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brashcandy

From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XVIII

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I'll be disappointed if Sansa accomplishes her goals by retorting to witchcraft. Her arc seems to be oriented to non-magical courtly intrigue and politics.

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hmmm..well, I've posted something like this before but I don't remember the thread.. I hope I'm not repeating myself.

Juanm182 ... I don't know what you mean by resorting to witchcraft.. I haven't seen any signs , of sorcery on Sansa's part ( and the term "witch" can have positive as well as negative connotations , depending on who's using it ).. so I hope you're not referring to skinchanging. Here's why..

According to GRRM, skinchanging is the generic ability, whereas "warg" is the term for someone who has a skinchanger's bond with a wolf ,specifically.Though we fans have grown into using "warg" for the act of skinchanging and sometimes even other kinds of posession, it's good to remind ourselves of his intentions, now and then ... because he tells us all five of the Stark "siblings" are wargs. ( It's part of who she is not a machination )

Sansa had not had a chance to develop her ability with Lady beyond their intial bond before Lady was killed, but she's still a warg. Since warging is just a specific kind of skinchanging , I think it's safe to say that even though Sansa has no wolf, we may yet see her skinchange... particularly because she is very empathetic.

Way back in AGoT when Robert acquiesces to Cersei's demand that one of the direwolves be killed, he tells Ned to get the distraught Sansa a dog .. a much more suitable pet. I think this could well be foreshadowing that has not fully panned out yet. I think the way Sandor touches her heart , the way she comes to understand him, even though she fears him, is in part , her ability reaching for awakening..Whatever the sexual tension between them ( which is real ), I think when she wraps herself in The Hound's torn and bloody cloak, apart from being his cloak, it could also be more foreshadowing of her seeking/ finding a being of a different kind of " skin" to bond with ... not a wolf. She is warmed and comforted by the "skin" of a hound ..and the blood on the white cloak calls to mind the Old Gods...

Next, at Littlefinger's family hold, she is drawn to the old hound that inhabits the main floor, and he to her..but he is old and she doesn't get to stay there long ( I know he brings up thought of Sandor, and that's valid..but I don't think that's his only purpose ).

Moving on to the Eyrie.. it's not a place where dogs would be kept. There's no hunting, no herding ..that would be taken care of by those below , and the product sent up to the castle... If dogs are bred in the Vale for yet other purposes, say war , or children's / ladies' companions or protectors ,that also would not be done in the Eyrie for lack of space.

But now, she's down with the Nestor Royce household at the Gates of the Moon, with a whole winter ahead of her. She'll come in contact with many more dogs ... may even be given one by an admirer. She may be lagging behind her siblings in developing her abilities, but in the Varamyr prologue ( already containing information useful to know when seen in relation to other Starks) , we're told that dogs are the easiest animal to develop a bond with. I think Sansa could soon be making up for lost time. And oddly enough, considering her position , a dog might be most appropriate for her , especially if she needs to keep her ability a secret... She may learn a lot independently..A dog supposedly sleeping by a fire is not cause for people to guard their conversations, or their actions.

Of course this doesn't mean I think her story with Sandor is over, but I don't think there will be a happy romantic ending, or even sexual release , necessarily.

I feel there will be some sort of resolution , and perhaps some redemption for Sandor , but I've no idea how GRRM will work that out.

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By 'witchcraft' I meant skinchanging, as well as any other magical habilities: greendreams, magically enhanced emphatic powers (if any), or any other thing. Yes, she is a warg, but that in itself doesn't mean she'll develop that ability.

My post, after all, it's just an opinion. I rather have her beating LF and everyone else with their own tools - cunning and probably a bit of seduction. IMHO it would feel cheap otherwise.

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By 'witchcraft' I meant skinchanging, as well as any other magical habilities: greendreams, magically enhanced emphatic powers (if any), or any other thing. Yes, she is a warg, but that in itself doesn't mean she'll develop that ability.

My post, after all, it's just an opinion. I rather have her beating LF and everyone else with their own tools - cunning and probably a bit of seduction. IMHO it would feel cheap otherwise.

I agree. As cool as it is, I'd hate for Sansa to go all Bran with greenseeing and skinchanging. Not to say she can't skinchange, but anything more magical than that just wouldn't "fit" with her storyline. She is the Stark involved with politics and intrigue. I'd like to see her become more politically savvy, not become magical and whatnot.

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*snip*

Great post :)

@ Juan and Accio: I don't think Sansa's innate skill of warging and the political acumen we've seen her gradually developing have to be mutually exclusive. There's even the theory that her extraordinary empathy that we saw at work in the political environment of KL is a result of her latent warg talents. Whether that is true or not, skinchanging/warging is a part of who she is and as such (if Martin chooses to introduce it) could be considered as an added benefit to her diplomatic talents. As bemused pointed out, a central element of her relationship with Sandor Clegane seems to have entailed him acting as a replacement for her dead direwolf, and if you examine Sansa's arc closely, especially after she leaves KL, those 'magic' aspects have been getting stronger.

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Off topic... but I just realized this and had to post: At either the bloody gate or the gates of the moon, Sansa's current location, there is a Sandor Frey serving as squire. :blink:

Hmmm interesting. I wonder if he will come into play.

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Hmmm interesting. I wonder if he will come into play.

I don't know, but it is a strange coincidence. It almost seems like some in-joke from Martin.

He and his sister, Cynthea Frey, are Waynwoods on their mothers side. Cynthea is currently the ward of Lady Waynwood. From the Sansa chapter with the Lords Declarant:

She saw Lothor Brune reach for his own sword, but before the blades could meet Bronze Yohn rose in wrath. “
Put up your steel, ser!
Are you a Corbray or a
Frey
? We are guests here.”

Lady Waynwood pursed her lips, and said, “This is unseemly.”

I wonder if she wasn't also responding to the insult to her ward.

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Great post :)

@ Juan and Accio: I don't think Sansa's innate skill of warging and the political acumen we've seen her gradually developing have to be mutually exclusive. There's even the theory that her extraordinary empathy that we saw at work in the political environment of KL is a result of her latent warg talents. Whether that is true or not, skinchanging/warging is a part of who she is and as such (if Martin chooses to introduce it) could be considered as an added benefit to her diplomatic talents. As bemused pointed out, a central element of her relationship with Sandor Clegane seems to have entailed him acting as a replacement for her dead direwolf, and if you examine Sansa's arc closely, especially after she leaves KL, those 'magic' aspects have been getting stronger.

@brash, can anyone other than you unite two opposite sides in such harmony? True ice and fire story. I couldn`t agree more...

We all watch this from wrong perspective. Game of thrones (as pollitical part of ASOIAF), and Ice vs Fire (as mythological part) can`t and shouldn`t be thought of separately. Game influences on mythology as much as mythology influences on Game. Look at how useful dragons are in playing the Game for Daenerys. Has anyone occured that Sansa coud easily become the next Blooraven? Thousands eyes... We talked so much about birds, and I don`t think (please correct me if I am wrong) we mentioned the idea of warging the birds. Varys has his little birds, so could she... I don`t see why would her story arc be shortened for big part such as mythology...

P.S. I wrote 600 posts...more than 300 right here :)

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I don't know, but it is a strange coincidence. It almost seems like some in-joke from Martin.

He and his sister, Cynthea Frey, are Waynwoods on their mothers side. Cynthea is currently the ward of Lady Waynwood. From the Sansa chapter with the Lords Declarant:

She saw Lothor Brune reach for his own sword, but before the blades could meet Bronze Yohn rose in wrath. “
Put up your steel, ser!
Are you a Corbray or a
Frey
? We are guests here.”

Lady Waynwood pursed her lips, and said, “This is unseemly.”

I wonder if she wasn't also responding to the insult to her ward.

Didn't know there was one (after all, who can keep track of every Frey ?), let alone one named Sandor. A funny coincidence, if it is one.

Maybe Lady Wainwood was put off by the anti-Frey sentiment ? Interesting twist. Might explain her willingness to collude with LF later.

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@brash, can anyone other than you unite two opposite sides in such harmony? True ice and fire story. I couldn`t agree more...

We all watch this from wrong perspective. Game of thrones (as pollitical part of ASOIAF), and Ice vs Fire (as mythological part) can`t and shouldn`t be thought of separately. Game influences on mythology as much as mythology influences on Game. Look at how useful dragons are in playing the Game for Daenerys. Has anyone occured that Sansa coud easily become the next Blooraven? Thousands eyes... We talked so much about birds, and I don`t think (please correct me if I am wrong) we mentioned the idea of warging the birds. Varys has his little birds, so could she... I don`t see why would her story arc be shortened for big part such as mythology...

I agree wholeheartedly. I've always seen Sansa as one of those characters who can bridge the gap between the mythological and political concerns in the series, and she's very much like Jon in that regard. His efforts have been concentrated in the North, whilst we expect Sansa to effect change for the time being in the South, but both share that similar ability to create alliances and see the big picture.

We have noted the possibility that Sansa might warg her own little (or big) bird one day, and it's not hard to imagine that she could create her own network in the Vale. It will be interesting to see whether Bran or BR make direct contact through the weirwood web, and how her relationship with SR develops. Bran Vras' theory certainly offers some intriguing possibilities on that front.

P.S. I wrote 600 posts...more than 300 right here :)

That's wonderful :)

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:D :D ..Those fans who want to see all Freys wiped out are probably doomed to disappointment.. what a task that would be.. :D

But yes, juan and Accio..

I hope you don't feel that I was pouncing on you for having an opinion. (Tone of voice doesn't always come accross on the boards.)... If we didn't have opinions , we wouldn't be here...But speaking from my own experience ( and I'm sure many others' ) my opinions have evolved , and even changed drastically, in some cases, since entering into discussion . And often, even some people's opinions that I can never agree with cause me to see things in new ways, if not exactly the way they see things.

With that in mind, I can't understand how anyone thinks that it would be "cheap" for Sansa to develop her abilities ( or if Jon doesn't die , or that sleeping with Daario "cheapens " Dany's character , or any number of examples ). I honestly don't "get" that line of thinking ( I don't mean to express anger or antagonism in that statement, but confusion. )

Sansa's had her abilities from the get-go. It's not as if GRRM would be suddenly writing them in out of the blue. It wouldn't be something he'd never alluded to , something we could never have guessed or imagined. On the contrary, he's carefully written in the hints and connections for us to pick up on...Why bother to give such ability to a character , why bother crafting the hints and suggestions if it's never meant to come into play to one degree or another ? ( I think red herrings would be more obvious. )

For all the young Starks , it may not just be a case of "Use it or lose it " , but as we see with Robb, use it or lose everything.

I doubt she'll use it exactly as her siblings do , but in a more subtle way that would help her with the political accumen she's been developing, and in decoding the Byzantine plots that surround her.

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Developing her warging skill isn't cheap. However 'outwitting' LF by, for instance, making a dog kill him in public or eavesdropping his private conversations by skinchanging would feel cheap. Building her own web of alliances, using other people's motives for her own gain, taking advantage of LF's weakness for her, etc, that IMHO would be beating him in his own game.

That being said, if Sansa decides to act for the North instead of just trying to get there, she might as well use Littlefinger instead of confront him, even if covertly. LF is a villain, but that doesn't mean he can not be the Stark's villain for a while if Sansa manages to play her cards right.

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I didn't see anyone mentioning having a dog kill him, but I mentioned the eavesdropping scenario , just as a possibility ( not a prediction) off the top of my head.

LF spins Sansa all the time, and she knows it, deep down. She has to force herself not to think of it for safety's sake.Best if he doesn't think she suspects. How would it be cheap to eavesdrop on someone who you know never tells you the truth, not wholly... Yet he's your main source of information , and your very life may depend on knowing what's up ?..Oh, and he's well known to engage in eavesdropping himself . I'd say that's fighting fire with fire. When you're at a total disadvantage all tactics are acceptable.

I don't believe LF actually has a weakness for Sansa, and while I think she'll be in a position to make allies, now .. it would be very helpful if she could have some sense of who to trust , since she may not be able to afford even one mistake.

I don't think it can be one ability or the other for her ..she'll need both.

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My little theory suggests that the skinchanger's "second life" works both ways. So a part of Lady still lives in Sansa. Her stronger conscious doesn't allow the direwolf's to manifest, but Lady is still there influencing her in a subtle way.

There is no evidence of any Tully connection to skinchanging/greenseeing abilities. It is clearly a part of her Stark/Northern heritage. Since the five Stark kids AND Jon Snow are all skinchangers, then it has to be a Stark thing. Otherwise it doesn't make sense. (The only other person from the Riverlands who is a skinchanger and a greenseer is a follower of the Old Gods, a fact that reinforces the northern connection)

I don't believe that Sansa 's empathetic talents are magical, I think they are normal for a person of high emotional intelligence, as Sansa is portrayed. They grow as she matures and has a greater range of experiences that allow her to find points of identification with other people.

* spelling, spelling, spelling...

** And I wouldn't like it at all if she was to become a greenseer. One is enough, and what a price he has to pay for his great powers...

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Alright, time to retake the B&B project has come around, and Milady will post her essay on our favourite canine again. It's going to be long, she's afraid, it just grew from the planned 3-page symbolical interpretation to this monster, something that she blames on Sandor's complicated mind, the overenthusiasm of the Muses and listening too much to the holy four B's (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Bartók) as she wrote.

So, without further ado, here it is:

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The Two Faces of the Beast II

There is a great deal of pain in life,

and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided

is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain.”

Dr. RONALD D. LAING.

The Road to the Hound’s Deathbed Confession: A Psychological Study

The origins of the monster and the moment he passes away in order to be transformed back into his human self is a central theme not only in the tale we are presently analysing but in many other stories which focus on the psychological evolution of the protagonist or protagonists. The original idea for this essay was intended to be a symbolical analysis of the final stage of the Hound’s life, from the Blackwater to the Riverlands. However, this has been done many times in this board and elsewhere; therefore, Milady decided to do a psychological study of the scene of his supposed death, especially his last.

This is, above all, an attempt at explaining the cognitive process that was behind his words, and not place moral judgment on them. Clinical theory concerns itself about a comprehensive study of cognitive and behavioural patterns, and we think in terms of health and well-being. And because of that, we don’t speak of “redemption,” as it’s a concept that is out of place in our complex theoretical corpus and our understanding of human nature. “Healing process” is a more correct description.

Because Sandor Clegane’s state of mind is the result of an unique combination of factors that together led to his breakdown under that willow tree near the Trident, to examine this scene as if in a vacuum, judging his words in an isolated manner is counterproductive and results in an equivocal assessment of the man. No human behaviour of any kind comes out of the blue, there’s always a psychological pattern and convergent circumstances that help explain it and comprehend it, and verbalisation is rarely enough for this purpose. Actions can explain, reinforce or disprove words in ways that words cannot explain, reinforce or disprove actions, because there’s less conscious control for them and, due to this, one of our standard courses of action is observation. When an analyst hasn’t enough data provided verbally for whatever reason, he has to resort to non-verbal clues, and, not surprisingly, it’s very common to acquire a wealth of reliable data to work on and get an often more accurate idea of what’s going on than by verbalisation alone. You can control your mouth and your thoughts, but no matter your level of self-control, your mind will always, always find ways to speak—even yell—about what’s taking place there through the body. This is especially important in the case of a character like the Hound, who lacks a POV that could give us valuable information about his inner workings, his motivations, etc., and who is principally seen through the eyes of two girls as different as salt and sugar, one whose feelings towards him are still developing and another whose feelings were hostile, both of them very young and with the fallibility and cognitive limitations of very young people that hinder full comprehension of certain acts and words.

The real roots of his acts are seldom evident on first glance, so the peculiarities of the path he followed until his “death” may have been missed. To better understand what lies beneath the beastly skin, we have to go back to the beginning of the Hound’s end: the last night of the Battle of Blackwater. It’s true that the cracks had been appearing earlier, but it’s in these circumstances in which it’s evidenced, by the convergence of factors such as trauma by fire, resurfacing of chronic PTSD, depressive symptoms, sleeplessness and hunger, binge drinking, physical exhaustion and emotional outburst, that the cracks have widened so much that he will soon have a definite breakdown. From then onwards, it’s necessary to analyse his evolution stage by stage until his final scene, in which the same factors—save trauma by fire—are present, with the addition of wound-induced physical suffering and fever.

After taking this into consideration, let’s begin our analysis of Sandor’s time in the Riverlands, from his desertion from King’s Landing to the moment he’s captured by the Brotherhood without Banners. What do we know about this time? Nothing. However, that doesn’t mean we cannot have an accurate idea about how he’d been acting by the snippets of data provided in the first Arya POV in which he makes his appearance, as well as from the last Sansa POV in which he left. By the information in ACOK Sansa VII, we can infer that at the time of his capture he was still suffering from residual PTSD symptoms, depression being the most glaring one and which can account for his constant drunkenness, as he doesn’t indulge in wine when his mood is stabilised, as we will see in the course of this step-by-step examination. From the fact that he was stone drunk and sleeping under a tree when he was made a prisoner, we can infer that he was wandering aimlessly across the Riverlands, not knowing exactly where to head for or what to do, possibly hiding in the woods, eating whatever he could and drinking a lot, which didn’t help his mental state; and quite possibly was hanging around this war zone in hopes of finding Gregor, whom he is aware must be hereabouts as he knows the Lannister forces are, because killing him is now the only motivation he has in life, having lost everything else.

Then we move to his appearance in Arya VI, in which we see more signs reinforcing the previous guesses. He’s definitely been fighting a profound depressive state for some time now; in the last chapter, he’d stayed indifferent to being pelted with dung and stones, and now he shows indifference toward losing his life, being murdered now that he’s no longer even his horse and his gold, but he doesn’t give in completely despite that, and sticks to his peculiar values, refusing to be executed as a criminal for offences that aren’t his. When the girl confronts him in relation to Mycah, the way he identifies her is very revealing: he doesn’t call her Arya Stark, daughter of Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn of Winterfell. It’s “the little sister.” This gives away a hint about what he’s really thinking about, Sansa’s is the name he cannot bring himself to pronounce here. After the trial by battle is over, we have two more negative factors to add to Sandor’s mental condition: Trauma by fire and physical pain. He’s been forced to face his traumatic fear of fire through trickery, as both Thoros and Dondarrion are aware that he is afraid of fire, and even so, Dondarrion uses a flaming sword and seems to have been willing to fight an unarmoured Hound whilst being in armour himself, at least we can infer that from the fact that he denied him his armour—not lawful according to real Medieval rules of trials by combat, for all combatants had to be armoured, whether lightly or heavily depended on each champion, and even smallfolk and non-knights had to be given a boiled leather corset for the trial when the weapon was of steel. Only when fighting with non-steel weapons, such as clubs, lack of armour was permitted and both combatants had to be equally equipped—and removed his breastplate after it’s been brought to his attention that he’s donning it and the other isn’t.

Burnt through this action, he has to relive that emotionally crippling childhood trauma that gave rise to the Hound in the first place. He’s crying, which it itself is proof that the wound is bad enough and horribly painful—“a piece of burned flesh sloughed right off his arm”—but it’s not the physical pain alone that has him sobbing like a child, because he’s a seasoned soldier and as such must have sustained numerous wounds already, considering his years of service and his skill with the blade, because you don’t serve the Lannisters and grow to become the fearsome Hound, one of the top warriors in the realm, without paying the price in blood, yours as well as others’. No, it’s not the physical pain of the burn. We know from our studies that military men who have more battlefield experience, are on average more resistant to pain and injuries than civilians and less experienced recruits who’ve sustained them too; as a fighter, he’s psychologically conditioned by training to be stoical to bodily suffering. It’s the fire, the emotional distress stemming from his old trauma and non-treated PTSD. It’s now, in a situation where all the same factors that led to his breakdown at the Blackwater converge again, that he makes his first confession:

“I did.” His whole face twisted. “
I rode him down and cut him in half, and laughed. I watched them beat your sister bloody too
,
watched them cut your father’s head off.”

ASOS, pp. 947, e-book.

Notice that in the first part he is practically saying the same things he would tell Arya at the Trident, and he also tells her that if she wants him dead so much, then she should stab him, as it would be “cleaner than fire,” meaning that it’s better than the pain, physical and emotional, so inherently associated with fire in his mind. In this phrase, we find the first clue as to the reasons behind the future one: he’s conjoining not doing enough for Sansa and being present in the Lannisters’ execution of Lord Stark with killing Mycah, his worst act. Considering how it affected him to see Sansa beaten and stripped in public—he’d not intervened in previous beatings, but one time he publicly tells the king that’s it is enough—we can assert with no room for mistake that neither the boy’s death nor his own participation in the slaughter of the Stark household after the arrest of their liege lord are actions he’s proud of. These are the first verbal signs of regret we get from him.

In Arya VII and VIII, we see him briefly again, and judging by what we can glean from both chapters, he seems at least partially recuperated emotionally. He’s sober, too. The only negative aspect that is observable in both chapters could be the pain from his burnt arm, which we know he still feels in Arya IX, even if he doesn’t give any signs of it, as the girl herself notes, because it’s not been so long since he was burnt and it’s not healed yet. He no longer seems to be in a depressive state, possibly because he’s already thought of something to do, which brings him into full fighting mode again, and he recuperates his typical ferocity. Thoros observes that he’s “lost his master and kennel,” and that he has nowhere to go, not suspecting that the Hound has a plan to get himself a new master and kennel, or at a minimum get back his gold, by kidnapping the little direwolf pup.

That action gives him a purpose for the next three chapters, for as soon as he does that, he knows what to do with himself and is no longer lost. From Arya IX to Arya XI, he livens up and is comparatively more relaxed, he doesn’t drink nor expresses a wish for a wineskin as he will later, which indicates his depressive mood has improved, his arm seems to heal well, and he no longer gives hints of PTSD. He even seems oddly hopeful for the future, as he, who never cared for a title before, entertains the possibility of being made a lordling in the service of the King in the North. Before he says that, he speaks of the little bird again, unprompted, and for the first and so far last time in the series, he calls her only by her first name, Sansa, without the title of Lady before it, as he’d once done in a more formal fashion in King’s Landing. He talks of her as just plain Sansa. It’s a significant hint. In our cognitive-behavioural theories concerning attachment, seeking and bond formation, we contend that once you refer to another by his or her name, it speaks of said person’s significance to you in terms of affection, especially when there is a romantic interest in that person, as it’s part of the natural process of moving from seeking physical proximity to seeking emotional proximity, to put it in typical clinical convoluted talk. To put it plainly: at this stage, Clegane has become fully aware of his feelings for Sansa and has admitted it to himself consciously. His constant bringing of her into conversation isn’t subconscious but deliberate.

In this calmer state, the second confession takes place:

“Because
I hacked your little friend in two?
I’ve killed a lot more than him, I promise you. You think that makes me some monster. Well, maybe it does, but
I saved your sister’s life too.
The day the mob pulled her off her horse, I cut through them and brought her back to the castle, else she would have gotten what Lollys Stokeworth got.
And she sang for me.
You didn’t know that, did you?
Your sister sang me a sweet little song.”

ASOS, pp. 1313, e-book.

Once more, Arya confronts him concerning the butcher’s boy, and he again admits it. From the last time she did this, as well as from the rough reaction when she mentioned Mycah some moments previously, it’s clear that the issue still rankles him, and not precisely because he attempts to dodge blameworthiness for this incident, which he’s admitted already. This time, there are no other regrets aggregated to this killing. Instead, he’s contrasting a bad act with a good one: cleaving the boy in two vs. saving Sansa from being raped or killed, as he’d contrasted killing Mycah vs. being the Kingsguard that didn’t beat Sansa. What he does is refuse to accept the label of complete monster, as he’s always strived to be different from his brother, “the monster of House Clegane” as Jaime Lannister would say. In view of the hopes he’s harbouring in regard to the immediate future, he seems to have done this more for himself, as a way of reassuring himself that, for all the things he did wrong, there’s also some he did right, for her, and that is something that can speak in his favour in case the Starks accept him, and the last line about the song seems to be a mix of wishful ideation and regret, because he’s still nettled about not being thanked immediately the way he’d wished, as we can infer from a line in Arya XII in which he tells her that she should thank him for saving her at The Twins with a song. On the surface, this appears out of place here, for now he knows her well enough not to ignore that Arya would never do that, so it’s again for himself; it’s about how he wishes things had turned out but didn’t: she didn’t thank him until after she was reminded of what he’d done, one of the very few actions he must be proud of, and neither did she sing willingly as he’d desired and longed for; he took the song.

[To be continued...]

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On the road to the Red Wedding, he’s still in reasonably good spirits, he’s practical in adopting a disguise to avoid recognition, can make some of his characteristic japes and is generally relieved that everything has gone well and soon his plan will come to fruition, until they both arrive at the Frey castle and he suddenly slips into furious fighting mode a moment before the slaughter of the northern troops starts. It’s in part due to his lifelong martial training, in part due to survival instinct and in part to a conscious desire to live—“I am not done living yet”—which, considering in what state he was approximately two weeks ago, more or less, indicates that at this point he’d recovered remarkably well.

In Arya XII, after everything he’d hoped for is lost, he’s again in a state of emotional turmoil. It’s not immediate, at first it’s just fury, which he tries to let out by chopping all kinds of wood, an attempt at calming himself through physical labour and exhaustion, as an exhausted body means an exhausted mind that can only focus on sleeping and no more, no nightmares, no sadness. As the weeks go by, he’s more withdrawn and depressed, talks less and becomes less and less interested in the world around him, to the point he no longer cares what Arya—who’s going through the first stages of bereavement, not depression—does or stops doing, and there’s an indication that he loses appetite as well, because he doesn’t hunt or search for food and both go hungry. He’s also perpetually angry, as the Stark girl observes, and that, together with his expressed desire for the unavailable wine, is a sign that depression has settled on his psyche once more. For a month or so, this is his constant mood, and it improves a little when they reach the foothills of the Mountains of the Moon, as he seems to have made his mind to take Arya to Lysa Arryn, but has to stay at a village, where he mostly works himself to exhaustion and drinks himself daily into oblivion. He’s back again to the state he was in at the moment of his capture by the Dondarrion band; he’s moving by force of habit at this point, in the village, and regains some of his initiative when they are practically expelled from there and decides to go to Riverrun to ransom the girl to the Tullys.

But it’s evident that he’s definitely under no illusions and has no hopes this time; Plan A went to the seventh hell by the intervention of the Freys and Plan B due to climate and the savage Vale clans. Plan C might end up there, too. By Arya XIII, apart from the ongoing lack of appetite and drinking, he no longer troubles to hide his face or cares who recognises him, which considering that they’re back in the Riverlands where Gregor and the Lannister men-at-arms are, may be imprudent, but it also speaks about his troubled emotions. The first thing he orders after entering the inn’s common room and meeting the Tickler, Polliver and his squire, is a flagon of wine, and he drinks half of it with an empty belly. A Medieval flagon was a measure equivalent to about 3,78 litres, so this possibly means he drank more or less a litre and a half too quickly, and that quantity of alcohol in his blood severely impairs his mental, physical and sensory functions, namely his judgment, fine motor coordination, visual tracking, reasoning, depth perception, as well as, by lowering self-control, results in inappropriate behaviour, though he can tolerate large amounts of wine due to his size, because a smaller man would’ve ended up in the floor ipso facto.

Yet even a worst-case scenario can get worse in GRRM’s world, and to add one more emotional complication to the Hound’s baggage, he learns from Polliver that the little bird has married the Imp he despises. It’s his body language which betrays how hard the blow was, for he has to sit after hearing this news. This behaviour follows the pattern of profound psychological shock, which differs from mild psychological shock and weak psychological shock, in that even if the cause in all three types is an emotionally traumatic experience, bad news in this case, it not only affects a person’s state of mind but induces physical symptoms such as palpitations, shakiness, weakness in the extremities and feeling faint due to a flood of neurochemicals in response to the cause. That’s why in these cases people, if they don’t lose consciousness right away, have to either sit or lie down.

The problem is that, as we know already, he suffers from PTSD and is currently undergoing a depressive period, so this means the shock will not merely leave him stunned, unfocused and thoughtful for some moments and then, vive la vie!, he’ll carry on. No, this type of shock tends to hit someone with PTSD right, left and centre, and it manifests itself in three ways:

Intrusive thoughts: The incident is constantly replayed in the person’s mind. In the Hound’s case, we have a verbal confirmation twice:

“The little bird flew away, did she? Well, bloody good for her. She shit on the Imp’s head and flew off.”

And:

“I meant to take her too. I should have. I should have fucked her bloody and ripped her heart out before leaving her for that dwarf.”

Avoidant behaviour: As the individual feels emotionally numb, he may immediately resort to alcohol and/or drugs as a form of self-medication to ease this. The Hound drank two more cups after hearing this news, so by now he’d have drunk about two litres of wine or more.

Increased irritability: The individual displays disproportionate anger and angry behaviour, and is prone to emotional outbursts. The Hound does in fact have one:

His mouth twitched, but only the burned side. “She ought to dip him in wildfire and cook him. Or tickle him till the moon turns black.”

It’s the twitching of his mouth which gives him away, as anger and emotional distress and strain are some of the usual reasons behind a tic like his. Here, it’s interesting to note three things: a. that he automatically directs his anger at the Lannisters, whom he knows like the palm of his hand, and the fact that his first comment upon learning these news allude to them, the queen and his little brother, points to the possibility that he considers that it was these two’s idea to force Sansa to marry the Imp, with all that such a thing means for the little bird, which could be a logical conclusion with what little information he has. b. His outburst has the curious detail that he doesn’t express a desire to kill Tyrion himself nor implies that he should die at his—Sandor’s—own hands, as it happened the last time he wished for the Imp to die. This isn’t jealousy speaking, he doesn’t feel for himself but for her, as he afterwards expresses that it was good for the little bird to have escaped. This is more about the Lannisters than anything. c. There’s a small detail that indicates he’s thinking of the night of the Blackwater, the fire, and possibly also of what happened in Sansa’s bedroom: he stares at the hearthfire (let’s remember he fears fire, yet he’s deliberately looking at it here), drinks another cup of wine despite already having drunk too much, and then he says it was good that she escaped.

Now, think of the sequence:

Talks about Gregor, Harrenhal and the Blackfish—Pours another cup of wine—Stares at the fire in the hearth—Gulps the wine down—Suddenly mentions Sansa’s escape.

Then it becomes evident that his words are about her, not about himself: first, fury at the Lannisters who did that to her, especially the husband, and then, relief that she’s free of them.

In these disadvantageous emotional and physical conditions, he fights Gregor’s men and survives with Arya’s assistance, not before getting three wounds, two not so important ones and one that looks serious from the start.

[To be continued...]

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Such is the stage by stage psychological evolution of Sandor Clegane on the road to his solitary supposed demise. Before getting down to analysing the scene of his death, let’s sum up his physical and emotional state at this point. The key factors to take into account when judging his last words are divided in two groups:

Negative Physical Factors:

  • Physical suffering, which mostly stems from three sources, first and most important the pain in his leg, which is the acute type, and is so intense he has to lean on things in order not to fall to the ground, and after it’s disinfected and partially cauterised with boiling wine so hot it gave Arya blisters on her finger, he passed out from it. And second, from high fever as a result of his wound. And third, from haemorrhage, as he was losing blood from his neck wound, his ear and his leg wound, which weakened him even further. Up to the moment he lies down under a tree to die, the bleeding from his ear hadn’t stopped yet.

  • Malnourishment and dehydration, as he’d not eaten, so he was probably physically weakened by hunger, too. Furthermore, he’d drank a lot, and after having too much of an alcoholic beverage you need to drink more water to rehydrate. He went on for hours without doing that, and only drank some water when the fever was high.

  • Sleeplessness, as he hadn’t been getting proper and absolutely necessary rest, he just passed out from too much pain. We don’t know exactly how long he endured this, and the effects are too many to list, but amongst the important ones which appear combined with the effects of acute pain are: difficulty coordinating and concentrating, reduction in memory retrieval processes (which is to be taken into account here because it’s possible that the mistake of Mycah for Michael was either a lapsus linguae or a memory lapse, and not intentional), and impaired or fragmented thought processing.

Which of these is the most significant factor?

Physical suffering. Because the effects of acute bodily pain are different from chronic pain, more immediate and crippling. At a purely neurological level, both emotional and physical pain are modulated by the brain’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. This area is also heavily involved in the performance of attention-demanding cognitive tasks. The problem is that, because acute and unending pain demands all attention from the brain, which has to deal with heart rate, blood pressure, and endocrine response through releasing stress hormones, an injured person has to exert extra effort to concentrate on anything of a cognitive nature and stay concentrated once he/she does, and this extra effort increases brain activity that can raise stress levels further, resulting in Irritability, touchiness, harsh words, or emotional outbursts; as all doctors, nurses and paramedics that have had to deal with patients in pain at emergency and intensive care units know well. A person in pain is in the worst of all possible states for any activity; moreover, if you add to this the fever, the bleeding, and worst of all, the emotional pain and negative thinking, you have the recipe for lamentable behaviour, as the intensity of the physical pain is increased, because a person who is psychologically distressed feels higher levels of pain.

Negative Emotional Factors:

  • Emotional distress, originated by the recent news, which he obviously has had no time to fully process yet.

  • Depression, which is a chronic ongoing problem at this point. The most observable and significant points are that he loses appetite, drinks daily and engages in risky behaviour when he’s at his lowest. I listed drunkenness as a separate issue because of his negative cognitive-behavioural effects on him, but he can in no way be diagnosed as an alcoholic, because he can set the bottle aside when he feels good and has something to do, a purpose, an activity, and drinks solely when he’s emotionally distressed and depressed. An alcoholic doesn’t use alcohol as an emotional regulator, as this illness is first and foremost physiological. Clegane does. An alcoholic has the compulsion to drink regardless of his psychological state, good, mild or bad. Clegane hasn’t. An alcoholic cannot regulate his intake by himself. Clegane can.

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, another chronic condition in him. Due to GRRM’s writing, the most observable symptoms in Clegane’s case are four: being easily startled, feeling tense or on edge (hyperarousal), having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts. His depression originated from PTSD in childhood, but as he often displays depressive self-destructive behaviour with no other PTSD signs, it can be listed as a separate issue.

Which of these is the most significant factor?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Because of the increased levels of depression, hyperarousal, suicidal thoughts and behaviours, as well as bad dreams when sleeping and frightening thoughts when awake and overwhelming feelings of guilt or worry. If the affected person is a male, it’s most likely that he will tend to externalise his reactions and emotions by his behaviour rather than verbally, though if he does it verbally, it’s more likely that it’ll be in the form of an emotional outburst. This PTSD-induced emotional outburst can be an angry one in the form of aggressively harsh language, or a sad one in the form of uncontrollable sobbing. Or both. Because both can and do coexist in PTSD, and it’s a way for the person to be relieved of the inner pressure.

Taking all this into account, let’s now move to his final scene. An attentive reader will experience a déjà vu sensation during this episode. After observing this graphic, we can see that the same elements are present in the first and last scenes; in Arya VI and Arya XIII, not only the Hound’s psychological state is the same and his physical state is also for the most part similar but both scenes also follow the same script, complete with tears of pain, and we see that in all three scenes what impels him to speak is Arya’s desire to kill him. The pattern is this:

Arya insists that he killed Mycah and then attempts at killing Clegane when he’s wounded and weakened by pain—Stops speechless/stammers when he looks at her in the face, making it two times that she couldn’t kill him whilst looking him in the eye as Lord Eddard Stark’s code demands—He tells her to “do it.”—And she mentions Mycah a second time at different times in both scenes, as if to reassure herself—Then the Hound admits that he did kill the butcher’s boy and laughed after—After he admits this murder, his face contorts in pain in both occasions (the second time, at the end of his speech)—Right after this is when he mentions Sansa, the beatings she endured—Adds other details, which are different in both scenes—Arya loses the dagger/steps away—In both occasions, Arya wishes for him to suffer and has angry words at the end.

Now let’s examine the contents of his last speech, and by the words he pronounces this time and the two previous occasions, we can see a pattern too, although less obvious. On close examination, Milady has found reasons to contend that Sandor Clegane is speaking of four separate issues and has different emotions in every case:

One: The things I did for the Lannisters

Regret

“I rode him down and cut him in half, and laughed.” “Watched them cut your father’s head off.”

“I killed your butcher’s boy. I cut him near in half, and laughed about it after.”

Two: Didn’t do enough for the little bird

Guilt

“I watched them beat your sister bloody too.”

“And the little bird, your pretty sister, I stood there in my white cloak and let them beat her.”

Three: That offer I made as Blackwater burnt…

Self-reproach and shame

“And she sang for me. You didn’t know that, did you? Your sister sang me a sweet little song.”

“I took the bloody song, she never gave it.”

Loss

“I meant to take her too. I should have.”

Issue Four: And they married her to that Imp…

Anger and sorrow

“I should have fucked her bloody and ripped her heart out before leaving her for that dwarf.”

What can be observed is that he starts talking quite coherently about the Mycah incident, a good summary of his life in the service of House Lannister; then he suddenly breaks down and sobs, and it’s as if the flood-gates on his past had opened and words pour out of him in a rapid succession, going from one incident to another, all related to Sansa, and ends in a sharp outburst exactly in the moment when a spasm of pain rakes him.

By focusing on his harsh words alone and what he did or didn’t mean, readers often miss these details, which in the absence of his POV serve as visual guides to what he’s feeling after each sentence, sort of like tempo markers on a music-sheet. For people in Milady’s area of expertise, what is said during an emotional breakdown—which isn’t the clinical terminology, by the way, but is used in this essay for simplicity—is not as important as why the emotional-psychological collapse happens in the first place, that is, the causes, because this is in itself a symptom and matters only as such, an indicator pointing to the deeper source. Whilst experiencing this, the person is temporarily out of his normal cognitive functioning, because his mind is overworking itself to deal with the psychological or sensory overload; in the Hound’s case it’s both: emotional overload and physical overload due to fever and pain. Such a combination is more commonly found in dying people, as he thought he was, and it’s also known that dying, especially whilst in acute pain, has the effect of exhuming hitherto buried emotions, feelings and thoughts and bringing them to the surface for conscious examination previous to the individual’s last breath. Any attempt at consciously suppressing those will not be met with success, and if the person is in pain or with high fever (or, in our world, medicated with strong painkillers), the attempt will be utterly futile, as these physiological processes take over control and the intellect is just kicked out of the equation by these pressing biological matters, and thus the injured person is left confused and struggling with feelings and thoughts which resurface for the purpose of resolution, with or without the individual’s will. This peculiar cognitive process elicits only the issues that need resolution, is not subject to conscious control and due to cultural conditioning that demands the blocking of certain behaviours in men and women, the most common emotions that resurface in men are sadness and fear and anger in women, the former cry openly and the latter curse and yell. As in the case of the Hound, all three can resurface at the same time in the same person regardless of gender; it all depends on what is in his or her baggage. And Clegane carried around a heavy one.

As mentioned before, doctors, nurses, paramedics, caregivers and even the septons and their dog know this sort of emotional temporary disintegration well, though not all of them are familiar with the psychological explanation and not all persons react the same way depending on aggravating circumstances or lack thereof; and the more experienced ones are aware that the verbal, and sometimes physical, aggression displayed by someone collapsing emotionally when a life-threatening injury or illness lands them at death’s door can only mean that this someone needed to go off in order to off-load an overabundance of unexpressed feelings, be it of regret, of pain, of shame, of anger, or even love. Endearing, repulsive, shameful. All of them.

Normally, this is a negative occurrence, a symptom, as mentioned previously. But there’s always the light side opposing the dark side; and Milady knows of some geniuses in the psychotherapeutic field contending, quite convincingly, that there’s such a thing as positive emotional breakdown. This is the breakdown of a unhealthy/dysfunctional pattern in order for a healthier/more functional behavioural pattern or personality to emerge. Two developmental theorists in particular, Jean Piaget and Kazimierz Dabrowski, can support this with their research. Dr. Piaget would’ve said that when an individual’s schema—his worldview, in plain English—fails to properly assimilate new content or accommodate to new information/occurrences, then the schema is obsolete and needs to be broken and dismantled in order for a new schema to form and replace it. And Dr. Dabrowski would say that personal growth occurs through a succession of psychological disintegrations (“breakdowns”) and reintegrations that transform an individual’s worldview and his idea of self. He says that “positive disintegration forges a personality that motivates one to perform at newer and higher levels, with emphasis on developing altruism and morality.” This is precisely what was necessary for Clegane.

In the beginning, Milady asserted that she doesn’t use the term redemption but prefers to speak of a healing process instead; and after this long exposition, she hopes her reasons are clear. Because the Hound had long outlived its purpose, bad but useful in his world, and had begun to cost Sandor too much in blood and pain to maintain this schema, the Hound had to disintegrate in order for Sandor to heal. If a grave, life-changing wound gave origin to the Beast at an age when children are still learning the cognitive and reasoning skills to survive, then another grave wound was his undoing, which paradoxically was best for him as it stopped him on the road to self-destruction. Fortunately for him, this time he’s not alone, but has someone to assist him, a healer who does understand him, because he himself broke down and disintegrated his old schema as a result of a fatal wound. “He is at rest,” said a certain monk, which indicates good handling of his case, for when a man has this breakdown, it’s desirable for the therapist to have him rest before attacking the issues that overwhelmed him, as a measure of calm is necessary to elaborate on his thoughts and feelings and motivations. By what the Elder Brother chirped, Milady believes the Quiet Isle can help Clegane symptom-wise only, as the ex-soldier-turned-monk seems to have assessed the man correctly, and by determining the underlying causes of his breakdown, he’d be able to learn a new self-awareness, self-assessment and other coping skills that will help him deal with his symptoms, depression and binge drinking and anger, to name just the obvious ones. The rest, avoiding relapse, sticking to his new schema, a longtime purpose, etc.—in one word: the heavy lifting—is in Sandor’s hands. Like the therapist’s couch, the Isle is just a means to an end, the tool with which he can carve out a new pattern.

And he could’ve already found one potential purpose that can last for as long as he lives, one related to the person that directly set him on the path to healing. According to the Global Timeline, the Hound “died” in Arya XIII the same day that the little bird had that clearly erotic dream in Sansa VI at the Fingers, in which she sees him climbing into the marriage bed. There, he’s not the Hound. He’s not Sandor Clegane. He’s simply the man she’s to give a song willingly. That cannot be a mere coincidence.

_____________________

Note:

Authorship of the graphics used in this essay belongs to Milady of York, who did them all herself.

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