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From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XVIII

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Ragnorak many times LadyHawk came to my mind when I read ASOIAF or see the show (IIRC Corseque at tumblr wrote a fantastic essay about Sandor and Navarre swords) but also the bird and the wolf, and the bishop guards that wear white clothes.

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Ragnorak many times LadyHawk came to my mind when I read ASOIAF or see the show (IIRC Corseque at tumblr wrote a fantastic essay about Sandor and Navarre swords) but also the bird and the wolf, and the bishop guards that wear white clothes.

Thanks, I'll look for it. I've always had a soft spot for that movie. The wolf and the bird gives it great potential for Sansa/Sandor comparisons but the whole curse aspect gets in my way when I try and think about.

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Thanks Caro! Don't beat yourself up over your initial thoughts on Frollo. His words are quite the declaration of love I do agree. And you were very young when you first read it. ;-) I do think that if Frollo had not been so consumed with his lust for Esmeralda that it would have been a true love scenario which could have been quite touching. As I pointed out in my essay, Frollo does not start off as a monster and he did care for his little brother Jehan as well as take in the foundling Quasimodo. It's just that somewhere along the way he becomes twisted into something else so his feelings for Esmeralda are not pure at that point. He wants her for himself, not for what's best for her, which is why he can't stand the idea of her being with any other man, and that's the difference if that makes any sense.

I could not agree more with you, Elba :) and yeah the crucial point here is that frollo dosen't want what's ebst for her... so much like people wanting sansa for her claim

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Thanks, I'll look for it. I've always had a soft spot for that movie. The wolf and the bird gives it great potential for Sansa/Sandor comparisons but the whole curse aspect gets in my way when I try and think about.

I know!! But you must think that also at ASOIAF there are magic aspects, but the main plot is there. A love story with a fantastic soundtrack, with good acting and a beautiful moment (that transformation of both one from wolf to man and the other from woman to hawk).

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The following essay can be considered as a companion piece to Awakening the Beast, which examined two of Angela Carter’s revisions for the fairytales Little Red Riding Hood and Beauty and The Beast. This essay marks an exploration of her second revision of B&B, analyzing the story’s feminist themes, and its relevance for a discussion on Sansa Stark. Hope you all enjoy.

The Courtship of Mr. Lyon

Unlike The Tiger’s Bride, where Angela Carter discernibly revises the traditional Beauty and the Beast narrative, The Courtship of Mr. Lyon utilizes the conventional plot of the popular version by Mme. Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, featuring the father/beast encounter and the conflict over the rose, the confinement of Beauty and her relationship with the Beast, and the final transformation of the latter into a handsome man. However, despite keeping the framework and the familiar trappings in place, Carter manages to infuse her retelling with the same feminist outlook of her other tales, stressing the complex motivations of her heroine, the erotic nature of the interaction between Beauty and the Beast, and their gradual movement toward equal relations.

The Story

The story opens with the father experiencing car troubles. It’s another unwanted problem to add to the news he received that morning of his impending financial ruin, and he doesn’t even have the money to buy his daughter the white rose she requested. Meanwhile, Beauty is at home, worried over her father’s delayed arrival:

Outside her kitchen window, the hedgerow glistened as if the snow possessed a light of its own; then the sky darkened towards evening, an unearthly, reflected pallor remained upon the winter’s landscape, while still the soft flakes floated down. This lovely girl, whose skin possesses that same, inner light so you would have thought she, too, was made all of snow, pauses in her chores in the mean kitchen to look out at the country road. Nothing has passed that way all day, the road is white and unmarked as a spilled bolt of bridal satin.

Father said he would be home before nightfall.

The snow brought down all the telephone wires; he couldn’t have called, even with the best of news.

The father trudges through the snow to seek assistance and ends up at the Beast’s house. The door opens by itself, and he is soon ushered into a warm study by a little spaniel wearing a diamond necklace. In the study, he’s treated to food and drink which has already been laid out on the table, along with a recommendation for a 24hr car rescue service. After he enjoys a few more drinks and relaxation, the spaniel appears again and wags its tail to let him know his time is up. As he’s leaving, the father spies a single white rose in the Beast’s garden and decides that such a kind and hospitable host would not mind him taking the flower for his daughter. He’s mistaken however, and the beast soon appears in a fury. The father is full of apologies, and produces a photograph of his daughter to aid in his explanation:

“It was for my daughter,” said Beauty’s father. “All she wanted in the whole world was one white, perfect rose.”

The Beast rudely snatched the photograph her father drew from his wallet and inspected it, first brusquely, then with a strange kind of wonder, almost the dawning of surprise. The camera had captured a certain look she had, sometimes, of absolute sweetness and absolute gravity, as if her eyes might pierce appearances and see your soul. When he handed the picture back, the Beast took good care not scratch the surface with his claws.

“Take her the rose, then, but bring her to dinner,” he growled, and what else was there to be done?”

Beauty goes to dinner and forms her first impression of the Beast:

How strange he was. She found his bewildering difference from herself almost intolerable, its presence choked her. There seemed a heavy, soundless pressure upon her in his house, as if it lay under water, and when she saw the great paws lying on the arm of his chair, she thought: they are the death of any tender herbivore. And such a one she felt herself to be, Miss Lamb, spotless, sacrificial.

Yet she stayed and smiled because her father wanted her to do so; and when the Beast told her how he would aid her father’s appeal against the judgment, she smiled with both her mouth and eyes. But when as they sipped their brandy, the Beast, in the diffuse, rumbling purr with which he conversed, suggested with a hint of shyness, of fear of refusal, that she should stay there, with him, in comfort, while her father returned to London to take up the legal cudgels again, she forced a smile. For she knew with a pang of dread as soon as he spoke, that it would be so and her visit to the Beast must be, on some magically reciprocal scale, the price of her father’s good fortune.

Beauty moves into the home and has all the luxuries at her disposal. She is often bored though and spends time reading. One evening the dog escorts her to meet with the beast and they both make an effort to overcome their shyness, ending up talking late into the night. After this, Beauty begins to enjoy her stay in the home, and the evenings she spends with the Beast.

Yet, still his strangeness made her shiver; and when he helplessly fell before her to kiss her hands, as he did every night when they parted, she would retreat nervously into her skin, flinching at his touch.

Her father’s fortunes are restored and he invites her down to London for a pleasure trip. Beauty promises the Beast that she will come back before winter is over, and thinks of dropping a kiss on his shaggy mane but still cannot bear to touch him on her own free will since “he was so different from herself”. In London, she gradually begins to forget the Beast and to think of it as a magical time in the past. She is enjoying the nightlife and shopping in the city, and doesn’t notice that winter is almost coming to an end:

Returning late from supper after the theatre, she took off her earrings and stood in the mirror; Beauty. She smiled at herself with satisfaction. She was learning, at the end of her adolescence, how to be a spoiled child and that pearly skin of hers was plumping out, a little, with high living and compliments. A certain inwardness was beginning to transform the lines around her mouth, those signatures of the personality, and her sweetness and her gravity could sometimes turn a mite petulant when things were not quite as she wanted them to go. You could not have said that her freshness was fading but she smiled at herself in mirrors a little too often, these days, and the face that smiled back was not quite the one she had seen contained in the Beast’s agate eyes.

There is an urgent noise at the door and Beauty opens to find the spaniel from the Beast’s home, all matted and thin. The dog makes clear that she wants Beauty to return to the Beast and they take the late train from London that very night. The house is now in a state of disrepair and when she finds the Beast in his bedroom he tells her that he is dying.

She flung herself upon him, so that the iron bedstead groaned, and covered his poor paws with her kisses.

“Don’t die, Beast! If you’ll have me, I’ll never leave you.” When her lips touched his meat-hooked claws, they drew back into their pads and she saw how he had always kept his fists clenched, but now, painfully, tentatively, at last began to stretch his fingers. Her tears fell on his face like snow and, under their soft transformation, the bones showed through the pelt, the flesh through the wide, tawny brow. And then it was no longer a lion in her arms but a man, a man with an unkempt mane of hair and, how strange, a broken nose, such as the noses of retired boxers, that gave him a distant, heroic resemblance to the handsomest of beasts.

“Do you know, said Mr. Lyon, I think I may be able to manage a little breakfast today, Beauty, if you would eat something with me.”

The story ends with an image of peaceful domesticity:

Mr. and Mrs. Lyon walk in the garden; the old spaniel drowses on the grass in a drift of fallen petals.

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Critical Analysis

As noted, this revision of Beauty and the Beast closely follows the formula of the well known version by Mme de Beaumont, but unlike her French predecessor, Carter has none of the moralistic imperative or interest in cultivating young girls to be obedient wives and mothers. As Marina Warner states:

Part of Angela Carter’s boldness – which made her unpopular in some quarters of the feminist movement in the 1970s – was that she dared to look at women’s waywardness, and especially at their attraction to the Beast in the very midst of repulsion … her beauties choose to play with the Beast precisely because his animal nature excites them and gives their desires licence.

The “attraction in the very midst of repulsion” is readily observed in The Courtship of Mr. Lyon, when Beauty meets the Beast for the first time:

Although her father had told her of the nature of the one who waited for her,

she could not control an instinctual shudder of fear when she saw him, for a

lion is a lion and a man is a man and, though lions are more beautiful by far than

we are, yet they belong to a different order of beauty and, besides, they have no

respect for us: why should they? Yet wild things have a far more rational fear of

us than is ours of them, and some kind of sadness in his agate eyes, that looked

almost blind, as if sick of sight, moved her heart.

There is something in the Beast’s otherness that Beauty is able to respond to and sympathize with; moreover, when she describes herself as “Miss Lamb, spotless, sacrificial”, it highlights Beauty’s cognizance of her vulnerability as a “tender herbivore.” Like the narrator in The Tiger’s Bride, she begins her tenure with the Beast in full awareness of the pressures of patriarchal society and what will be required of her to secure her father’s good fortune.

The image of the road as “white and unmarked as a spilled bolt of bridal satin”, along with the white rose that Beauty’s father picks from the garden symbolize not only Beauty’s virginity, but also represent the traditional landscape of male domination. According to Thomas Bonnici:

The ease and comfort of the male in the house of another foretells a reinforcement of patriarchy, the establishment of pacts and a united front against feminine pressures. Although the theft of the white rose seems to be a breach in the male bonding, there is a disguised and an implicit will of transference of property within patriarchy.

The photograph of Beauty that compels the Beast to release the father on the condition that his daughter returns with him is another way for Carter to explore how women are bartered under patriarchy. The photography only “captured a certain look she had, sometimes,” but it is enough to arouse the Beast’s interest. This is a clear departure from Beaumont’s tale when the Beast requests the father to send him any daughter on his return home. In this case, the Beast is judging Beauty solely on her appearance, and what he imagines she is like.

On the first night of at the Beast’s home, Beauty is very much playing a part in order to help ensure her father’s return to prosperity. She “stayed and smiled because her father wanted her to do so” and later on “smiled with both her mouth and eyes” when she learns that he will indeed intercede on her father’s behalf. The narrator confirms:

Do not think she had no will of her own; only, she was possessed by a sense of

obligation to an unusual degree and, besides, she would gladly have gone to the

ends of the earth for her father, whom she loved dearly.

The importance of demystifying the constructed masculine and feminine identities is also underscored in the narrative. When the spaniel takes Beauty to a meeting with the Beast in his study, she is initially at a loss for how she will communicate with him: “The voice that seemed to echo from a cave full of echoes, his dark, soft rumbling growl; after her day of pastel-coloured idleness, how could she converse with a voice that seemed an instrument created to inspire terror that the chords of great organs bring?” Meyre Santana da Silva explains Carter’s perspective on this issue:

She argues that the patriarchal language doesn’t communicate. It has failed… Language is seen as an ideological construction that empowers man and inspires dominance and control. Carter proposes a reformulation of it…There’s a necessity of another language that could set people free from conventions. In the rewriting of these tales language is marked by poetry and sensuality.

It is with this sense of inadequacy that Beauty views Mr. Lyon as “irradiated, as if with a kind of halo, and she thought of the first great beast of the Apocalypse, the winged lion with his paw upon the Gospel, Saint Mark”. Likewise, the Beast looks at Beauty as though “she had been carved out of a single pearl”. It is only when they both make an effort to have a genuine conversation, and overcome mutual “shyness”, that they begin to humanize one another and move beyond their socially constructed roles.

The conversation lasts long into the night, and Carter establishes another important difference between her heroine and the Beauty of Beaumont’s tale: sexual awareness. We read:

… they both fell silent, as if these strange companions were suddenly overcome

with embarrassment to find themselves together, alone, in that room in the

depths of the winter night. As she was about to rise, he flung himself

at her feet and buried his head in her lap. She stayed stock-still, transfixed;

she felt his hot breath on her fingers, the stiff bristles of his muzzle grazing

her skin, the rough lapping of his tongue and then, with a flood of

compassion, understood: all he is doing is kissing my hands.

Two things are important here: the recognizable sexual tension between Beauty and the Beast, and her understanding of the Beast’s method of showing affection. Thomas Bonnici opines:

The overt display of male sexuality, an almost jubilant offering up of the self, exhibited in the prostration of the Beast with his head in the lap and the kissing of her hand reveals the demystification of sexuality and transgression of patriarchal values.

The female gaze is also prominent in the story, with Beauty paying close attention to the Beast’s body throughout their interactions.

It is when she departs to the city that Carter makes the final collapse of the artificial divide between beauty and the beast. Due to privileged lifestyle in the city, we see Beauty gradually turning into a beast, not like the one she has left behind, but a girl becoming spoiled and vain: “Her face was acquiring, instead of beauty, a lacquer of the invincible prettiness that characterizes certain pampered, exquisite, expensive cats.”

For Carter, this transformation is central to her message that men and women have both beautiful and beastly characteristics. When the spaniel comes to collect Beauty, Carter supplies an ironic twist, where Beauty’s “rescue” of the Beast is more about her own deliverance:

There was a sudden, urgent, scrabbling sound, as of claws, at her door.

Her trance before the mirror broke; all at once, she remembered everything

perfectly. Spring was here and she had broken her promise. Now the Beast

himself had come in pursuit of her! First, she was frightened of his anger;

then mysteriously joyful, she ran to open the door. But it was his liver and

white spotted spaniel who hurled herself into the girl’s arms in a flurry of

little barks and gruff murmurings of whimpering and relief.

She has seen herself in the mirror, and by confronting her own “beastiality” she can now fully appreciate the Beast’s nature. Now it her time to fling herself upon him and to cover his paws with kisses – actions that reflect her coming to terms with the sexuality he represents. The Beast’s transformation is less magical and more of reconstructive conversion, less princely and more rugged suitor with a broken nose. To conclude with Bonnici’s remarks:

In choosing the Beast, Beauty is actively choosing the dangerous, the unexplored, the perverse and the unusual. When the lion turns into the Mr. Lyon at the touch of the female, the old gender roles have exploded, female sexuality does not signify passivity anymore and femininity can face masculinity as an equal.

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Sansa and Sandor

I’m not going to say much here, as we’ve already gone into a lot of the B&B dynamics when it comes to these two. The key elements in Carter’s two revisions ( Courtship and The Tiger’s Bride) are found in this pairing, as Martin puts an emphasis on their developing attraction to each other (the compassion and intimacy); the importance of the female gaze in fostering equality, and the reliance on touch as a (different) way of knowing and communicating with the other. Sandor’s role as a Lady-replacement also brings into focus Sansa’s own beastly nature, and how it complements their union. It is through him that she encounters the beast in herself (while he arguably discovers the beauty in himself), and must proceed to chart a path to self-fulfillment and autonomy.

Sansa and Tyrion

If Sansa and Sandor represent a successful and functional reworking of Beauty and the Beast, her relationship with Tyrion offers a stark contradictory contrast; it’s Beauty and the Beast with all the dysfunction and hopelessness that implicitly threatens any such pairing in literature. Given the focus on Beauty and a Mr. Lyon, I thought it fitting to devote a bit more time to discussing just why Sansa’s relationship with the little Lannister lion is so defective, as we’ve seen that there’s nothing inherently preventing an ugly man and a beautiful woman from connecting (or vice versa a la Jaime and Brienne). Sansa detractors would have one believe that it comes down to shallowness on her part, but as I hope to show, unless we’re going to go base these assessments on the noses of our two beasts – Mr. Lyon ends up with a broken one, and Tyrion has practically none - physical imperfections are just the tip of the iceberg.

Physical Appearance

This is perhaps the only true element of Beauty and Beast which this pairing represents. What is important about Sansa’s lack of attraction to Tyrion and the way Martin highlights it, is that it overturns the “woman-as-spectacle” and makes Tyrion subject to Sansa’s appreciation, or lack thereof in this case. This isn’t to say that we cannot become attracted to someone over time, and even grow to love and value what we earlier disparaged and thought unappealing, but too often, male privilege places the onus on women to get over their hang-ups about men’s bodies, and to find them attractive at any size, height, or facial attribute. A woman’s beauty is objectified and commodified within patriarchal society, and men are the established buyers and benefactors. A key element in Beauty’s relationship with the Beast is the attraction in the midst of repulsion, there is something there that interests her and can elicit her compassion, despite that initial wariness. In the Courtship of Mr. Lyon, Beauty detects a noble quality about the beast, something otherworldly that intrigues her. There is no such fascination on Sansa’s part for Tyrion, as Martin stresses repeatedly just how repulsed she is by his looks:

At Joffrey’s name day tourney:

With his bulging brow and mismatched eyes, he was still the ugliest man she had ever chanced to look upon.

When she is taken to Tyrion’s chambers:

Sansa found it hard not stare; his face was so ugly it held a queer fascination for her.

At the motley wedding:

He is so ugly, Sansa thought when his face was close to hers. He is even uglier than the Hound.

And on the wedding night she laments:

This is not right, this is not fair, how have I sinned that the gods would do this to me, how?

Whereas Beauty sees Mr. Lyon as a kind of half-god, Sansa wonders why the gods have punished her. By establishing the pattern of Sansa’s thoughts about Tyrion’s ugliness, Martin isn’t trying to paint her as shallow, but rather to suggest that there is a serious lack of attraction on her part for Tyrion, and ultimately this is a valid reason why the relationship will not work. While physical attraction alone cannot ensure the success of a relationship, it is an important factor in fostering intimacy and longing. Even when Sansa manages to feel pity for Tyrion, Martin writes that this is the death of desire, which brings us to the next point…

Sexual Pleasure

In her essay, Sexual Pleasure as Feminist Choice, Patricia McFadden writes:

Without a discourse that enables women to step beyond the bounded, limited notions of sexuality as being either tied to reproduction or to the avoidance of disease or violation, we cannot begin to imagine ourselves in new and profoundly life-transforming ways. We have to see the cage for what it is – a set of carefully placed bars that keeps us locked into suffocating spaces efficiently reproduced by an uncompromising patriarchal system, and often closely patrolled by women from a cross-section of classes and social standings.

If Martin did not want us to appreciate the importance of sexual pleasure in Sansa’s estimation, he would never have written about pity being the death of desire, and he would not have ended the chapter with her total rejection of Tyrion as a lover (she had already refused him as a husband by refusing to kneel). As McFadden advises, Sansa is able to see the cage for what it is, and significantly, the role of women like Cersei Lannister and Septa Mordane in keeping those bars closed.

Cersei Lannister:

“… Cry if you must. In your place, I would likely rip my hair out. He’s a loathsome little imp, no doubt of it, but marry him you shall… You may come along quietly and say your vows as befits a lady, or you may struggle and scream and make a spectacle for the stableboys to titter over, but you will end up wedded and bedded all the same.”

Septa Mordane:

Look at him, Sansa told herself, look at your husband, at all of him. Septa Mordane said all men are beautiful, find his beauty, try.

Whether the threats are violently coercive as we see with Cersei in the beginning of the chapter, or are remembered ‘words of wisdom’ from a deceased mentor, the desired result is the same: the denial of women’s pleasure as a legitimate pursuit, and the continuation of patriarchal domination in whatever guise.

In The Courtship of Mr. Lyon, the sexual anticipation is coded within the language Carter uses: the couple finding themselves “embarrassed” to be talking late in the night, and the “groaning bedstead” when Beauty flings herself upon the Beast on her return. There are no such suggestive hints in Sansa’s and Tyrion’s interactions. Instead, we see stilted conversation, awkward and delayed contact, and general discomfort.

By insisting that she will never want to sleep with Tyrion, Sansa is making a direct assault against a system that strives on female sexual submission, especially within the bonds of marriage, where the husband is seen as the authority figure. Both Sansa and the protagonist in Courtship are young, sheltered girls, but they are not portrayed as complete innocents with no erotic yearnings. When she’s in the Fingers, Sansa thinks:

It would not have been so bad being undressed for a man she loved, by friends who loved them both.

McFadden asserts:

It is this sense of sexual freedom that feeds our deepest instincts and makes us long for a wildness within, a wildness that cannot be caged or marked in any way, and that propels us to search relentlessly for the wonder which we encompass. Clarissa Pinkola Estes describes those who follow this urge as “the women who run with the wolves”.

To recall my previous essay on ‘Awakening the Beast’, it is no surprise that after her erotic dream where Sandor features prominently, Sansa wishes the old dog were Lady.

Family Matters

There’s a reason that Beauty stays and smiles with the Beast and tries hard to be entertaining when she first goes to his estate: it’s because she recognizes that her father’s good fortune depends on the help the Beast can provide. This is not the Beauty of Beaumont’s tale, going in an innocent, self-sacrificial manner to save her father’s life. Beauty in Courtship is actively playing the game in trying to charm the Beast and even feels a bit of resentment in knowing that she must do this to ensure her father’s success. What it boils down to is that family matters. Beauty has a vested interest in being nice, and only later comes to appreciate the Beast for his personal qualities. With this in mind, we have to ask ourselves, what vested interest did Sansa have in being a “good wife” to Tyrion? Not only had the Lannisters killed her father, and subjected her to abuse, but she soon learns that her brother and mother have been murdered at the Twins. It is little wonder that on the day of her escape, she thinks that her “torments would soon be ended, one way or the other.”

In The Courtship of Mr. Lyon, the Beast is able to connect with Beauty when he begins to ask her personal questions about her family. We see a similar connection fostered between Sansa and Sandor when he confesses the truth about his burns, and how his family became part of the landed nobility. Tyrion tries to make an attempt with this strategy, but there is a blatantly hypocritical and deceitful quality to his overtures. In the first instance, we know that he accepted the marriage on the condition that Sansa would be the sole heir to Winterfell, meaning that her brother would have to die. The next time he tries to engage her is with talk of Casterly Rock, but again, as Tyrion recognizes, a visit to the Rock is hardly going to be met with enthusiastic anticipation by Sansa. Finally, he tries to zero on the love they both share for their brothers, but in this very moment, Tyrion is also trying to ascertain whether Sansa knows the details of what happened at Winterfell, and he is the one with the knowledge that it was Jaime who pushed Bran and Joffrey who sent the assassin.

Suffice to say: all of Tyrion’s desires to communicate and establish some kind of intimacy are invalidated and undermined by the heinous crimes of his family members, and his own guilty awareness. The issue here is the clear imbalance of power that exists in the relationship between Sansa and Tyrion. There can be little honestly, much less closeness. He is aware of things which would give Sansa even greater reason to despise the Lannisters, and although he may not have participated in the early grievances at Winterfell, he comes on board in due time to help keep his nephew in power. Compare this to Sandor’s hopes of working with Robb, where he seems to have some valuable information that could help the Starks or is at least willing to join up as a fighter. By directly helping Sansa’s family, Sandor hoped to be awarded lands and made a lordling; for going along with the plan to destroy Sansa’s family and acting as her jailor-husband, Tyrion hoped to become Lord of Winterfell, with vast control over the North.

Patriarchal Exchanges

The work of French feminist Luce Irigaray in a chapter entitled ‘Women on the Market’ has proved particularly relevant for this section. To begin, she states that:

... all systems of exchange that organize patriarchal societies and all the modalities of productive work that are recognized, valued, and rewarded in these societies are men’s business. The production of women, signs and commodities is always referred back to men (when a man buys a girl, he “pays” the father or the brother, not the mother), and they always pass from one man to another, from one group of men to another.

It is this exchange that Carter lays bare in her two revisions of Beauty and the Beast; by giving us insight into the women’s point of views, we are able to appreciate how they are affected by and feel about being made to go live with the Beast. While The Tiger’s Bride highlights Beauty’s outright anger and resentment, the more conservative Courtship settles for revealing the girl’s reluctant and wary acquiescence. In this latter case, the old patriarchal compulsion is at work, masquerading as Beauty’s intense love for her father. The way in which the exchange is bargained is also exposed in the story. Unlike the classic tale, where the Beast orders the father to send a daughter to take his place in captivity (or else), Beauty’s father in The Courtship of Mr. Lyon brandishes an actual photograph of his daughter which the Beast is careful not to scratch with his claws when handing it back. The father has made clear what it is he has to offer as merchandise for mercy, and the Beast seems all too willing to accept Beauty as payment based on what is revealed in the photograph.

Sansa is the subject of multiple exchanges and attempted exchanges within ASOIAF. The first one happens in the dark, deep crypts of Winterfell, when Robert Baratheon proposes that he and Ned Stark make a union between their houses through her marriage to the crown prince Joffrey. Although marriage arrangements are the norm of such a society, and Ned’s loving nature appears to bode well for Sansa’s happiness, we quickly see the negative effects women have to suffer under such naturalized patriarchal authority. Even before they leave Winterfell, Sansa’s happiness has already been set aside for a much darker necessity. Ned tells Catelyn:

“Sansa must wed Joffrey, that is clear now, we must give them no grounds to suspect our devotion…”

And crucially, throughout all of Sansa’s time in KL, she remains largely ignorant of the extent of the drama unfolding between her family and the Lannisters. Even after the fight between her father and Jaime, she still doesn’t realize that the betrothal with Joffrey is anything but the idealized fantasy she has in her mind or that her father used her from the start as a way of keeping the Lannisters from becoming suspicious.

If we can find mitigating reasons for Ned Stark’s actions and his later attempt to rectify them (finding someone brave, gentle and strong), there is little to excuse the Tywin/Tyrion/Joffrey/Cersei patriarchal quartet. This exchange – Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion - is purely exploitative and predatory, with everyone involved holding varying, but nonetheless damning degrees of culpability. Tyrion is seduced into accepting the match, although he knows that he’s far from what Sansa would want in a husband. To return to Irigaray’s insights:

The virginal woman … is pure exchange value. She is nothing but the possibility, the place, the sign of relations among men. In and of herself, she does not exist: she is a simple envelope veiling what is really at stake in social exchange… The ritualized passage from woman to mother is accomplished by the violation of an envelope: the hymen, which has taken on the value of taboo, the taboo of virginity. Once deflowered, woman is relegated to the status of use value, to her entrapment in private property; she is removed from exchange among men.

These comments hold credible currency for Sansa’s situation in her marriage to Tyrion. As we have strong reason to suspect, after she had given birth to a child (with Tyrion taking the heir North as Tywin specified), Sansa’s “use value” for the Lannisters would have been up. Even if she was not killed, her entrapment within the Lannister family would have been all but guaranteed. Tywin tells Tyrion:

“Then open your eyes. The Stark girl is young, nubile, tractable, of the highest birth, and still a maid. She is not uncomely. Why would you hesitate?”

Essentially, Sansa is presented as possessing all the feminine “virtues” that will make her an ideal commodity for exchange in patriarchal society; and Tyrion’s thoughts of “soft-spoken, sweet-smelling Sansa” show that he’s not insensitive to this characterization. Joffrey will tell her on the day of the wedding:

“… I’m your father, and I can marry you to whoever I like. To anyone. You’ll marry the pig boy if I say so, and bed down with him in the sty.” His green eyes glittered with amusement. “Or perhaps I should give you to Ilyn Payne, would you like him better?”

In speaking about the plight of women within such a social order, Irigaray notes:

Socially, they are “objects” for and among men and furthermore they cannot do anything but mimic a “language” that they have not produced; naturally, they remain amorphous, suffering from drives without any possible representatives or representations… Women, animals endowed with speech like men, assure the possibility of the use and circulation of the symbolic without being recipients of it… Putting men in touch with each other, in relations among themselves, women only fulfill this role by relinquishing their right to speech and even to animality.

We are reminded of Beauty in The Courtship of Mr. Lyon where she struggles at first with knowing how to speak to him versus the ease and comfort of the father in the Beast’s home. Sansa’s and Tyrion’s marriage is marked by a profound lack of conversation, but in this case, Sansa’s silence acts as a shield and reflects the dysfunction in the relationship itself:

He looks like a starving child, but I have no food to give him. Why won’t he leave me be.

We see that in addition to learning how to converse with the Beast, the two heroines in Carter’s revisions also do not give up their right to animality that Irigaray speaks of above, and significantly, neither does Sansa Stark. Carter’s women are transformed into beasts/half-beasts by the end of the stories, and Sansa continues to have a close bond with Lady, up to the point where she hears a ghost wolf as she’s descending the Eyrie. What we see therefore, is an active resistance on Sansa’s part in allowing herself to be consumed within an exploitative system of relations. It’s interesting that she refers to Tyrion as a starving child here, since it positions her as a delinquent mother who is withholding nourishment. Realizing that she’s also the archetypal virgin who is withholding sex, Sansa is actually effecting a serious destabilization of the ways in which patriarchal society perpetuates its dominance. Irigaray makes the claim that:

Mother, virgin, prostitute: these are the social roles imposed on women. The characteristics of (so-called) feminine sexuality derive from them: the valorization of reproduction and nursing; faithfulness; modesty, ignorance of and even lack of interest in sexual pleasure; a passive acceptance of men’s “activity”; seductiveness, in order to arouse the consumers’ desire while offering herself as its material support without getting pleasure herself … Neither as mother nor as virgin nor as prostitute has woman any right to her own pleasure.

Now, given that Sansa has removed two of these social roles by which Tyrion attempts to gain control over her, what is he left with except to resort to the prostitute?

After her escape from the Lannisters, Sansa has to endure two more betrothals –the aborted one to Sweetrobin, and the one that is currently in place to Harry the Heir of the Vale. This last one has been brokered by another man posing as Sansa’s father, one who is even more dangerous than Joffrey was in KL. There is reason to be optimistic however, that Sansa will no longer be forced to accept an arrangement that is not to her liking and restricts her agency. Luce Irigaray made the point above that none of the social roles prescribed for women allow them to have any pleasure; however, what is peculiar about Sansa’s situation is the liminal space she occupies with respect to each of those roles. If we replace prostitute with bastard, the comparison fits: She’s a married virgin, who is keeping the bloody cloak of another man – no spilled bolt of bridal satin for Sansa at this point; she’s acting as a surrogate mother/crush for Sweetrobin, and is disguised as a bastard waiting to be unveiled as the heir to the North on her wedding day. She’s both either/or, neither/nor and inside/outside the dominant social constructions for women, and this has already granted her an important perspective which may bring about the courage to confront and undermine oppressive conditions and individuals.

Furthermore, Sansa has a clear object of desire in Sandor Clegane, which means that despite LF’s best laid plans, he has failed to disabuse her of the possibility of genuine love or sexual pleasure. He took care of virtually all of the other beasts in Sansa’s storyline – Joffrey, Willas, Tyrion – but remains apparently ignorant of the one who actually matters with respect to Sansa’s personal desires. In looking at how Sandor functions under this topic of patriarchal exchanges, I think it’s significant that his relationship with Ned was fraught with tension and ill feelings, and that Robb died before Sandor could meet with him and be awarded lands and a keep for his service. The point is that Sandor is unable to take part in the traditional patriarchal bargaining process with any of the men in Sansa’s family who would have had legal control over her person. Instead, he becomes more closely aligned with the women associated in some way with Sansa. Unknown to Brienne, he’s the gravedigger on the Quiet Isle, and he ends up helping to protect and ultimately confessing to Arya about his sins. Both Brienne and Arya also get insight into the Hound’s feelings for Sansa but either cannot breakdown what they’ve heard, or realize why it’s significant. All this begs the question of whether it’s possible that Sandor may meet up with Lady Stoneheart, completing the switch to matriarchal relations with Sansa’s family, and symbolizing the negation of exploitative patriarchal domination.

Choices

To conclude, it’s necessary to understand how Carter constructs the issue of women’s choices within patriarchal society and why it has meaning for a discussion of Sansa’s character. In an article on third wave feminism and choice, R. Claire Synder-Hall states:

For third-wavers, feminism requires not a particular set of choices, but rather acting with a “feminist consciousness,” defined as “knowledge of what one is doing and why one is doing it.” … I am more interested in feminists who embrace and enjoy femininity, while also struggling for gender equality… The third-wave version of “choice feminism” I am advocating views freedom not as simply “the capacity to make individual choices” but rather as the ability to determine your own life path. At the same time, however, just because coercive forces exist and many of our decisions are not the product of perfect “free choice,” whatever that is, that does not mean that women’s decisions about how to live their lives should not be respected.

Carter’s heroines in the two B&B revisions and our own Sansa Stark are women who have to strive for equality in their relationships with men and to find a way to have some agency and self determination within patriarchal society. This is also in tandem with their traditionally feminine aspirations towards love and marriage, and the exploration of erotic desires. Unlike second wave feminism, which tended to only recognize and credit specific choices and modes of empowerment, the third wave introduced a much more pluralistic vision of how women operate and can find fulfillment in oppressive environments. Synder-Hall’s focus on feminist consciousness is relevant to Sansa’s marriage to Tyrion, where we see her having no choice but to go ahead with the marriage, but does develop this critical awareness during the bedding, where she questions Septa Mordane’s teachings, and begins to be a lot more cynical and wary about future marriages which could restrict her happiness and freedom. What becomes clear is that feminist consciousness represents an active understanding of patriarchal pressures, and this can lead to real change and progress for the female protagonists. In speaking about the two B&B revisions, Merja Makinen attests:

in both cases the protagonists choose to explore the dangerous, exhilarating change that comes from choosing the beast. Both stories are careful to show a reciprocal awe and fear in the beasts, as well as in the beauty, and the reversal theme reinforces the equality of the transactions: lion kisses Beauty’s hand, Beauty kisses lion’s; tiger strips naked and so Beauty chooses to show him ‘the fleshly nature of women’. In both cases the beasts signify a sensuality that the women have been taught might devour them, but which, when embraced, gives them power, strength and a new awareness of both self and other.

In the Courtship of Mr. Lyon, it is Beauty’s choice to return to the Beast, just as the Tiger’s bride makes the choice to reveal her body after seeing the spectacle of the naked tiger. Based on the content of her dreams and waking thoughts, it’s not hard to imagine Sansa making a similar choice with respect to Sandor Clegane when she is older; however, it’s almost certain that Tyrion and Sansa will never be able to foster a successful romantic relationship.

(The end)

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Oh my dear brash, this was so wonderful. I have to say that our wait for your essay has paid out, for we have outstanding essay in front of us in every way. Your analysis is concise, well-thought, profound and boldly steps into unresearched area of Sansa`s sexuality. Congratulations, my dear friend...really well done...

Now, I must talk about your ideas, and segment that drew my attention.

Sandor’s role as a Lady-replacement also brings into focus Sansa’s own beastly nature, and how it complements their union. It is through him that she encounters the beast in herself (while he arguably discovers the beauty in himself), and must proceed to chart a path to self-fulfillment and autonomy.

This is something I have been researching for the past days in `Brothers Karamazov`. I am sure that by finding beauty in Sandor and beast in Sansa, this story surpasses all of already mentioned in its profound nature and symbolism of ever-changing love. For why would the beast be the only one to change? Like I said, I was re-reading Dostoyevski and I`ll soon put my thoughts on paper.

Sansa is the subject of multiple exchanges and attempted exchanges within ASOIAF

Being powerful or powerless? This is the coin with two sides. I was writing how Robb and Tyrion see power in Sansa, where she alone isn`t capable of finding it. Are women powerful in ASOIAF for their beauty and the surname? Cersei thinks so. But Sansa has different mind. Where Ceresi sees power, Sansa sees weakness. Which one of them is right? None. For like Varys said, power resides where men believe it resides. Sansa may be powerful in the eyes of other, but her powerlessness is real to her. In traditional world of Westeros, woman can obtain many forms of power (we have seen Arya, Brienne, Sand Snakes, QOT), but that doesn`t change the power of beauty and the surname, no matter how shallow that is.

I agree that Sansa`s `power` has been in being merchinize everyone wanted. And that she has been changing owners quite the many times. But what`s different now. Now, she see her owner directly in the eyes, and can see what he wants. Sansa left her fear in KL, along with dead Joffrey and that hairnet. She is much stronger now, and I can`t see her being traded so easily anymore.

Brashcandy, allow me to congratulate you once more for the masterpiece of analysis I have just read.

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Terrific essay, brashcandy. Thank you. Great analysis of the material. I’m still pondering it and plan to re-read later. In light of Sansa’s character, these are the themes that interested me:

Sexuality - discovering personal choice.

Agency and self-determination - she’s getting closer with her ‘bastardy.’

Release from her cages and her reaction to (though since this is Westeros, not outright rejection of) patriarchy (represented in part by her marriage, her Tyrion-y).

Motherhood without reproduction (Sweetrobin / possibly Rickon later).

Marriage without forced sexual capitulation.

I’m fascinated to see when (and I definitely want to see this, so I’m saying ‘when’) Sansa finally overcomes repression by the males in her life, what decisions she will make given the opportunity. Hopefully Martin will give her this. I think she deserves it.

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Brash these essays were wonderful. I really love these "alternative" fairy tales that you are presenting for us. Some things that stuck out to me:

Yet, still his strangeness made her shiver; and when he helplessly fell before her to kiss her hands, as he did every night when they parted, she would retreat nervously into her skin, flinching at his touch.

This very much reminded me of when Esmeralda pulled back her hand after Quasimodo goes to kiss it when she gave him the water to drink on the pillory. I referred to this as the act of compassion that transforms the Beast. In the story you discuss here, I wondered what the "compassion" was that makes the Beast want to kiss her hand. It's not her decision to stay with him surely as that was undoubtedly based on her desire to help her father. You focused on how the Beast seemed to become interested in her from the photo he saw which captured something in her that intrigued him. Maybe it was the idea that she could be compassionate, which I think is suggested by the phrase, "as if her eyes might pierce appearances and see your soul." The Beast has sensed from that photo that she is not shallow and she may be able to see through to who he really is.

There's definitely a lot to take in here as you covered many different areas regarding female agency, power, sexuality and ability to make choices and comprehensively sets out just how much Sansa's story is all about these issues. I especially loved the very last section on "choices" and third wave feminism, particularly the quote by Synder-Hall and what you said here:

Carter’s heroines in the two B&B revisions and our own Sansa Stark are women who have to strive for equality in their relationships with men and to find a way to have some agency and self determination within patriarchal society. This is also in tandem with their traditionally feminine aspirations towards love and marriage, and the exploration of erotic desires.
I completely agree.

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Thanks so much for the kind comments, Elba, Mladen and Karmarni :)

@Elba - I agree with that comparison to Quasimodo and Esmeralda with the hand kissing. Both women have an instinctive negative reaction, but in Courtship, there's a lot more sympathetic understanding on the part of the girl, plus she is deeply intrigued by the Beast despite her natural wariness.

Great point about the Beast sensing something within the photograph about Beauty. But I think Carter wants to establish how 'looks can be deceiving' especially in the later characterisation of Beauty when she begins to grow spoiled and vain. You really have to get to know someone, and be open to sharing and exploring different aspects of your nature. This is what ultimately guarantees the success of that relationship. It's after the intimate conversation that lasts long into the night that the Beast is moved to kiss Beauty's hand.

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Terrific essay, brashcandy. Thank you. Great analysis of the material. I’m still pondering it and plan to re-read later. In light of Sansa’s character, these are the themes that interested me:

Sexuality - discovering personal choice.

Agency and self-determination - she’s getting closer with her ‘bastardy.’

Release from her cages and her reaction to (though since this is Westeros, not outright rejection of) patriarchy (represented in part by her marriage, her Tyrion-y).

Motherhood without reproduction (Sweetrobin / possibly Rickon later).

Marriage without forced sexual capitulation.

I’m fascinated to see when (and I definitely want to see this, so I’m saying ‘when’) Sansa finally overcomes repression by the males in her life, what decisions she will make given the opportunity. Hopefully Martin will give her this. I think she deserves it.

On that we agree, and you've done a great summation of the themes. As your list highlights, Sansa has managed to circumvent many of the 'pitfalls' that can entrap women within society while still managing to achieve some version of what she values. It's not perfect and the achievement is in no way complete or quite satisfactory, but it does provide us with an idea of a path she could follow to reaching real autonomy or a fulfilling compromise.

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Thanks so much for the kind comments, Elba, Mladen and Karmarni :)

@Elba - I agree with that comparison to Quasimodo and Esmeralda with the hand kissing. Both women have an instinctive negative reaction, but in Courtship, there's a lot more sympathetic understanding on the part of the girl, plus she is deeply intrigued by the Beast despite her natural wariness.

Great point about the Beast sensing something within the photograph about Beauty. But I think Carter wants to establish how 'looks can be deceiving' especially in the later characterisation of Beauty when she begins to grow spoiled and vain. You really have to get to know someone, and be open to sharing and exploring different aspects of your nature. This is what ultimately guarantees the success of that relationship. It's after the intimate conversation that lasts long into the night that the Beast is moved to kiss Beauty's hand.

Good point. It reminds me of the discussion we had a couple months ago on arranged marriages and how they can still be happy if there is the basis for something there and both parties are willing to work at it and to get to know each other to make it work. No matter what the circumstances that is the foundation for a good relationship.

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Thanks for another brilliant essay brashcandy. And thanks for introducing me to Angela Carter; I read The Bloody Chamber after your first essay on this topic and I really enjoyed it :).

Critical Analysis

As noted, this revision of Beauty and the Beast closely follows the formula of the well known version by Mme de Beaumont, but unlike her French predecessor, Carter has none of the moralistic imperative or interest in cultivating young girls to be obedient wives and mothers. As Marina Warner states:

Part of Angela Carter’s boldness – which made her unpopular in some quarters of the feminist movement in the 1970s – was that she dared to look at women’s waywardness, and especially at their attraction to the Beast in the very midst of repulsion … her beauties choose to play with the Beast precisely because his animal nature excites them and gives their desires licence.

I like that part and I’m wondering if we could compare this with de Villeneuve’s Beauty. In de Villeneuve’s tale, the Beast ritually asks the Beauty to sleep with him and she refuses. I was thinking that it could be some unconscious game the Beauty is playing since she has a vague idea of the true identity of the Beast via her dreams but refuses (at the beginning) to acknowledge her desire for the beastly part of her lover.

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Thanks for another brilliant essay brashcandy. And thanks for introducing me to Angela Carter; I read The Bloody Chamber after your first essay on this topic and I really enjoyed it :).

Oh that's great! Rapsie got the book as well and really enjoyed the stories :)

I like that part and I’m wondering if we could compare this with de Villeneuve’s Beauty. In de Villeneuve’s tale, the Beast ritually asks the Beauty to sleep with him and she refuses. I was thinking that it could be some unconscious game the Beauty is playing since she has a vague idea of the true identity of the Beast via her dreams but refuses (at the beginning) to acknowledge her desire for the beastly part of her lover.

That's an interesting perspective and we could consider Psyche and Cupid here as well perhaps. On some level these women are excited by the unknown, mysterious qualities of their suitors, and there's a definite erotic component in that attraction. There may even be an S/M type of eroticism between Beauty and the Beast and that's something which Carter explores in The Bloody Chamber.

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That's an interesting perspective and we could consider Psyche and Cupid here as well perhaps. On some level these women are excited by the unknown, mysterious qualities of their suitors, and there's a definite erotic component in that attraction. There may even be an S/M type of eroticism between Beauty and the Beast and that's something which Carter explores in The Bloody Chamber.

Are you planning an essay on The Bloody Chamber as well? I was thinking there were interesting parallels between Littlefinger and the French Marquis...

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Are you planning an essay on The Bloody Chamber as well? I was thinking there were interesting parallels between Littlefinger and the French Marquis...

I was thinking the very same thing :) But I'm not planning on doing the essay. Would you be interested?

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I was thinking the very same thing :) But I'm not planning on doing the essay. Would you be interested?

I’d like that very much :). But it will have to wait because I will be very busy in the coming weeks.

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