There were no dire consequences for Doran marrying for love (if anything politics and arranged marriages for their children took a toll on love.) Aeghon V (Egg) was said to marry for love and nothing awful came of that-- though Barristan hints something bad came from letting his children-- or at least one of them-- do the same.

Marriages are used to cement or create alliances, but those alliances exist to either preserve the peace or help realize an ambition. The North seemed stable under Rickard Stark so he very well could have let Brandon marry Barbrey Ryswell for love. The arranged betrothal to Cat for his "Southron ambitions" may have created as much instability as other marriages for love have in the series. It certainly hurt stability in the North more than it helped it. Does ambition over stability do as much harm as love over stability? If there is currently political stability and you marry for love are you sentencing your children to marry for duty by not marrying to preserve that stability? (Somewhat circular I know.)

The wildlings are among my favorites in this series. They do seem to have some rules like Ygritte mentions that marrying someone from the same village is a taboo. There don't seem to be any wildlings as unhappy with their spousal lot as a Cersei was with Robert but they also don't have political marriages. There's Craster but he's a bit of an outsider to wildling culture (and he does own a knife and does go to sleep.) In general the wildling women seem far happier with their romance fortunes than those south of the Wall. Of course, unlike south of the Wall there are no real political implications for a marriage for them.

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It seems that arranged marriages, in a culture where that is the norm and everyone grows up to expect it, can work very well (Ned and Cat, Mace Tyrell and Alerie Hightower as far as we know, Edmure and Roslin seem to have been headed that way) as long as both the parties concerned are basically decent people who want their marriage to work. That applies to both Ned and Cat. Both of them fundamentally nice people and both of them wanting to be happy with one another.

However, in a patriarchal culture like Westeros (except Dorne which is an outlier in many ways) I sense that the husband above all has to be a decent person or else the marriage will be unhappy due to the powerlessness of the wife. My guess is that husbands actually murdering wives was rare and not something they could get away with - Ramsay Bolton being an exception and I think he got away with all his cruelties because of the war. In peacetime, Ramsay's liege lord (Ned or Robb) and the Manderlys would come down on him and Roose like a ton of bricks. But even in an ordinary situation, an unpleasable husband would mean a miserable wife.

I note, though, that while Cat said she had vowed to "obey" (in GoT) when she and Ned were married, it seems this particular vow was exclusive to the Seven. Ramsay and Jeyne/fake Arya had the cloak exchange and silent prayer beneath a heart tree. For all we know, the silent vow could have included Jeyne thinking "I vow to kill you" or something like that. Then the R'hllor wedding of Alys Karstark conducted by Melisandre just had Alys and Sigorn promising to keep one another warm (lots of little Thenns running around in the next generation, I bet). Is it taken for granted that wives obey to the point where it isn't even in the vows? Or does that lack of specific vows mean a different thing in northern marriages?

Sansa wanted to make a marriage with Joffrey work but she couldn't because he was a psychopath. Tyrion wanted his and Sansa's marriage to work (albeit due to selfish reasons) but Sansa hated her marriage so no go. Could Cersei and Robert have made it work? I think the problem there was ill-will on both sides. If Robert hadn't called Cersei "Lyanna" on their wedding night and Cersei been a less vindictive person, it might have, even if Robert continued his whoring. Robert would most likely not have been faithful to Lyanna (as she herself acknowledged) but I doubt he would have beaten her or humiliated her in public.

Doran and Mellario's marriage seems to have been between two basically decent people but fell apart due to cultural differences and probably having very little in common. Mellario didn't understand the custom of fostering young boys to other families and Doran was too hard-ass about it.

Jorah Mormont and Lynesse Hightower's marriage was ill-advised - neither of them seems to have thought of the consequences of two people, vastly different in age and upbringing, getting married without knowing each other well. (And Leyton Hightower, Lynesse's dad, ought to have known better as well; if he and his wife had told Lynesse some hard truths about marriage and life in the North, maybe things would have turned out differently). I blame Jorah more than Lynesse because she was a naive and spoiled young girl, but Jorah was old enough to know better. He's also old enough to know better than to try to put the moves on Dany, too. He's got a creepy fixation with young blondes that overrides all of his common sense.

Back to Sansa - I think she has every capacity to be happily married if she were to marry someone of goodwill who wasn't just out for her claim. She wants to be happily married. If she had a husband who also wanted to be happy with her, and wasn't droolingly fixated on her claim to Winterfell and the North, she'd manage to be happy, I think. And yes, Westerosi marriages are about claims, but Sansa says she wants to marry for love. However, given the examples of Doran and Mellario and Jorah and Lynesse, I think she needs to temper that with knowing that love is not enough to make a happy marriage.

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The wildlings are among my favorites in this series. They do seem to have some rules like Ygritte mentions that marrying someone from the same village is a taboo. There don't seem to be any wildlings as unhappy with their spousal lot as a Cersei was with Robert but they also don't have political marriages. There's Craster but he's a bit of an outsider to wildling culture (and he does own a knife and does go to sleep.) In general the wildling women seem far happier with their romance fortunes than those south of the Wall. Of course, unlike south of the Wall there are no real political implications for a marriage for them.

You make a lot of interesting points, but I feel the need to respond to that last bit.

1. That abused women are too afraid to murder their abuser in the night is not a sign of their (un)happiness. Abused people feel they are powerless even when they in fact can change the situation.

2. The wildling "marriage" not a good standard. What little we see is highly sympathetic for a culture that blurs the line between marriage and rape and imprisonment. In theory, it works the way Ygritte says, and everyone is happy. But I am sure that more than occasionally, a wildling woman is "captured" by a man who utterly disgusts her. Moreover, we know the wildlings often kidnap women from the North on their raids south of the Wall. I highly doubt they are happy in their marriages.

Honestly, I see the wildling marriage as similar to arranged marriage in that it is the luck of the draw that gets you a good marriage (though I'm guessing the consequences of a bad wildling marriage is worse).

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Honestly, I see the wildling marriage as similar to arranged marriage in that it is the luck of the draw that gets you a good marriage (though I'm guessing the consequences of a bad wildling marriage is worse).

I also would like to add that there is not a security that the wildling would steal another women the next day, or that he will take care of his children or leave you in a few months in a village far from yours. They are the "free folk" for a reason.

Something that in the "normal" Westerosi marriage is something implied, because the importance in blood and inheretance, a man will obviously provide for their children (born in wedlock obviously)

And there is the case some other men steal your wife, we don't know if they can do that or easily kill your husband leaving your children orphans. And not all wilding womans are spearwifes who can defend herself and want more stability and a better life, something that can be obtain by a good marriage thats why Gerrick Kingsbloos decided to give his daugther in marriage to knights,

May be Ygritte thinks is the best way of form a marriage, because she didn't know other way. But it is the only marriage were she could directly had a say in the subject...

I hope I make sense. I'm a great fan of this topics and I wish you continue with the great work.

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You make a lot of interesting points, but I feel the need to respond to that last bit.

1. That abused women are too afraid to murder their abuser in the night is not a sign of their (un)happiness. Abused people feel they are powerless even when they in fact can change the situation.

2. The wildling "marriage" not a good standard. What little we see is highly sympathetic for a culture that blurs the line between marriage and rape and imprisonment. In theory, it works the way Ygritte says, and everyone is happy. But I am sure that more than occasionally, a wildling woman is "captured" by a man who utterly disgusts her. Moreover, we know the wildlings often kidnap women from the North on their raids south of the Wall. I highly doubt they are happy in their marriages.

Honestly, I see the wildling marriage as similar to arranged marriage in that it is the luck of the draw that gets you a good marriage (though I'm guessing the consequences of a bad wildling marriage is worse).

I think sometimes Wildling culture is romanticized. While they do have women warriors and probably more freedom for women who are strong of character, the custom of kidnapping a wife gives me pause. And of the wildling women we meet, three are very strong characters who are either happily married (Dalla) or fierce enough to defend themselves (Val and Ygritte). Poor Gilly is utterly cowed and miserable, though Craster's family is absolutely not typical. I suspect there may have been more Gillys than we know (though not from the same depths of screwed-upness that is Craster's home and hearth). I think that Wildling culture was much like the mainstream Westerosi culture - some women managed to fit in and carve out a role (Catelyn, Olenna Queen of Thorns, Margaery Tyrell), others were so far from the mainstream that they were treated like freaks (Brienne of Tarth), others hated being women and tried to rebel against it (Cersei).

There remains a couple of outliers in the North that I want to look at more closely. First is Bear Island. The Mormont women have carved themselves a matriarchal niche in a patriarchal culture. While ostensibly it is because men tend to disappear thanks to Ironmen raids and the women have to defend themselves, it goes further than that. Maege Mormont claims her daughters were fathered by bears. I don't think most people quite believe this, (and of course it's a biological impossibility!) but everyone seems to accept the story enough that all her daughters are Mormonts, not Snows. Dacey was killed before she could have a child :( but Alysane has continued on the "My kids were fathered by bears" tradition. No-one really seems to care. I surmise that Bear Island's remoteness and poverty allow Maege and her daughters to do as they will because it's not a rich prize for heiress-hunters. Poor Sansa is being used as a piece of meat for her claim to Winterfell, but Bear Island is so poor that no-one other than Maege and her daughters want it. No-one has stepped forward to ask for Dacey's or later Alysane's hand in marriage thinking to become lord of Bear Island.

(There was a crackpot I read somewhere: Tormund Giantsbane slept with Maege Mormont and that is why he is "Husband to Bears." Har! Maybe so, maybe not, but it's amusing to think so.)

Then there is the Crannogmen culture of the Neck. Meera Reed seems to enjoy all the freedom that her brother does. She hunts, she fights, she captures direwolves in her hunting net, she wears armor and she is allowed to journey from Greywater Watch to Winterfell with only her little brother (who is small for his age and very introverted) for company. No chaperones, no indication that she is less privileged than her brother, no mention of traditional womanly arts. Again, I think that the Neck is so poor and its terrain so treacherous that women have to hunt and fight and paddle boats alongside their men. And if Meera were to become heiress to Greywater Watch, I still don't think she'll have men beating down her door to lay a claim to the Neck. Granted, with the Crannogmen culture I'm just going on what I've seen with Meera and Jojen, because that's all we really know. But if Meera is a typical Crannogwoman, she's very very different from a mainstream Westerosi girl, and more like the Mormont sisters.

Neither the Crannogmen nor the Bear Islanders have the luxury of treating women as subordinate, nor are they desirable prizes on the marriage market. I think this is what enables women like the Mormonts and Meera Reed to flourish - they are of noble blood, which protects them from the kind of rape and abuse smallfolk women must have to put up with, and yet their lands are too poor and/or isolated to be worth obtaining through marriage.

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Very happy that we're getting these discussions off the ground, Kittykat :) And it coincides nicely with Mahaut's essay on courtly romance. I think it's interesting that the first relationship we are introduced to in the story is that of an arranged marriage, and one that is successful, although not without its niggling problems. Ned and Cat may have started out as a political alliance, but they've managed to create a love match out of that, and to form a functional family unit. But it doesn't take long for flip side of the coin to show itself in the relationship between Robert and Cersei for instance, two people with battling personalities and serious unresolved grievances which have crippled any chance of happiness. If we're meant to contrast these two adult unions, we see that a lot of what of makes Ned and Cat successful is a willingness to compromise and be considerate to one another, to put aside old affections they may have had for someone else, and so on.

And now I have to leave home! :) Will continue later, but just wanted to get the ball rolling.

I'm happy too! Thank you for helping me to get started.

I've noticed before that Cat and Ned's relationship, although arranged, match what a healthy relationship would look like. They were married as virtual strangers yet the secret of their relationship isn't burning passion but mutual respect, a willingness to work on their marriage, and as you say compromise. Really, regardless of how a relationship comes to be, that's what builds long-term success. None of these elements existed between Cersei and Robert.

There's also the Dornish solution of paramours that seems to be frowned upon elsewhere. I think Oberyn and Ellaria is presented very much as a union of love. We're not given a name or husband for the Princess of Dorne that was Oberyn, Doran and Elia's mother but Oberyn mentions she had a paramour as well. I imagine this is trickier for women in Dorne while married given the hereditary nature of succession but it seems a common and accepted practice. A bastard Ellaria Sand is hardly a fit match for someone of Oberyn's birth but that doesn't seem to matter to anyone in Dorne and their children are certainly treated as equals to trueborn offspring or very close in the halls of Sunspear. In Dorne the paramour route seems to somewhat circumvent the love and birth station obstacles.

The Dornish seem to stand alone with their practice of paramours, don't they? It's a way to bridge the gap between social status and love. As you note though, it seems that women can take paramours too. In fact, Doran was very aware that Arianne was having sex and his attitude is very different than that of Hoster towards Lysa. I wonder if this more liberal attitute has something to do with the rules of inheritance in Dorne? It stands alone as the only kingdom where the eldest inherits, regardless of gender, rather than the eldest son.

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I'm happy too! Thank you for helping me to get started.

I've noticed before that Cat and Ned's relationship, although arranged, match what a healthy relationship would look like. They were married as virtual strangers yet the secret of their relationship isn't burning passion but mutual respect, a willingness to work on their marriage, and as you say compromise. Really, regardless of how a relationship comes to be, that's what builds long-term success. None of these elements existed between Cersei and Robert.

You're welcome :) Yes, to continue on with my earlier post, Ned and Cat is the most healthy relationship we're given insight into within the novels, as well as being quite realistic. It's not a fairytale existence by any means, but it works because of mutual love and respect. It's funny when people claim that a focus on love has no place in these books, when we've seen from the start how the absence of it can create chaos and unhappiness. I sometimes think that if the Tyrells had been able to achieve the Willas/Sansa match, that relationship might have evolved into something similar to what Ned and Cat had together. If we take the Tyrells at their word in their portrayal of Willas, and factor in Sansa's great commitment to being a "good wife", they both might have ended up with a solid, content union. Of course, Sansa ends up married to Tyrion, and learns very quickly that she's not willing to sacrifice her own happiness and pleasure in fulfilling this trope.

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Ultimately, marriage is a political affair, used for family advancement and political alliances. The personal becomes the political. The wife is then responsible for producing heirs to cement the alliance and ensure her husband’s family line continues. Although not surprising, I am disappointed at the small number of marriages done for love. Even worse, it seems they have a habit of not ending well.

Thank you for this very thought-provoking post Kittykatknits.

I think you made a very interesting point. I’d like to point out that marriage is political for the members of the aristocracy. I think we can speak of marriage for love in the lower social classes such as in Davos’ case. He seems happily married and has seven sons; four of them are grown men which leads me to believe that he married Marya during his smuggler’s days, before his meeting with Stannis. I’m not sure a smuggler (born in Flea Bottom) and a carpenter’s daughter are great marriage prospects so that’s the reason why I assume that it’s a love match. There is also the Lothor-Mya’s case which is presented as a potential marriage for love. KittensRuleBeetsDrool also mentioned Bear Island and the Neck as places where people seem to enjoy more freedom to “marry” according to their wishes. All these happy examples are about lower classes.

So, if we follow this reasoning, happy love matches between members of the aristocracy are highly improbable in Westeros at the moment. But on the other hand, it seems possible in the lower aristocracy and in the lower social classes. So if Sansa wants to marry for love, she may have to renounce to her Stark’s legacy as it has already been discussed in the thread, thus the symbolical death of the “lady”.

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The features of courtly love

In the canso, the troubadour sings about his love, the wife of his lord. It is a love from afar, because the lady is married and thus inaccessible. Desire is a key notion of the fin ‘Amor (courtly love of the troubadour), and very often the troubadour takes pleasure in the sufferings of love.

Once the relationship is consummated, the lovers have to be careful in order not to be discovered by the lauzengiers (scandalmongers), who could report them to the husband. Secrecy is a very important feature of courtly love/fin’ Amor. However, the lover can reveal his secret to a confidant who thus becomes the secret’s keeper (secretarius).The confidant acts as a natural intermediary between the lovers. But it is not his unique function as he is the lover’s defender and representative when the latter is away. In addition, recurrent themes in courtly love are: love from afar, sexual pleasure, sexual dreams and spiritual exaltation before the lady. Also, courtly love/fin’ Amor belongs in court life, and the two major sceneries for the lovers are the garden and the bedroom.

Sansa, Sandor and courtly love

Thanks to the WoIaF app, we know that Sandor becomes “infatuated” with Sansa very early in the narrative. One of the main themes of courtly love is love from afar, which is fitting in this situation. Because of his lower rank, lack of wealth and maybe age difference, Sandor is not a marriage prospect for Sansa. He is thus condemned to admire and love her from afar. Later on, she is first betrothed to Joffrey and then married to Tyrion. These events further estrange Sandor and Sansa. They also add the notion of adultery to their relationship, another major component of courtly love, as Sansa is legally bound to other men. After the Battle of the Blackwater, they are separated, but Sansa still thinks a lot about Sandor. She believes he kissed her during their last encounter and has sexual dreams and thoughts involving him. It actually looks like longing, another key element of courtly love. Sandor starts the novel as a ruthless killer, and as it goes on, he repeatedly rescues Sansa and unlike his knightly “brothers” of the Kingsguard, he treats her gently and does not beat her. In a sense, he is ennobled by his love for her. Again, this is a feature of courtly love. In addition, a courtly lover must faithfully serve and obey his lady in all her wishes. “A hound will die for you, but never lie to you” sums that notion well and shows the extent of his service and obedience. Interestingly enough, the Hound will die for Sansa, and not for his supposed master(s). Another parallel is the use of nicknames; the troubadours used it to keep the lady’s identity secret, but Sandor’s little bird is some sort of private nickname rarely used in public. There is also a nice similarity with courtly love in the settings of their encounters. In courtly poetry, the garden and the bedroom are the favorite spots for the lovers’ secret meetings. In AGOT and ACOK, many of their encounters take place on the way to the Godswood (a garden of some sort) or in Sansa’s bedroom.

As it was mentioned earlier, the lady can reciprocate the feeling and reveal it through various marks of affection. The look is an essential component of their dynamic, because Sandor is constantly asking her to look at him. This culminates on the night of the Blackwater when he interprets her closed eyes as a rejection. In short, it seems that looking means acceptance for Sandor. Later on, Sansa imagines that he kissed her that night. It never happened, but after this episode, Sandor gains a sexual dimension in her mind (via the UnKiss and the dream) that he never had before. It is hard to comment on the next marks of affection as they have not been in these situations so far. However, sexual union is the ultimate mark of affection and the aim of courtly love. And interestingly enough, Sansa dreams of Sandor in her marriage bed.

Another key element of courtly love is the secrecy. It has already been noted in these threads that nobody in King’s Landing seems aware of their curious relationship. But there are two characters who could understand the real nature of Sandor’s feelings; they are Arya and the Elder Brother (admitting that Sandor is the Gravedigger). They both could be associated with the confidant figure, and serve as intermediaries between the lovers. As Sansa’s sister, Arya would be a natural intermediary. However, she is a confidant only in theory as she does not seem to realize the real nature of Sandor’s feelings for Sansa. This is not the case of the Elder Brother who knows “a little of” Sandor according to Brienne’s chapter. At least, he knows enough to be aware that Sansa is “a highborn maid of three-and-ten, with a fair face and auburn hair” and that it was Arya who was travelling with Sandor. Surely, he would not be as knowledgeable of Sandor’s life and situation if the latter had not done some confessing at some point. In addition, the Elder Brother and Arya could act as Sandor’s defenders because they know he is innocent of what happened in Saltpans.

This is very much how I see their interactions. It fits with a lot of things about both of them, typical sorts of themes keep coming up.

A lot of the themes seem to be about sin, trial, and redemption (which I suppose were all central ideas to medieval life). (Courtly love was an ideal that came out of a Europe that was also deeply religious, after all. Not that it was strictly speaking moral, but it did have to grow and flower in that religious soil.) The Faith of the Seven is the most like medieval Catholicism in ASOIAF, and their story seems pulled into a very religious context.

Sansa is a pure-hearted maiden, and quite pious, but more than this, I think she is, in spiritual terms, something close to a saint. Sansa the Redeemer I call her, for her compassion and capacity to heal or bring the souls of some men out of the darkness in which they dwell (the Hound being one). This may be her role in addition to any role as half of a pair going through courtly love.

The Hound is a knight of sorts, but a sinful and impious one until her meets Sansa. Her purity touches him spiritually, makes him more courageous (morally) and he starts to emulate a "true knight". It is not consciously done to impress her, as he often (cynically) points out, but nevertheless her presence starts a change in him.

I don't know that any tales of courtly love go one without some sort of trials and tribulations - they certainly have theirs. She is a captive betrothed to an evil prince, and then later married to a freakish man who (in medieval terms) is considered an evil monster or someone cursed by God. The twist is the Hound serves these men, and must be loyal to his liege lords. Any "rescue" of her would be a betrayal, so he must suppress his knightly and manly instincts and (as you said) they both must keep their feelings utterly secret. Indeed, when he breaks, only she is really privy to his secret self. (His own masters do not understand most of why he deserted.)

Your suggestion about who are the confidants (Arya and the Elder Brother) is interesting.

Arya is not much of a confidant, really. The fact that she is the sister of his love interest is an interesting turns of events. He must prove himself worthy to her first. Sandor is on her "death list" and with good reasons, for he is a sinner (for serving evil lords and murdering an innocent in their name). Arya is in her way like an Inquisitor - she is the Hound's chief accuser, ready to sentence him to death. She wants to cast him into the hellfire. As a result, he experiences what is both a trial by combat and a trial by fire; he prevails, showing he has some divine favour, but he does end up confessing (in the criminal sense) to Arya. In a plot twist, Arya gives him a sort of anti-mercy because she is angry and imagines he will die slowly and painfully. Really though, she is being merciful - we should not forget that before this took place, she had already removed his name from her list of the condemned. She is his accuser and judge, and he confesses to her both his crimes and his desires for her sister (which so far had been spoken to nobody else). Therefore, if Arya can find it in her heart to spare him, this means he is one step closer to being worthy of Sansa.

The Elder Brother makes a better sort of confidant (of course asuming the gravedigger is Sandor). The men of the Quiet isle are basically monks, and that the knight (Sandor) is minstered to by them as he is dying is significant. As he is dying, he makes his confession (the religious kind). Of course confession, repentance, penance, and then redemption are all very typical of medieval religious themes, are they not ? To properly pursue any further stages of courtly love with Sansa, Sandor must become a true knight (a pure-hearted one). He has been wrapped up in cynicism about knighthood and ideals in general, but in being forced to confront his own sins, he rediscovers having faith and idealism and moves from false truthfulness to being "true". The ideals he must uphold are not all these if he is the Hound, but if he can shed that evil persona, by "dying" and being redeemed on his deathbed, then finally he is worthy. At that point in the story, his life or death is left for the divine powers to decide.

The Elder Brother is a confidant, but a religious one first of all - he is the hermit shrieving the man of his sins. If that is done, then Sandor can have a true confidant, one who can offer him something of a push towards his goal, as well as helping keep secret the love Sandor has for Sansa. Perhaps later, if the story goes that way, the Elder Brother may become that intermediary for Sansa as well.

It is interesting to note, the Elder Brother has also performed a similar function for Brienne of Tarth, the character who already is a quest knight, both pious and pure-of-heart. She may be destined to be a saint, but of a different sort. Brienne has confessed to the Elder Brother her deepest hurts and fears, and her quest happens to take her towards the other character she is most like in her heart: Sansa Stark. As well, she is one of the few who knows Sandor is not the evil man the realm thinks he is.

It is a weird triangle developing. I see either Brienne meeting The Hound Sandor, and he finally gets to see what a "true knight" is, or meeting Sansa, and they become very close.

Perhaps the intermediary, the confidant in this tale of courtly love who protects the couple and keep their secret safe is actually going to be Brienne ?

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On the other subject - marriage - I'd like to add a couple if things:

There is maybe something unclear about Salt Wives and Rock Wives. Salt Wives are clearly not always taken against their will. It seems in a way, a sort of concubinage when they are on the Iron Islands, but also a sort of secondary marriage when the reaver is away from home. There is some historical precedent for this - during the colonial era (and before that I am sure) it was common for sailors, explorers, and those who ranged far from home doing fur trapping and such, to take wives from among the women of the area they went to, even when they had wives and children at home. The Metis people are a result of this happening - aboriginal women and colonial wayfarers would hook up and have children, but it was a known thing that much of the time they had other wives elsewhere. Did they explain to their spouses that they had another "wife" and family somewhere elke in the world ? Maybe, maybe not.

Combining Wildlings "stealing" their mates, the Ironborn with their Salt Wives, and the Doirnish with their paramours*, I think this highlights something that is essentially a form of "common law marriage". A couple mates and spends their lives together long enough that by custom they are considered married, ceremony or not.

(*Though "paramours" seems to also imply things like mistresses, which are separate from marriages or marriage-like arrangements.)

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It was Nelson I believe who stated "No man is married beyond Gibraltar", and of course there's the old naval officers' toast:

"To our wives and sweethearts - and may they never meet"

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Perhaps the intermediary, the confidant in this tale of courtly love who protects the couple and keep their secret safe is actually going to be Brienne ?

Wonderful post, Pod. I like the idea of Brienne acting as a confidante, and it accords with my theory of her and Jaime being the designated ones to facilitate a reunion between Sansa and Sandor. It's very interesting then to consider how these events might play out after the obvious lie Brienne tells to Jaime in ADWD to get him to accompany her. As much as I believe Jaime is marked for death (and Brienne as well), I can't see it happening just yet via Lady Stoneheart.

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The twist is the Hound serves these men, and must be loyal to his liege lords. Any "rescue" of her would be a betrayal, so he must suppress his knightly and manly instincts and (as you said) they both must keep their feelings utterly secret. Indeed, when he breaks, only she is really privy to his secret self. (His own masters do not understand most of why he deserted.)

This is actually a great point and it reminds me of something else. In Lancelot, the knight of the cart by Chrétien de Troyes, Lancelot dishonours himself as a knight by climbing in a cart in order to save Guinevere. In those days, carts were used to transport garbage and criminals sentenced to death so that people could mock them in their last moments. Climbing in that cart is therefore an unknightly act and Gawain who travels with Lancelot actually refuses to do it. However, Lancelot is considered as the ultimate courtly knight/lover because Guinevere’s rescue is more important to him than his honour. Funnily enough, later on, Guinevere blames him for having hesitated to climb in the cart because a perfect courtly knight/lover wouldn’t have :D .

I completely agree with you about Arya. I decided to consider her as a confidant (but only in theory) because she has clues (that most people don’t) about Sandor’s feelings even though she doesn’t realise what’s really going on. I think the Elder Brother is more than just a religious confident. He used to be a knight and his former life was quite similar to Sandor’s. So I assume there could be deep understanding and maybe friendship between them.

And I think you made a very interesting point about Brienne. I must admit that I hadn’t thought of her like that.

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So, if we follow this reasoning, happy love matches between members of the aristocracy are highly improbable in Westeros at the moment. But on the other hand, it seems possible in the lower aristocracy and in the lower social classes. So if Sansa wants to marry for love, she may have to renounce to her Stark’s legacy as it has already been discussed in the thread, thus the symbolical death of the “lady”.

I pretty much accept the logic of what you note here, Mahaut, but it seems to me that Martin has something else in mind for Sansa, something which might not require her to renounce her lineage, or to simply retire to a life of quiet solitude (although it could happen!) Just as Arya has been trying out different identities throughout the novel, Sansa too has had her share of potential "matches" through marriage. She thought she would be Sansa Baratheon, Queen of Westeros; then there was the brief hope of Sansa Tyrell, lady to the heir of Highgarden, but she wound up as Sansa Lannister instead, lady wife of the Imp. tze has noted the possibility that she may have been Sansa Martell, and Lysa wanted her to be Sansa Arryn. She believed that she might have found freedom and happiness in Alayne Stone (which represents her lower class identity), but that might be the most imaginary of them all, considering LF's machinations and the betrothal to Harry the Heir. So what I think this highlights is that if Sansa is to achieve love and happiness in marriage (and note that in all those relationships, the lack of true love was the common factor), she's going to experience it as Sansa Stark, with all the potential power and responsibility vested in that identity. It means that the preoccupation with love and marriage - what some people assume to be central to Sansa's story line, might actually be secondary to the more important issues concerning identity and agency. It is by understanding her own needs and desires, free from the patriarchal conditioning of women like Septa Mordane and Lysa Tully, and achieving real autonomy, free from the puppet strings of men like Littlefinger, that we will see Sansa able to negotiate with the longings of her heart. If this person is meant to be Sandor, then I think we only have to look at how Martin has portrayed the nature of his affection for Sansa, and the influence he's had on her, to understand just why it might be successful after all.

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As someone who enjoys singing and loves musical theatre I am loving this topic of songs and the ideals of courtly love! I can't resist linking to this song which captures the idea of courtly love to me.

as sung by one of the all time greatest voices, Julie Andrews, from Lerner and Loewe's Camelot. Here's a link to the lyrics. They also tackle the gaze with this
, which is just beautiful. Lyrics here.

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Elba the Intoner making a great observation in the Arya re-read thread:

I wanted to comment on the description of Harenhall being so immense that it even makes Gregor look small. We now know that LF will be given Harenhall to rule and his title will become tied to this even if he has no intention of ever setting foot in the place. On the other hand, we get "the size of the castle made even Gregor Clegane seem small." Our seemingly obvious giant is described as small here, within the walls of Harenhall. So, this makes me wonder if this could be another hint to LF being the giant looming over Sansa and Arya in Bran's dream or the stone giant that Sansa will slay.

We're currently on Arya VII of ACOK.

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Excellent points, ladies.

I was thinking about arranged marriages and why some are happy and others aren't. There are different types of arranged marriages, depending on how they are arranged:

a. modern arranged marriage, in which the bride and bridegroom are considerably more involved in the choosing of the prospective husband or wife. Parents chose several possible candidates, arranged a meeting with the family and the prospective spouse, and after meeting them, their children will choose whom they wish to marry. This is a modern type, but a similar one was also practised in the Middle Ages by the commoners, and rarely in the noble class, especially by parents who doted on their children, and had no need nor desire to create a specific alliance, economic or political, through a marriage.

b. arranged marriage with courtship; is the same as the above, save that the children have a chance to get to know each other over a period of time and have a traditional relationship, with dates and so on, before they make a decision.

c. introduction-only arranged marriage, this is a modern type as well. The parents introduce their child to a potential spouse, maybe talk to him or her, but do nothing else, because thenceforward it is up to the children to make a choice.

d. Traditional arranged marriage, a type that was the common practice in the Middle Ages and it seems it is in Westeros as well, in which the parents choose their offspring's future spouse with some input from them. That is, the bride/bridegroom were asked to agree to the match, because the Church didn’t accept forced marriage, though pressure could be used on the reluctant children by the parents; but if a guardian (not a parent, mind you) used emotional blackmail, threats or other forms of pressure, he/she was moving into forced marriage territory and was risking the Church’s disapproval; even so, the guardian could bribe the clergyman in charge to turn a blind eye to it.

Sansa’s marriage is a forced one, not an arranged one, and I don’t buy that argument that this was historically what happened in medieval times. Let’s see how incorrect that assumption is by using the same “it was historical” argument against it: Cersei, as Queen Regent had the authority to find her ward a match, but not the authority to force her to marry against her will. She threatened Sansa with violence, and so she went to the sept to marry, but she didn’t agree and it was obvious to all by her tears and her refusal to kneel, and the fact that the septon didn’t say a thing makes me wonder if he was offered something, i.e. bribed, because a more independent septon, such as the current High Sparrow, would’ve at the minimum raised an eyebrow, not for Sansa’s sake but due to religious zealotry, as this was a farce in a holy place, and the fool at the sept would’ve enraged him, because if the Faith is similar to Catholicism in this as well, then allowing a jester into the sept was sacrilegious. The fact that her guardian, which in this case is also her gaoler, forced her to marry could’ve been a valid ground for annulment in the Middle Ages, because the Church was the only institution with the power to marry and to annul, much like the Faith in Westeros, and in the eyes of the Church threatening someone in order to force him or her into a ceremony that was supposed to be sacred was a reason to grant the ward an annulment. We do not know if the Faith has a similar stance, because GRRM didn’t write it, but… the reaction to the forced marriage of Lady Hornwood showed the Westerosis’ disgust, and that, to me, is an indication that the Faith, as part of the same society, might be in agreement with the Roman Catholic Church concerning this.

In other words: arranged marriages were historically accepted. Forced marriages weren’t. Big difference, and pretty important.

The only successful arranged marriage we find in the books is that of The Ned and Catelyn, and I agree that the reason for this “isn't burning passion but mutual respect, a willingness to work on their marriage, and compromise,” as KittyKatKnits and Brashcandy have said. This ties well into what I once read in a Scientific American article on arranged marriages and what made them successful. According to some studies conducted by social psychologists in segments of the population that still stick to this custom in India and the U.S., there were about 30 factors responsible for happiness in arranged marriages, of which the key ones are:

- Commitment – a determination to make the relationship a good one, on both parts. This is no one-sided task. The interesting part is that they found that because of commitment, in arranged marriages love tends to grow over time, and it surpasses the love in other marriages about five years out. This is the factor most responsible for a happy marriage, whether arranged or not.

- Communication – self-explanatory.

- Accommodation – make changes necessary for the marriage to be satisfactory. Also applies to both partners.

- Vulnerability – this is a bit difficult to explain without getting into shrink terminology, but I’ll try. This is sort of a byproduct of commitment, when you are committed to your marriage, then you are saying you’re going to be with your spouse through thick and thin, through sickness and in health, in prosperity and in poverty, etc., which makes you feel vulnerable to the other person and two people feeling vulnerable at the same time brings them together. Thus, “the reason commitment is so powerful in creating an emotional bond is because it’s the ultimate expression of vulnerability. When you make a strong commitment to be with someone no matter what, what you’re saying is, “I am entirely vulnerable to you. No matter what is happening, I will be there for you.” And if two people are making that kind of expression of commitment to each other, that brings people very close, and if they each live up to the commitment, that brings them even closer over time,” in the words of the study’s author, Dr. Robert Epstein.

- Sharing – adventures, secrets, personal space, etc., to build intimacy and love.

it's possible that the marriages in these studies were actually hybrids of free-choice marriages and arranged matches rather than traditional arranged marriages, of which there are relatively few examples nowadays and mainly in societies where it’s not easy to conduct these studies, but there’s some useful insight to be gained from these studies nevertheless. There’s something more: In the Middle Ages (as well as in Westeros) no divorce exists and getting annulments was a long and tiresome process not exempt from the risk of being denied the annulment, so those who entered an arranged match had to be prepared to make the relationship work, because there was no way out via a lawyer like in our day. You had to do your best to make it work or live in hell for the rest of your life. So, part of the reason why these marriages worked was also that, as divorce was no option, the partners had to be willing to compromise and be a team, to try to solve their problems by themselves in the absence of a speed-dial: lawyer button. Interestingly, the modern arranged marriages do have the option of divorce thanks to contemporary laws, but they rarely separate, and the reason is again commitment. Ned and Catelyn were willing to commit, and they were fortunate that both had qualities that made it possible to slowly fall in love with each other, but even if they hadn’t fallen in love, I think they’d have respected each other greatly.

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I haven't the time to think on this much but another marriage that might be considered is Tywin and Joanna's. Possibly also the troubles in Aerys' and Rhaegar's marriages. Braavosi women also need to be touched on in this discussion. Great work, guys an girls!

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Excellent points, ladies.

I was thinking about arranged marriages and why some are happy and others aren't. There are different types of arranged marriages, depending on how they are arranged:

d. Traditional arranged marriage, a type that was the common practice in the Middle Ages and it seems it is in Westeros as well, in which the parents choose their offspring's future spouse with some input from them. That is, the bride/bridegroom were asked to agree to the match, because the Church didn’t accept forced marriage, though pressure could be used on the reluctant children by the parents; but if a guardian (not a parent, mind you) used emotional blackmail, threats or other forms of pressure, he/she was moving into forced marriage territory and was risking the Church’s disapproval; even so, the guardian could bribe the clergyman in charge to turn a blind eye to it.

Well I am just in a musical theatre frame of mind today because when I read this part quoted above, I couldn't help but think of the song "Matchmaker" from Fiddler on the Roof. Here is a
to the song from the movie and it even has the English subtitles there so you can see the lyrics (by Sheldon Harnick with music by Jerry Bock). Arranged marriages is one of the central themes of Fiddler as I am sure you all know, as there is even a character whose job it is to make the matches, Yente the matchmaker.

The only successful arranged marriage we find in the books is that of The Ned and Catelyn, and I agree that the reason for this “isn't burning passion but mutual respect, a willingness to work on their marriage, and compromise,” as KittyKatKnits and Brashcandy have said. This ties well into what I once read in a Scientific American article on arranged marriages and what made them successful. According to some studies conducted by social psychologists in segments of the population that still stick to this custom in India and the U.S., there were about 30 factors responsible for happiness in arranged marriages, of which the key ones are:

- Commitment – a determination to make the relationship a good one, on both parts. This is no one-sided task. The interesting part is that they found that because of commitment, in arranged marriages love tends to grow over time, and it surpasses the love in other marriages about five years out. This is the factor most responsible for a happy marriage, whether arranged or not.

- Communication – self-explanatory.

- Accommodation – make changes necessary for the marriage to be satisfactory. Also applies to both partners.

- Vulnerability – this is a bit difficult to explain without getting into shrink terminology, but I’ll try. This is sort of a byproduct of commitment, when you are committed to your marriage, then you are saying you’re going to be with your spouse through thick and thin, through sickness and in health, in prosperity and in poverty, etc., which makes you feel vulnerable to the other person and two people feeling vulnerable at the same time brings them together. Thus, “the reason commitment is so powerful in creating an emotional bond is because it’s the ultimate expression of vulnerability. When you make a strong commitment to be with someone no matter what, what you’re saying is, “I am entirely vulnerable to you. No matter what is happening, I will be there for you.” And if two people are making that kind of expression of commitment to each other, that brings people very close, and if they each live up to the commitment, that brings them even closer over time,” in the words of the study’s author, Dr. Robert Epstein.

- Sharing – adventures, secrets, personal space, etc., to build intimacy and love.

I love how you explained the role of the vulnerability here and I think it's so very true that mutual commitment and vulnerability, or the willingness to make yourself open to the other person, is key to any successful marriage not just arranged. Again, there is a great example of this from Fiddler, "
" as sung between Tevye and Golde. Honestly watching this just now I got teary eyed. It's so touching how they have been married for 25 years but have never expressly said I love you to each other but you know deep down they do.

Interestingly, the modern arranged marriages do have the option of divorce thanks to contemporary laws, but they rarely separate, and the reason is again commitment. Ned and Catelyn were willing to commit, and they were fortunate that both had qualities that made it possible to slowly fall in love with each other, but even if they hadn’t fallen in love, I think they’d have respected each other greatly.

I agree and this brings me to another marriage that I don't think we've discussed on this topic yet, that of Dany and Drogo. I know this falls more into the forced marriage category rather than the arranged one, but it's development throughout AGOT suggests that they did both make a commitment to each other and accommodation. Dany's decision to learn how to make love to him is a real turning point in her acceptance of him, and Drogo did make accommodations to her, for example when he told his men not to rape the Llhazerene women after she asked him to. I know it's not exactly a fairy tale type of marriage and it starts off as forced on Dany at least, but I think there is evidence that it did develop into mutual love and respect.

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