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From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XX

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Welcome to the 20th edition of the PTP Rethinking Sansa series.

The first Rethinking thread was launched on May 4, 2012, and so it feels fitting that we have reached this milestone in the month of May, one year later, with the same zest and commitment to fostering critical discussion on Sansa's character. I believe that we now hold the distinction of being the longest running thread dedicated to a single character, and that's a special achievement indeed. The PTP threads are centred on Sansa Stark, her development, and relationships with others, but as anyone who's followed the thread long enough would know, we expand that focus to include discussion on many other characters and relevant issues which provide insight into Martin's plans for Sansa, and his overall vision in the story.

I am very proud of the wonderful analyses we've been able to complete and showcase, and the warm and welcoming atmosphere that exists here. Credit goes to the best community of posters to be found anywhere on the board - the ones who continue to dedicate their time and effort to research, writing, and/or simply adding their voices and opinions to the conversation. I'd like to extend special thanks to my friend and co-host, Milady of York, who has proven to be an invaluable member since joining the board last year. And to everyone who has dropped by with a word of support or encouragement, and expressed your enjoyment of the thread, you have my heartfelt appreciation.

If you're new to the thread, and would like a quick introduction to some of our past essays and discussions, please check out the resource section provided below. We have embarked on a new project entitled Women in Power, and those presentations will be made in the weeks ahead.

As always, I encourage newbies to emerge from the cave of lurkerdom, and join us on this dynamic journey :)

Rethinking XIX

Original Reread links (see thread XIX for a detailed breakdown)

(Resources: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12)

Resource 1 - Female influences

Resources 4,5,10,11,12 - Beauty and the Beast Project

Resource 8 - Male influences

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Brashcandy, Rapsie and Milady of York, congratulations on the 20th edition of Pawn to player thread. As I have said countless times, this is the one place on the forum, I have always felt comfortable and welcome. Also, brash, as always I remain loyal to you as a dear friend who encouraged me and gave me chance to write about Sansa. To the three of you and all of us who find `safe harbour` here, I wish us all the best in the tireless effort to defend one of the most scrutinized characters.

So, for 20 before and even more to come. :cheers: (with champagne glasses :) )

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Congratulations for all those who have made Pawn to Player, a special and friendly place indeed, reach its XXth edition. It's a pleasure for me to come back to the forum – I could almost say emerge from my cave of lurkerdom – for this particular occasion, and bring my little stone to the understanding of Sansa's story. I believe I have not deviated from the custom of the Pawn to Player thread by developing my thesis at length.

Somehow, we can't help thinking that Martin's universe is supported by hidden structures. Of course, the author would never give us explicitly the keys. Why would he ? No character will spell out what the armature of the story is. My suggestion here is that one of those hidden structures, perhaps, is the importance of maternal lineages.

As the insistence of the Targaryens to wed women of their own kin proves, female ancestry should not be neglected, even if the Seven Kingdoms form a patriarchal society, where the family name is carried through the male line, which thus essentially defines the noble houses. But it might be fruitful to pay attention to the other side of the genealogy, even if it seems difficult to keep track of.

This is the second part of the exploration of this theme. Elsewhere, I have tried to see what could lie behind Lyanna Stark's maternal lineage, and its relations to Dalla.

After Sansa fled from King's Landing, a little folk tale is reported to the Hound by Polliver.

“I forgot, you’ve been hiding under a rock. The northern girl. Winterfell’s daughter. We heard she killed the king with a spell, and afterward changed into a wolf with big leather wings like a bat, and flew out a tower window. But she left the dwarf behind and Cersei means to have his head.”

That’s stupid, Arya thought. Sansa only knows songs, not spells, and she’d never marry the Imp.

(Arya XII, ASoS)

...with big leather wings like a bat

I suggest that, unlike Arya, we take that story seriously and see where it leads us. We will explore several themes: the story of Harrenhal, the maternal lineage of Sansa, the quests of Jaime and Brienne, the crown of the north, the possibility of Sansa's inheritance of the castle.

1. The Bat of Harrenhal

Of course, the bat belongs to the menagerie familiar to the gothic genre along the black cat, the wolf, the owl etc.

The strange mix of totemism and feudalism that characterizes the Seven Kingdoms provides a privileged lair to the bat: the cursed castle of Harrenhal... which is precisely where Polliver came from when he reported the little story about Sansa, as if the smallfolk of Harrenhal had recognized in Sansa a daughter of their castle as much as a daughter of Winterfell. Indeed, Sansa's maternal grandmother was a Whent, and probably born in the castle.

So Sansa is a Whent on the maternal line. The daughter of the daughter of the daughter of Harrenhal.

Let's examine first the relationship between Harrenhal and bats. First, there are indeed bats in the ruined towers.

The ground floor of the Wailing Tower was given over to storerooms and granaries, and two floors above housed part of the garrison, but the upper stories had not been occupied for eighty years. Now Lord Tywin had commanded that they be made fit for habitation again. There were floors to be scrubbed, grime to be washed off windows, broken chairs and rotted beds to be carried off. The topmost story was infested with nests of the huge black bats that House Whent had used for its sigil, and there were rats in the cellars as well... and ghosts, some said, the spirits of Harren the Black and his sons.

Arya thought that was stupid.

(Arya VI, ACoK)

If Arya thinks it stupid, something interesting must be going on. Bats are involved in another tale taken from the folklore of Harrenhal.

“My old ma used to say that giant bats flew out from Harrenhal on moonless nights, to carry bad children to Mad Danelle for her cookpots. Sometimes I’d hear them scrabbling at the shutters.”

(Brienne II, AFfC)

Mad Danelle is none other than Danelle Lothston, whose sigil is recognized when Brienne wanders in search of Sansa.

The captain’s eyes lingered on her shield. “The black bat of Lothston. Those are arms of ill repute.”

(Brienne II, AFfC)

My first reading of Martin's books was not particularly attentive, but I immediately felt that something curious, perhaps sinister, was going on with the shield carried by Brienne. We will return to it.

Danelle is described in The Mystery Knight.

Mad Danelle Lothston herself rode forth in strength from her haunted towers at Harrenhal, clad in black armor that fit her like an iron glove, her long red hair streaming.

(The Mystery Knight)

House Lothston held Harrenhal before House Whent. Of course, Catelyn Stark's mother was a Whent.

Ser Illifer crooked a bony finger at her shield. Though its paint was cracked and peeling, the device it bore showed plain: a black bat on a field divided bendwise, silver and gold. “You bear a liar’s shield, to which you have no right. My grandfather’s grandfather helped kill the last o’ Lothston. None since has dared to show that bat, black as the deeds of them that bore it.”

(Brienne I, AFfC)

We know how the seat passed to the Whent through the story of Ben Blackthumb.

You know old Ben Blackthumb? He came here as a boy. Smithed for Lady Whent and her father before her and his father before him, and even for Lord Lothston who held Harrenhal before the Whents.

(Arya IX, ACoK)

The last Lothston died during the lifetime of Ben Blackthumb and during the lifetime of Ser Illifer grandfather's grandfather. I presume the grandfather's grandfather was already old at the time of Lothston's demise. Note that Ben Blackthumb is among the few members of the Whent household who survived the turmoil of the war.

Catelyn's mother was Minisa Whent. Since she married a Tully, we can presume she was no less than the daughter of the Lord of Harrenhal: perhaps not Lady Whent's sister, otherwise it would be mentioned if Lady Whent were so closely related to Catelyn. She might have been the daughter of the first Whent who held Harrenhal, which would make of Lady Whent a cousin of Catelyn. If this speculation is correct, Lord Whent had at least a sister (Minisa) and a brother (Oswell of the Kingsguard).

The Whents retained the bat as a sigil when they took the seat of Harrenhal. The Whent banner displays nine bats, while the Lothston had a single large bat. The persistence of the bat suggests something strongly: the bat is more attached to the place than to any particular family.

A logical explanation would be that the Whent who took the lordship of Harrenhal married a Lothston daughter and kept the bat sigil to affirm his legitimacy, somewhat like the Lannisters did in Darry by marrying Lancel to Amerei Frey, and displaying the Darry arms of Amerei's mother. (Hence a persistence of the female line.)

It's conjectural, and not essential for what will follow, but Catelyn's mother's mother might have been a Lady Lothston. In any case, House Tully and House Whent must have been on very good terms two or three generations ago, since Hoster Tully married a Whent, and House Whent inherited Harrenhal after the demise of the Lothstons.

In any case, Sansa has been recognized as half wolf, half bat in the story reported by Polliver.

2. The History of Harrenhal

It is fundamental for the history of Westeros. After the arrival of the Rhoynar, the Seven Kingdoms seem to have known many centuries of stability until...

“Harrenhal.” Every child of the Trident knew the tales told of Harrenhal, the vast fortress that King Harren the Black had raised beside the waters of Gods Eye three hundred years past, when the Seven Kingdoms had been seven kingdoms, and the riverlands were ruled by the ironmen from the islands. In his pride, Harren had desired the highest hall and tallest towers in all Westeros. Forty years it had taken, rising like a great shadow on the shore of the lake while Harren’s armies plundered his neighbors for stone, lumber, gold, and workers. Thousands of captives died in his quarries, chained to his sledges, or laboring on his five colossal towers. Men froze by winter and sweltered in summer. Weirwoods that had stood three thousand years were cut down for beams and rafters. Harren had beggared the riverlands and the Iron Islands alike to ornament his dream. And when at last Harrenhal stood complete, on the very day King Harren took up residence, Aegon the Conqueror had come ashore at King’s Landing.

Catelyn could remember hearing Old Nan tell the story to her own children, back at Winterfell. “And King Harren learned that thick walls and high towers are small use against dragons,” the tale always ended. “For dragons fly.” Harren and all his line had perished in the fires that engulfed his monstrous fortress, and every house that held Harrenhal since had come to misfortune. Strong it might be, but it was a dark place, and cursed.

“I would not have Robb fight a battle in the shadow of that keep,” Catelyn admitted. “Yet we must do something, Uncle.”

(Catelyn I, ACoK)

Harren the Black was an ironman, and is still remembered as such in the islands.

Aegon the Dragon had destroyed the Old Way when he burned Black Harren, gave Harren’s kingdom back to the weakling rivermen, and reduced the Iron Islands to an insignificant backwater of a much greater realm. Yet the old red tales were still told around driftwood fires and smoky hearths all across the islands, even behind the high stone halls of Pyke. Theon’s father numbered among his titles the style of Lord Reaper, and the Greyjoy words boasted that We Do Not Sow.

(Theon I, ACoK)

We have an account from Old Nan.

Arya was remembering the stories Old Nan used to tell of Harrenhal. Evil King Harren had walled himself up inside, so Aegon unleashed his dragons and turned the castle into a pyre. Nan said that fiery spirits still haunted the blackened towers. Sometimes men went to sleep safe in their beds and were found dead in the morning, all burnt up. Arya didn’t really believe that, and anyhow it had all happened a long time ago. Hot Pie was being silly; it wouldn’t be ghosts at Harrenhal, it would be knights. Arya could reveal herself to Lady Whent, and the knights would escort her home and keep her safe. That was what knights did; they kept you safe, especially women. Maybe Lady Whent would even help the crying girl.

(Arya IV, ACoK)

Old Nan seems to imply that some form of bloodmagic was used to build the castle, which reminds me of the castles at the Wall.

It would be better once they got to Harrenhal, the captives told each other, but Arya was not so certain. She remembered Old Nan’s stories of the castle built on fear. Harren the Black had mixed human blood in the mortar, Nan used to say, dropping her voice so the children would need to lean close to hear, but Aegon’s dragons had roasted Harren and all his sons within their great walls of stone.

(Arya VI, ACoK)

Given that the completion of Harrenhal coincided with the arrival of the dragons, it is tempting to interpret the Conquest as an answer to a plea to stop Harren the Black. It has been noted that the Valyrians and later the Targaryens never dared to come to Westeros before this day, which is a mystery, considering that the Valyrians conquered Dragonstone and were not shy of expanding everywhere beyond the Narrow Sea. Was Westeros warded against the the dragons before the Conquest? Who formulated the plea? Why was Harrenhal so important? Why did Harren the Black, an ironman, build his seat in the Riverlands?

A most important feature of Harrenhal is the proximity of Gods Eye. Indeed, Harrenhal is on the shore of the Lake. The island is one of the sacred places of the Seven Kingdoms, where the First Men once made a pact with the Children of the Forest to share Westeros. It is said that that many weirwood are still standing on the Isle of Faces, which is shunned by the population of the Seven Kingdoms. According to the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree, Howland Reed went to the island, which seems to still hold power.

“The lad knew the magics of the crannogs,” she continued, “but he wanted more. Our people

seldom travel far from home, you know. We’re a small folk, and our ways seem queer to some, so the big people do not always treat us kindly. But this lad was bolder than most, and one day when he had grown to manhood he decided he would leave the crannogs and visit the Isle of Faces.”

(Bran II, ASoS)

Does the lake isolate the island from the rest of Westeros? Is this why the weirwood of the Isle of Faces were left alone? Some creature of unknown nature still reside in the island.

“No one visits the Isle of Faces,” objected Bran. “That’s where the green men live.”

“It was the green men he meant to find. So he donned a shirt sewn with bronze scales, like mine, took up a leathern shield and a threepronged spear, like mine, and paddled a little skin boat down the Green Fork.”

Bran closed his eyes to try and see the man in his little skin boat. In his head, the crannogman looked like Jojen, only older and stronger and dressed like Meera.

“He passed beneath the Twins by night so the Freys would not attack him, and when he reached the Trident he climbed from the river and put his boat on his head and began to walk. It took him many a day, but finally he reached the Gods Eye, threw his boat in the lake, and paddled out to the isle of Faces.”

“Did he meet the green men?”

“Yes,” said Meera, “but that’s another story, and not for me to tell. My prince asked for knights.”

“Green men are good too.”

“They are,” she agreed, but said no more about them.

(Bran II, ASoS)

Did Harrenhal benefit from the presence of the Isle of Faces? Or was it built in opposition to the Isle? I would rather believe the latter theory. Indeed,

Weirwoods that had stood three thousand years were cut down for beams and rafters.

(Catelyn I, ACoK)

I tend to believe that whatever power residing in the Isle has allowed the dragons to come to Westeros.

In any case, we know the story: Balerion the Black burned Harren and all his sons in the Kingspyre. What about the daughters? Who was Lady Hoare?

The castle never remained long in any house's possession. Here is Littlefinger's account:

“Has someone made a song about Gregor Clegane dying of a poisoned spear thrust? Or about the sellsword before him, whose limbs Ser Gregor removed a joint at a time? That one took the castle from Ser Amory Lorch, who received it from Lord Tywin. A bear killed one, your dwarf the other. Lady Whent’s died as well, I hear. Lothstons, Strongs, Harroways, Strongs... Harrenhal has withered every hand to touch it.”

(Alayne I, AFfC)

So it seems House Strong lost the castle to House Harroway and regained it. Neither House Strong, nor House Lothston is truly extinct, since both house haves their names claimed by exiles within the Golden Company.

However, we are interested in the story of the female line.

House Whent was reputedly wealthy in reason of the fertile lands around the castle. Lord Whent, presumably the father of Lady Whent, and possibly the brother of Minisa, organized the famous tourney where so important events happened. Curiously, the Tullys didn't seem to have attended the tourney at the time, despite their geographical proximity and the close family ties they entertained with the Whents.

3. Jaime and Brienne, the Shield and the Sword

Both Catelyn Stark and Harrenhal played an important role in the story of Jaime and Brienne.

Brienne swore serve Catelyn Stark personally, not House Stark.

Brienne stared at the ground and shuffled her feet. “I do not know your son, my lady.” She looked up. “I could serve you. If you would have me.”

Catelyn was startled. “Why me?”

The question seemed to trouble Brienne. “You helped me. In the pavilion... when they thought that I had... that I had... “

“You were innocent.”

“Even so, you did not have to do that. You could have let them kill me. I was nothing to you.” Perhaps I did not want to be the only one who knew the dark truth of what had happened there,

Catelyn thought. “Brienne, I have taken many wellborn ladies into my service over the years, but never one like you. I am no battle commander.”

“No, but you have courage. Not battle courage perhaps but... I don’t know... a kind of woman’s courage. And I think, when the time comes, you will not try and hold me back. Promise me that. That you will not hold me back from Stannis.”

Catelyn could still hear Stannis saying that Robb’s turn too would come in time. It was like a cold breath on the back of her neck. “When the time comes, I will not hold you back.”

The tall girl knelt awkwardly, unsheathed Renly’s longsword, and laid it at her feet. “Then I am yours, my lady. Your liege man, or... whatever you would have me be. I will shield your back and keep your counsel and give my life for yours, if need be. I swear it by the old gods and the new.”

“And I vow that you shall always have a place by my hearth and meat and mead at my table, and pledge to ask no service of you that might bring you into dishonor. I swear it by the old gods and the new. Arise.” As she clasped the other woman’s hands between her own, Catelyn could not help but smile. How many times did I watch Ned accept a man’s oath of service- She wondered what he would think if he could see her now.

(Catelyn V, ACoK)

The service led Brienne to be assigned to find Arya and Sansa.

Something funny is going on between Jaime and Brienne, as we have all noticed. It seems to have reached its high point in the Harrenhal baths, the very bathtub Lady Lothston used to fill with blood.

Father, Jaime thought, your dogs have both gone mad. He found himself remembering tales he had first heard as a child at Casterly Rock, of mad Lady Lothston who bathed in tubs of blood and presided over feasts of human flesh within these very walls.

(Jaime III, AFfC)

The strange attraction between Jaime and Brienne might not be entirely natural. We see mutual respect, and even mutual affection, building up during the journey from Riverrun to King's Landing. But the key moment is in Harrenhal. Interestingly, the renegade maester Qyburn took care of both Jaime and Brienne. There is even this curious episode after Qyburn has taken care of Jaime's stump.

“Open your eye.” Qyburn soaked a cloth in warm water and dabbed at the crust of dried blood. The eyelid was swollen, but Jaime found he could force it open halfway. Qyburn’s face loomed above. “How did you come by this one?” the maester asked.

“A wench’s gift.”

“Rough wooing, my lord?”

“This wench is bigger than me and uglier than you. You’d best see to her as well. She’s still limping on the leg I pricked when we fought.”

“I will ask after her. What is this woman to you?”

“My protector.” Jaime had to laugh, no matter how it hurt.

“I’ll grind some herbs you can mix with wine to bring down your fever. Come back on the morrow and I’ll put a leech on your eye to drain the bad blood.” “A leech. Lovely.”

“Lord Bolton is very fond of leeches,” Qyburn said primly. “Yes,” said Jaime. “He would be.”

(Jaime V, ASoS)

Both Jaime and Brienne are bound by an oath to find Sansa.

Her face darkened. “I told you, I will never serve...”

“... such foul creatures as us. Yes, I recall. Hear me out, Brienne. Both of us swore oaths concerning Sansa Stark. Cersei means to see that the girl is found and killed, wherever she has gone to ground...”

Brienne’s homely face twisted in fury. “If you believe that I would harm my lady’s daughter for a sword, you -”

“Just listen,” he snapped, angered by her assumption. “I want you to find Sansa first, and get her somewhere safe. How else are the two of us going to make good our stupid vows to your precious dead Lady Catelyn?

(Jaime IX, ASoS)

Jaime has a gift for Brienne's quest.

“Brienne of Tarth.” Jaime sighed. “I have a gift for you.” He reached down under the Lord

Commander’s chair and brought it out, wrapped in folds of crimson velvet.

Brienne approached as if the bundle was like to bite her, reached out a huge freckled hand, and

flipped back a fold of cloth. Rubies glimmered in the light. She picked the treasure up gingerly, curled her fingers around the leather grip, and slowly slid the sword free of its scabbard. Blood and black the ripples shone. A finger of reflected light ran red along the edge. “Is this Valyrian steel? I have never seen such colors.”

“Nor I. There was a time that I would have given my right hand to wield a sword like that. Now it appears I have, so the blade is wasted on me. Take it.” Before she could think to refuse, he went on. “A sword so fine must bear a name. It would please me if you would call this one Oathkeeper. One more thing. The blade comes with a price.”

(Jaime IX, ASoS)

Jaime explains the story of the sword.

“When Ned Stark died, his greatsword was given to the King’s justice,” he told her. “But my father felt that such a fine blade was wasted on a mere headsman. He gave Ser Ilyn a new sword, and had Ice melted down and reforged. There was enough metal for two new blades. You’re holding one. So you’ll be defending Ned Stark’s daughter with Ned Stark’s own steel, if that makes any difference to you.”

(Jaime IX, ASoS)

There is a second gift for Brienne's quest. We have seen it already.

The shield was the one Ser Jaime had taken from the armory at Harrenhal. Brienne had found it in the stables with her mare, along with much else; saddle and bridle, chainmail hauberk and visored greathelm, purses of gold and silver and a parchment more valuable than either. “I lost mine own shield,” she explained.

(Brienne I, AFfC)

Here is how Jaime found the shield.

He found an old shield in the armory, battered and splintered, the chipped paint still showing most of the great black bat of House Lothston upon a field of silver and gold. The Lothstons held Harrenhal before the Whents and had been a powerful family in their day, but they had died out ages ago, so no one was likely to object to him bearing their arms. He would be no one’s cousin, no one’s enemy, no one’s sworn sword... in sum, no one.

(Jaime VI, ASoS)

It's worthwile to note that Brienne's search for Sansa is accomplished with the help of two gifts. One of them originates from Sansa's father's line (the sword Ice, partially reforged into Oathkeeper) and the other comes from her mother's line (the shield of Harrenhal). We recover thus the beast, half-wolf, half-bat, into which Sansa was said to have changed to escape King's Landing. Interestingly, Brienne has the shield repainted later. So both the paternal sword and the maternal shield are carried clandestinely.

Both Brienne and Jaime felt truly compelled to fulfill their quest for Catelyn's daughters. There is an insistence of Brienne that she doesn't serve the Stark name, but Catelyn personally.

4. Catelyn Stark

Catelyn Stark appeared to us as a loving mother caught in a tragedy, and who made understandable mistakes for the sake of her children. We are not going to discuss in-depth such a rich and complex character. Her dislike of Jon Snow falls into the common pattern of the jealousy of the mother for the child of her husband's mistress. However, such dislike was unnecessary and irrational since Jon Snow was clearly designated as a bastard and never claimed any part of the Stark inheritance.

Beside her dislike for Jon Snow, another aspect makes her unsympathetic: her resurrection as vengeful spirit. Why did Catelyn Stark among all the victims of the War in the Riverlands come back from the dead to seek justice, vengeance? Her suffering as a mother and as a wife was terrible, but far from unparalleled. So why did Beric Dondarrion decide to give his life for her resurrection?

Beric's decision was certainly motivated by a certain tiredness after so many resurrections. The fact that Nymeria found Catelyn on the Trident does not seem to have influenced Beric and Thoros.

“She is,” said Thoros of Myr. “The Freys slashed her throat from ear to ear. When we found her by the river she was three days dead. Harwin begged me to give her the kiss of life, but it had been too long. I would not do it, so Lord Beric put his lips to hers instead, and the flame of life passed from him to her. And... she rose. May the Lord of Light protect us. She rose.”

(Brienne VIII, AFfC)

However, we can suspect the agency of the old gods. Indeed, the direwolves have been associated to the old gods all along, at least in the Greatjon's eyes. Moreover, Beric Dondarrion, when seated on his "throne" of weirwood roots and watching with his single eye, seemed to be an avatar of Lord Brynden Rivers.

In any case, Lady Stoneheart seems to have a plan in mind. Indeed, the Brotherhood without Banner has ambushed Ryman Frey in Fairmarket and found the crown of Robb Stark.

After having being stolen by the Freys, the crown would end up with Lady Stoneheart, who doesn't wear it herself.

A trestle table had been set up across the cave, in a cleft in the rock. Behind it sat a woman all in grey, cloaked and hooded. In her hands was a crown, a bronze circlet ringed by iron swords. She was studying it, her fingers stroking the blades as if to test their sharpness. Her eyes glimmered under her hood.

(Brienne VIII, AFfC)

Lady Stoneheart has much interest in the crown. However, a little detail deserves to be noted. House Whent's sigil consisted in nine black bats. Since a single black bat formed the sigil of House Lothston, it's likely that House Whent merged the bat of the Lothston with the number nine associated with their own family. Robb Stark descended from the Whents. Here is a more precise description of the crown.

The ancient crown of the Kings of Winter had been lost three centuries ago, yielded up to Aegon the Conqueror when Torrhen Stark knelt in submission. What Aegon had done with it no man could say. Lord Hoster’s smith had done his work well, and Robb’s crown looked much as the other was said to have looked in the tales told of the Stark kings of old; an open circlet of hammered bronze incised with the runes of the First Men, surmounted by nine black iron spikes wrought in the shape of longswords. Of gold and silver and gemstones, it had none; bronze and iron were the metals of winter, dark and strong to fight against the cold.

(Catelyn I, ACoK)

There are nine swords, which share with the bats the characteristic of being black. It might be just a coincidence, since Catelyn does not make the connection.

There can only be one reason why Lady Stoneheart is so much interested in the crown: she intends to crown someone. After the death of Bran, Rickon, and Robb, the heir of the kingdom of the north and the Riverlands is Jon Snow, according to Robb's will. However, Catelyn Stark disapproved the choice of Jon as crown prince, especially because of the disinheritance of Sansa. The Blackfish, perhaps linked to the Brotherhood, reminds us of Catelyn's dislike of Jon Snow. So the heir of the crown of the north and the Riverlands, in Catelyn's eyes, should be Sansa.

However, Lady Stoneheart seems only to want vengeance against the Kingslayer.

“What does she want of me?”

“She wants her son alive, or the men who killed him dead,” said the big man. “She wants to feed the crows, like they did at the Red Wedding. Freys and Boltons, aye. We’ll give her those, as many as she likes. All she asks from you is Jaime Lannister.”

(Brienne VIII, AFfC)

So it is unclear to whom Lady Stoneheart intends to give the crown. I am surprised there is no mention of the need to find Sansa, despite Brienne's assurance that she is pursuing her quest.

Here is the last thing we hear about Jaime and Brienne. Brienne reappears unexpectedly at the village of Pennytree to meet Jaime.

“A bite.” She touched the hilt of her sword, the sword that he had given her. Oathkeeper. “My lord, you gave me a quest.”

“The girl. Have you found her?”

“I have,” said Brienne, Maid of Tarth. “Where is she?”

“A day’s ride. I can take you to her, ser ... but you will need to come alone. Elsewise, the Hound will kill her.”

(Jaime, ADwD)

So the desire to find Sansa is still intact in both Brienne and Jaime. Oathkeeper is still with Brienne. (Jaime might not recognize the Lothston shield, because it has been repainted.)

5. Alayne Stone

Sansa could very well have a claim over Harrenhal. Let's forget for a moment the successive attributions of the castle to Janos Slynt and Littlefinger and go back to Lady Whent, who seems dead and the last of her line.

It seems that the heirs of Lady Whent should be the descendants of Minisa Whent: Edmure Tully, his unborn child, Catelyn Stark (dead), Robb Stark (dead), Bran Stark (disappeared, presumed dead), Rickon Stark (disappeared, presumed dead), Sansa Stark (disappeared), Arya Stark (married to Ramsay Bolton, disappeared), Lysa Tully (dead), Robert Arryn.

That would leave little chance for Sansa to inherit the castle, especially since Lady Whent has been deprived of her birthright.

This follows the standard rules of succession in Westeros. Let's look at the situation along the female line, which is absurd from the point of view of all laws of the Seven Kingdoms. Sansa is the eldest daughter of Catelyn, herself the eldest daughter of Minisa. That could make of Sansa the "legitimate" ruler along the female line, if such a legitimacy had any currency in the Seven Kingdoms (and it hasn't, of course).

Littlefinger has given Sansa the role of his bastard girl. For Sansa to inherit as Littlefinger's heir, two things are needed: the demise of Petyr Baelish and the legitimation of Sansa. Let's discuss the prospects.

There is no sign as yet that Littlefinger intends Sansa to become his heir. In fact, it seems that Littlefinger wishes Sansa to recover her identity for her marriage with Harry the Heir. This is what Littlefinger promises:

Petyr arched an eyebrow. “When Robert dies. Our poor brave Sweetrobin is such a sickly boy, it is only a matter of time. When Robert dies, Harry the Heir becomes Lord Harrold, Defender of the Vale and Lord of the Eyrie. Jon Arryn’s bannermen will never love me, nor our silly, shaking Robert, but they will love their Young Falcon... and when they come together for his wedding, and you come out with your long auburn hair, clad in a maiden’s cloak of white and grey with a direwolf emblazoned on the back... why, every knight in the Vale will pledge his sword to win you back your birthright. So those are your gifts from me, my sweet Sansa... Harry, the Eyrie, and Winterfell. That’s worth another kiss now, don’t you think?”

(Alayne II, AFfC)

Undoubtly, a maiden’s cloak of white and grey with a direwolf emblazoned on the back is made for a Stark girl. So it doesn't seem that Littlefinger will marry Alayne to Harry. The promise to Sansa of having the support of every knight of the Vale to recover her birthright illuminates the machination to provide an imposter instead of Arya Stark. Littlefinger is well placed to denounce the imposture and probably expects to exploit this knowledge to make Sansa win back Winterfell.

However, we can already see several events that could derail the plan: the reappearance of Robb's Will, which seems to have designated Jon Snow as Robb's crown prince, or the news of Rickon's survival and duly defended by House Manderly. There is the small difficulty of getting rid of Tyrion – I suppose Littlefinger has a solution for that particular problem (annulment by the septons). Tyrion could even reappear.

If Sansa is not anymore heiress of Winterfell, why not ask for legitimation of Alayne, rather than annulment of the marriage with Tyrion? As the heiress of Harrenhal, and of the lordship of the Trident, Alayne would have one of the most desirable hand in the Seven Kingdoms. The notion, already put forward, that the lordship of Harrenhal is a high enough station for the lordship of the Eyrie would be confirmed.

I don't wish to go any further into speculation, except to add that it seems a basic principle of Martin's storytelling technique that a plan announced to the reader is doomed. The wedding scene has already been described by Littlefinger, hence it will not be repeated for real. Whether the intentions expressed by Littlefinger to Sansa are sincere is an open question, though.

I don't know whether GRRM intends for Sansa the lordship of Harrenhal, but much in Sansa's story prepares for her to reach that situation. It doesn't seem to me that the Alayne Stone persona is a mere parenthesis. Sansa seems to have more prospects as Alayne than as a Stark heiress.

(For those interested, there is an expanded version of the post, and a thematically related examination of Lyanna Stark's maternal lineage. None of this is really part of my Winterfell Huis Clos analysis, which has received a little update for those interested, including the addition of a rough guide.)

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Bran Vras! You're back! I am so very glad. Wonderful post. :bowdown:

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Bran Vas, that was amazing! I have been reading (or at least trying to, I'm a bit busy at the moment) you're Huis Clos and I think it's great... Some of the leaps are just a bit too far for my taste, but you do give a lot of quotes, so it is possible as a reader to decide what you think of it. And you make great observations and have an amazing attention to detail. It's a compelling and interesting read!

And this:

It's worthwile to note that Brienne's search for Sansa is accomplished with the help of two gifts. One of them originates from Sansa's father's line (the sword Ice, partially reforged into Oathkeeper) and the other comes from her mother's line (the shield of Harrenhal).

I hadn't made the connection, but since I'm not really good at paying attention to what sigils belong to who, that doesn't mean anything. But it is a nice observation and has a very beautiful symbolic meaning...

So it is unclear to whom Lady Stoneheart intends to give the crown.

I have a theory that Cat will resurrect Jon (à la Berric). In that case she could crown him King in accordance with her sons "last wish". However, that is based on my wishful thinking and I don't think it could actually happen (it wouldn't work for the timing, it wouldn't work within the character of Lady Stonehart, IMO). But for some reason I really want to like Cat and Lady Stonehart sacrificing herself for Jon would make me forgive her for hating an innocent child while forgiving an unfaithful husband.

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Bran Vras, it`s always pleasure to see you. You have been sorely missed.

As Blisscraft, I also :bowdown: to another spectacular post.

I also want to say that I have indeed read your Winterfell Huis Clos, and that I liked it very much. I read it long time ago, but due to variety of obligations I never got the chance to properly congratulate you on wonderful work you have done. It was such great project to read, and I am still honored that you thought of me when you sent that PM. I will PM you in couple of days for full impression.

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i just want to say - congrats on reaching the 20th edition mark and keep up the good work. I haven't posted in these threads lately, but really enjoy reading them.

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Congratulations for all those who have made Pawn to Player, a special and friendly place indeed, reach its XXth edition. It's a pleasure for me to come back to the forum – I could almost say emerge from my cave of lurkerdom – for this particular occasion, and bring my little stone to the understanding of Sansa's story. I believe I have not deviated from the custom of the Pawn to Player thread by developing my thesis at length.

Thank you for this special contribution Bran :) It's hard to imagine what could be better than having your insights to start us off on this occasion. I loved the point about Brienne's quest for Sansa being facilitated with those gifts from her mother's and father's lines. All the focus has usually fallen on Oathkeeper, but the presence of the shield is quite compelling too, especially when we consider that Sansa is the child we see literally following in the footsteps of both parents - first in KL and then the Eyrie. I'm intrigued by the contrast of the dark, uncanny history of Harrenhal, and the possibility of Sansa's lordship of the castle - a character who has been hitherto excluded from the magical elements that exist in the storylines of the other Stark children. (or perhaps it would be better to say that the magical elements in her arc haven't been as obvious)

So, for 20 before and even more to come. :cheers: (with champagne glasses :) )

i just want to say - congrats on reaching the 20th edition mark and keep up the good work. I haven't posted in these threads lately, but really enjoy reading them.

Thanks guys! It's good to know you're still checking in David.

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Good OP (or main post).

Such good use of the quotes. enjoyed it.

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Wow rethinking XX, well done guys! Thank you so much to the hosts, Brashcandy and Milady of York, for your dedication and for making this thread so unique :).

It's worthwile to note that Brienne's search for Sansa is accomplished with the help of two gifts. One of them originates from Sansa's father's line (the sword Ice, partially reforged into Oathkeeper) and the other comes from her mother's line (the shield of Harrenhal). We recover thus the beast, half-wolf, half-bat, into which Sansa was said to have changed to escape King's Landing. Interestingly, Brienne has the shield repainted later. So both the paternal sword and the maternal shield are carried clandestinely.

And thanks Bran Vras for this interesting post. Like Brashcandy, I like the idea of Brienne carrying the sword from Ned’s line and the shield from Cat’s. You also rightly noted that these items are carried clandestinely. I think it mirrors Sansa’s current position well as she is hidden under Alayne Stone’s persona (who has brown hair) just like the paternal sword (hidden under Lannister colours) and the maternal shield (hidden under Ser Duncan the Tall’s arms).

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I haven't had much time to spend on the forums this past week and have a lot going on before the end of the school year, yet I still get drawn in time again because there always seems to be a new compelling read that gives me a lot to think about. Bran Vras what a great essay and what a great way to start off volume XX! I can't believe how much time you have put into all of this. I read your expanded version and I hope to get back to the rest of your huis clos when I have the time. So glad to see you posting on here again.

I too was intrigued by the idea of Brienne holding items in secret that relate to both Cat and Ned, the parents of Sansa and Arya who Brienne is now trying to find, and both girls are in hiding under different names at the moment. I also loved your ideas about Harenhall having it's own kind of gothic presence and I think it's true. It's interesting that you have gone on to analyze the events in Winterfell as well because to me both Harenhall and Winterfell seem like the two places in this story that come off to me as characters in and of themselves with perhaps the Wall as the third place that gives me that feel. While the Wall and Winterfell are closely tied to the Starks, Harenhall does tie into Cat's heritage very much through the female line. In a way I think it does so even more than Riverrun, because that was always going to go to Edmure once he was born.

I have noted how whoever holds Harenhall for a time ends up meeting a bad end somehow. I once said how holding Harenhall was like the defense against the dark arts position in Harry Potter. No one can manage to hold onto it for too long and whoever does usually ends up dead or meets some other ominous fate. It gives me hope that both Roose and Littlefinger will meet untimely and brutal demises. :devil:

I also liked your thoughts on Sweetrobin. I think you had posted about this before because I do remember some discussion about him possibly being a greenseer and you've provided some really good evidence for that. (I know we're not supposed to bring up the show as evidence for what goes on in the books, but after reading this it did bring to mind how on the show they showed Jojen having seizures as he had his greendreams, which seems to tie into this). It's interesting that Sansa is now in a position to care for and nurture Sweetrobin (holding out hope that Sansa will help save Sweetrobin and not harm him and I think the hints are strong in her last POV that she will) and that Bran is her brother and clearly possesses the greensight. We've talked about Sansa's connection to Bran in the Snow Winterfell thread and we are seeing a similar line being drawn directly from her to Sweetrobin now that I think parallels how she would interact with Bran should they ever meet up again (please George let the remaining Stark kids meet up again!!)

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Happy anniversary and congratulations for reaching 20 threads. You gals and guys surely are inexhaustible.

These "Rethinking" threads have actually made me rethink Sansa in a number of ways. For instance, they made me see the Sansa/Tyrion relationship in a whole new light. I'm almost ashamed to say I was intially angry at Sansa for treating Tyrion so "badly," but now my sympathies have shifted entirely to her.

Anyway, keep up the good work.

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Wow rethinking XX, well done guys! Thank you so much to the hosts, Brashcandy and Milady of York, for your dedication and for making this thread so unique :).

Thank you Mahaut :) You've done a lot in helping us to get here in style.

And thanks Bran Vras for this interesting post. Like Brashcandy, I like the idea of Brienne carrying the sword from Ned’s line and the shield from Cat’s. You also rightly noted that these items are carried clandestinely. I think it mirrors Sansa’s current position well as she is hidden under Alayne Stone’s persona (who has brown hair) just like the paternal sword (hidden under Lannister colours) and the maternal shield (hidden under Ser Duncan the Tall’s arms).

It's appropriate too considering Sansa's thoughts about courtesy being a Lady's armour, i.e. functioning as a shield. She may not be skilled in the use of a blade or sword, but she's been protected by her ability to master this "female" line of defense.

I have noted how whoever holds Harenhall for a time ends up meeting a bad end somehow. I once said how holding Harrenhal was like the defense against the dark arts position in Harry Potter. No one can manage to hold onto it for too long and whoever does usually ends up dead or meets some other ominous fate. It gives me hope that both Roose and Littlefinger will meet untimely and brutal demises. :devil:

And both of these men are connected to Winterfell right now, with Roose attempting to hold the castle (and the North) through his son's marriage to Fake Arya, and LF supposedly making plans to retake the castle via his own fake creation - Alayne Stone. Considering Arya's experiences with Roose in Harrenhal, and now Sansa's time with LF, it makes me wonder if both sisters will not be instrumental in taking out these foes in the long run. LF also seems to believe that not stepping a foot in the Harrenhal will protect him from its curse, but it's the "hold" he has on Sansa that might ultimately doom him, and if we take the giant foreshadowing into consideration, his head might adorn the battlements of Winterfell instead.

@Daidalos- Nice to see you still around, and thanks for the well wishes.

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It's appropriate too considering Sansa's thoughts about courtesy being a Lady's armour, i.e. functioning as a shield. She may not be skilled in the use of a blade or sword, but she's been protected by her ability to master this "female" line of defense.

How clever of you! I hadn’t even thought of that. Now that you mention it, it’s also interesting on a symbolic level. The armour, the shield and the sword are essential components of a knight’s equipment together with the helmet and the horse. It’s like Sansa were slowly and symbolically collecting the different items of her own knight’s equipment.

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So, we're in our 20th installment already! Thank you, Brashcandy, you made it possible with your dedication and support, you've been an excellent host and I truly appreciate your touching words to me.

Bran, that’s an interesting theory, thanks for posting it in this installment of the thread. Your mention of the fanciful tale about how Sansa escaped reminded me of an idea of mine: it seems to have a connection to that other tale that appeared after the Stark victory at Oxcross, which Sansa heard about the day she suffered one of the cruelest beatings:

“Ser Lancel,” Joff said, “tell her of this outrage.”

Sansa had always thought Lancel Lannister comely and well spoken, but there was neither pity nor kindness in the look he gave her. “Using some vile sorcery, your brother fell upon Ser Stafford Lannister with an army of wargs, not three days’ ride from Lannisport. Thousands of good men were butchered as they slept, without the chance to lift sword. After the slaughter, the northmen feasted on the flesh of the slain.”

And Joffrey is quick to link this supposed sorcery to Sansa, directly accusing her of dabbling in the same magic because she “has the blood of a wolf.”

“Silence, fool.” Joffrey lifted his crossbow and pointed it at her face. “You Starks are as unnatural as those wolves of yours. I’ve not forgotten how your monster savaged me.”

Note that since the accusation hurled at her and the following beating were made in public, with many witnesses, who were “laughing” approvingly at this act, the people at court got the notion that Sansa possessed this “unnatural” ability there and then, from their Lannister king. So, the seeds of the future tale were planted already.

There seems to exist an underlying theme that connects both tales: that it’s a rumour started by Lannister men to excuse their defeat as due to superior magical beings instead of recognising their own incompetence and the carelessness of their Lannister commander. As Tyrion explained it:

“Ser Lancel said Robb led an army of wargs…”

The Imp gave a disdainful bark of laughter. “Ser Lancel’s a wineskin warrior who wouldn’t know a warg from a wart. Your brother had his direwolf with him, but I suspect that’s as far as it went. The northmen crept into my uncle’s camp and cut his horse lines, and Lord Stark sent his wolf among them. Even war-trained destriers went mad. Knights were trampled to death in their pavilions, and the rabble woke in terror and fled, casting aside their weapons to run the faster. Ser Stafford was slain as he chased after a horse. Lord Rickard Karstark drove a lance through his chest. Ser Rubert Brax is also dead, along with Ser Lymond Vikary, Lord Crakehall, and Lord Jast. Half a hundred more have been taken captive, including Jast’s sons and my nephew Martyn Lannister. Those who survived are spreading wild tales and swearing that the old gods of the north march with your brother.”

“Then… there was no sorcery?”

Lannister snorted. “Sorcery is the sauce fools spoon over failure to hide the flavor of their own incompetence. My mutton-headed uncle had not even troubled to post sentries, it would seem. His host was raw—apprentice boys, miners, field hands, fisherfolk, the sweepings of Lannisport. The only mystery is how your brother reached him. Our forces still hold the stronghold at the Golden Tooth, and they swear he did not pass.”

The Stark-Tully camp, on the other hand, exploited this victory for morale. It was translated into a song by a bard:

Her men wanted to hear more of Robb’s victory at Oxcross, and Rivers obliged. “There’s a singer come to Riverrun, calls himself Rymund the Rhymer, he’s made a song of the fight. Doubtless you’ll hear it sung tonight, my lady. ‘Wolf in the Night’ this Rymund calls it.”

From the only verse we have of this song, it seems like the northern soldiers were referred to as wolves, which for them is a metaphor taken from the sigil of their King in the North:

“And the stars in the night were the eyes of his wolves, and the wind itself was their song.”

And it’s possible that this song contributed to disseminate the belief amongst the smallfolk that the Stark troops had some fabled advantage that the others didn’t. In any case, when a similar tale is told about Sansa, there is something hinting at the source:

“I forgot, you’ve been hiding under a rock. The northern girl. Winterfell’s daughter. We heard she killed the king with a spell, and afterward changed into a wolf with big leather wings like a bat, and flew out a tower window. But she left the dwarf behind and Cersei means to have his head.”

Considering that Polliver and the Tickler serve Gregor, who is a Lannister man, we could track the source of the rumour back to a Lannister trying to excuse another sound display of incompetence. Now, if we think that the tale didn’t necessarily originate in Harrenhal but in King’s Landing (though it could’ve been modified), in this case the incompetence was underestimating Sansa as too stupid to even dare plan an escape on her own, and to explain how could a seemingly meek girl have escaped the almighty lions and gotten out of her tall tower-prison in the Red Keep, a tale is spread. Cersei is the most probable source of the rumour, considering the hate for Tyrion and the fact that she wants Sansa dead for poisoning her son, and as the tale passed from mouth to ear around the court, when later it reached the Lannister men-at-arms fighting in the Riverlands it would be overblown and with more salacious details added. Another point in favour is that Cersei also lied about how the Lannisters lost Sandor Clegane, because despite most people knowing about his desertion due to supposed cravenness, she told her uncle Kevan that she had “dismissed” the Hound from her service. Therefore, the connecting theme in both Robb and Sansa’s cases would be underestimating a Stark cost the Lannisters a humiliating loss, and the humiliation had to be covered, so such tales blaming it on supernatural skills would serve this purpose.

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:dunce: Congrats on reaching the 20th edition to the best of threads!! May there be ten times as more in the future :D

Oh my Bran Vras, that was quite the insightful and intresting essay! appreciate the research you put into it! I learned quite a bit (:

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On Sandor and Drinking

For a long time now, there’s been a widely-held belief in the fandom that Sandor Clegane does suffer from alcoholism, which is often argued to be based on facts from the books, and a variety of clinical content taken from different sites that divulge this information to the general public is also thrown in to support this assertion, not infrequently without the careful analysis that is advisable when handling this sort of data. But is that so, and is there really textual proof to back up these claims? In a previous study of this character, The Road to the Hound’s Deathbed Confession, Milady had addressed this issue in a brief paragraph, and after some reflection, she thought it needed to be expanded and completed with a more in-depth examination of the text that would hopefully shed light on this aspect of Sandor Clegane’s behaviour.

With that in mind, yours truly did a chapter-by-chapter analysis of his actions in each book from his first appearance to his last, which has been remarkably enlightening and helpful in finding answers that can be supported by abundant quotes from the books GRRM has written.

In A Game of Thrones:

  • Eddard I: First appearance in the books, visit to Winterfell with the royal family. He is sober and on duty.

Ned knew many of the riders. There came Ser Jaime Lannister with hair as bright as beaten gold, and there Sandor Clegane with his terrible burned face.

  • Arya I: Second appearance, on duty as Joffrey’s sworn shield, taunting Ser Rodrik and Robb. Sober.

“Enough!” Ser Rodrik called out. He gave the prince a hand and yanked him back to his feet. “Well fought. Lew, Donnis, help them out of their armor.” He looked around. “Prince Joffrey, Robb, will you go another round?”

Robb, already sweaty from a previous bout, moved forward eagerly. “Gladly.”

Joffrey moved into the sunlight in response to Rodrik’s summons. His hair shone like spun gold. He looked bored. “This is a game for children, Ser Rodrik.”

Theon Greyjoy gave a sudden bark of laughter. “You are children,” he said derisively.

“Robb may be a child,” Joffrey said. “I am a prince. And I grow tired of swatting at Starks with a play sword.”

“You got more swats than you gave, Joff,” Robb said. “Are you afraid?”

Prince Joffrey looked at him. “Oh, terrified,” he said. “You’re so much older.” Some of the Lannister men laughed.

Jon looked down on the scene with a frown. “Joffrey is truly a little shit,” he told Arya.

Ser Rodrik tugged thoughtfully at his white whiskers. “What are you suggesting?” he asked the prince.

“Live steel.”

“Done,” Robb shot back. “You’ll be sorry!”

The master-at-arms put a hand on Robb’s shoulder to quiet him. “Live steel is too dangerous. I will permit you tourney swords, with blunted edges.”

Joffrey said nothing, but a man strange to Arya, a tall knight with black hair and burn scars on his face, pushed forward in front of the prince. “This is your prince. Who are you to tell him he may not have an edge on his sword, ser?”

“Master-at-arms of Winterfell, Clegane, and you would do well not to forget it.”

“Are you training women here?” the burned man wanted to know. He was muscled like a bull.

“I am training knights,” Ser Rodrik said pointedly. “They will have steel when they are ready. When they are of an age.”

The burned man looked at Robb. “How old are you, boy?”

“Fourteen,” Robb said.

“I killed a man at twelve. You can be sure it was not with a blunt sword.”

  • Tyrion I: Third appearance, on duty with Joffrey, banter with Tyrion. Sober.

Sandor Clegane’s rasping voice drifted up to him. “The boy is a long time dying. I wish he would be quicker about it.”

Tyrion glanced down and saw the Hound standing with young Joffrey as squires swarmed around them. “At least he dies quietly,” the prince replied. “It’s the wolf that makes the noise. I could scarce sleep last night.”

Clegane cast a long shadow across the hard-packed earth as his squire lowered the black helm over his head. “I could silence the creature, if it please you,” he said through his open visor. His boy placed a longsword in his hand. He tested the weight of it, slicing at the cold morning air. Behind him, the yard rang to the clangor of steel on steel.

The notion seemed to delight the prince. “Send a dog to kill a dog!” he exclaimed. “Winterfell is so infested with wolves, the Starks would never miss one.”

A shadow fell across his face. He turned to find Clegane looming overhead like a cliff. His soot-dark armor seemed to blot out the sun. He had lowered the visor on his helm. It was fashioned in the likeness of a snarling black hound, fearsome to behold, but Tyrion had always thought it a great improvement over Clegane’s hideously burned face.

“The prince will remember that, little lord,” the Hound warned him. The helm turned his laugh into a hollow rumble.

“I pray he does,” Tyrion Lannister replied. “If he forgets, be a good dog and remind him.” He glanced around the courtyard. “Do you know where I might find my brother?”

“Breaking fast with the queen.”

“Ah,” Tyrion said. He gave Sandor Clegane a perfunctory nod and walked away as briskly as his stunted legs would carry him, whistling. He pitied the first knight to try the Hound today. The man did have a temper.

  • Sansa I: Fourth appearance, first conversation with Sansa. On duty with Joffrey, later dismissed. No signs of inebriation.

Strong hands grasped her by the shoulders, and for a moment Sansa thought it was her father, but when she turned, it was the burned face of Sandor Clegane looking down at her, his mouth twisted in a terrible mockery of a smile. “You are shaking, girl,” he said, his voice rasping. “Do I frighten you so much?”

He did, and had since she had first laid eyes on the ruin that fire had made of his face, though it seemed to her now that he was not half so terrifying as the other. Still, Sansa wrenched away from him, and the Hound laughed, and Lady moved between them, rumbling a warning. Sansa dropped to her knees to wrap her arms around the wolf. They were all gathered around gaping, she could feel their eyes on her, and here and there she heard muttered comments and titters of laughter.

“A wolf,” a man said, and someone else said, “Seven hells, that’s a direwolf,” and the first man said, “What’s it doing in camp?” and the Hound’s rasping voice replied, “The Starks use them for wet nurses,” and Sansa realized that the two stranger knights were looking down on her and Lady, swords in their hands, and then she was frightened again, and ashamed. Tears filled her eyes.

He looked at Sandor Clegane. “And you, dog, away with you, you’re scaring my betrothed.”

The Hound, ever faithful, bowed and slid away quietly through the press.

  • Eddard III: Fifth appearance; is absent from the castle because he was on duty and has gone to hunt Mycah on Cersei’s orders, brings the boy’s corpse to Eddard, who doesn’t describe him as inebriated.

Their only good fortune was that both Jaime Lannister and Sandor Clegane were missing, leading searches north of the Trident.


He was walking back to the tower to give himself up to sleep at last when Sandor Clegane and his riders came pounding through the castle gate, back from their hunt.

There was something slung over the back of his destrier, a heavy shape wrapped in a bloody cloak. “No sign of your daughter, Hand,” the Hound rasped down, “but the day was not wholly wasted. We got her little pet.” He reached back and shoved the burden off, and it fell with a thump in front of Ned.

Bending, Ned pulled back the cloak, dreading the words he would have to find for Arya, but it was not Nymeria after all. It was the butcher’s boy, Mycah, his body covered in dried blood. He had been cut almost in half from shoulder to waist by some terrible blow struck from above.

“You rode him down,” Ned said.

The Hound’s eyes seemed to glitter through the steel of that hideous dog’s-head helm. “He ran.” He looked at Ned’s face and laughed. “But not very fast.”

  • Sansa II: Sixth appearance, early in the morning at the Hand’s Tourney, he’s at the jousts and performing well. Sober.

Sandor Clegane and his immense brother, Ser Gregor the Mountain, seemed unstoppable as well, riding down one foe after the next in ferocious style.

Now, in his seventh appearance, we read for the first time that he’s drunk, in his own words. It’s in the night of the royal banquet, so it can be inferred that he drank there with everyone, as wine was flowing freely.

Sandor Clegane seemed to take form out of the night, so quickly did he appear. He had exchanged his armor for a red woolen tunic with a leather dog’s head sewn on the front. The light of the torches made his burned face shine a dull red. “Yes, Your Grace?” he said.

“Take my betrothed back to the castle, and see that no harm befalls her,” the prince told him brusquely. And without even a word of farewell, Joffrey strode off, leaving her there.

Sansa could feel the Hound watching her. “Did you think Joff was going to take you himself?” He laughed. He had a laugh like the snarling of dogs in a pit. “Small chance of that.” He pulled her unresisting to her feet. “Come, you’re not the only one needs sleep. I’ve drunk too much, and I may need to kill my brother tomorrow.” He laughed again.

Suddenly terrified, Sansa pushed at Septa Mordane’s shoulder, hoping to wake her, but she only snored the louder. King Robert had stumbled off and half the benches were suddenly empty. The feast was over, and the beautiful dream had ended with it.

And Sansa confirms he’s inebriated, because as he escorts her back to the castle and to her bedchamber, she describes his “drunken eyes,” and smells the “sour stench of wine on his breath” as he tells her the story of his burns. She also describes him as wearing clothes different from the drab ones he usually wore: a red tunic, the first item in bright colours we ever see him wearing, which means in Sandor’s idea of finery, it’s his best outfit for festive occasions; furthermore, he’s not wearing mail, boiled leather cuirass or plate armour, and no sword or swordbelt is mentioned, all of which indicate he mightn’t have been on duty this night, or at least had leave to enjoy himself at the banquet instead of standing behind Joffrey as usual, because Sansa was there observing and doesn’t see Sandor up until the crown prince summons him.

  • Eddard VII: Eight appearance, he is jousting at the Hand’s Tourney, unhorses Jaime, defends Loras Tyrell against his brother Gregor and is declared champion of the tournament. He hasn’t drunk.

Sandor Clegane was the first rider to appear. He wore an olive-green cloak over his soot-grey armor. That, and his hound’s-head helm, were his only concession to ornament.

“A hundred golden dragons on the Kingslayer,” Littlefinger announced loudly as Jaime Lannister entered the lists, riding an elegant blood bay destrier. The horse wore a blanket of gilded ringmail, and Jaime glittered from head to heel. Even his lance was fashioned from the golden wood of the Summer Isles.

“Done,” Lord Renly shouted back. “The Hound has a hungry look about him this morning.”

“Even hungry dogs know better than to bite the hand that feeds them,” Littlefinger called dryly.

Sandor Clegane dropped his visor with an audible clang and took up his position. Ser Jaime tossed a kiss to some woman in the commons, gently lowered his visor, and rode to the end of the lists. Both men couched their lances.

Ned Stark would have loved nothing so well as to see them both lose, but Sansa was watching it all moist-eyed and eager. The hastily erected gallery trembled as the horses broke into a gallop. The Hound leaned forward as he rode, his lance rock steady, but Jaime shifted his seat deftly in the instant before impact. Clegane’s point was turned harmlessly against the golden shield with the lion blazon, while his own hit square. Wood shattered, and the Hound reeled, fighting to keep his seat. Sansa gasped. A ragged cheer went up from the commons.

“I wonder how I ought spend your money,” Littlefinger called down to Lord Renly.

The Hound just managed to stay in his saddle. He jerked his mount around hard and rode back to the lists for the second pass. Jaime Lannister tossed down his broken lance and snatched up a fresh one, jesting with his squire. The Hound spurred forward at a hard gallop. Lannister rode to meet him. This time, when Jaime shifted his seat, Sandor Clegane shifted with him. Both lances exploded, and by the time the splinters had settled, a riderless blood bay was trotting off in search of grass while Ser Jaime Lannister rolled in the dirt, golden and dented.

Sansa said, “I knew the Hound would win.”

It all happened so fast. The Knight of Flowers was shouting for his own sword as Ser Gregor knocked his squire aside and made a grab for the reins of his horse. The mare scented blood and reared. Loras Tyrell kept his seat, but barely. Ser Gregor swung his sword, a savage two-handed blow that took the boy in the chest and knocked him from the saddle. The courser dashed away in panic as Ser Loras lay stunned in the dirt. But as Gregor lifted his sword for the killing blow, a rasping voice warned, “Leave him be,” and a steel-clad hand wrenched him away from the boy.

The Mountain pivoted in wordless fury, swinging his longsword in a killing arc with all his massive strength behind it, but the Hound caught the blow and turned it, and for what seemed an eternity the two brothers stood hammering at each other as a dazed Loras Tyrell was helped to safety. Thrice Ned saw Ser Gregor aim savage blows at the hound’s-head helmet, yet not once did Sandor send a cut at his brother’s unprotected face.

It was the king’s voice that put an end to it . . . the king’s voice and twenty swords. Jon Arryn had told them that a commander needs a good battlefield voice, and Robert had proved the truth of that on the Trident. He used that voice now. “STOP THIS MADNESS,” he boomed, “IN THE NAME OF YOUR KING!”

The Hound went to one knee. Ser Gregor’s blow cut air, and at last he came to his senses. He dropped his sword and glared at Robert, surrounded by his Kingsguard and a dozen other knights and guardsmen. Wordlessly, he turned and strode off, shoving past Barristan Selmy. “Let him go,” Robert said, and as quickly as that, it was over.

“Is the Hound the champion now?” Sansa asked Ned.

“No,” he told her. “There will be one final joust, between the Hound and the Knight of Flowers.”

But Sansa had the right of it after all. A few moments later Ser Loras Tyrell walked back onto the field in a simple linen doublet and said to Sandor Clegane, “I owe you my life. The day is yours, ser.”

“I am no ser,” the Hound replied, but he took the victory, and the champion’s purse, and, for perhaps the first time in his life, the love of the commons. They cheered him as he left the lists to return to his pavilion.

  • Eddard XI: Ninth appearance, he is mentioned to have gone with the King to the hunt, accompanying Joffrey, so he was on duty and sober.

A white hart had been sighted in the kingswood, and Lord Renly and Ser Barristan had joined the king to hunt it, along with Prince Joffrey, Sandor Clegane, Balon Swann, and half the court. So Ned must needs sit the Iron Throne in his absence.

  • Eddard XII: Tenth appearance, returns from the hunt with Joffrey and goes to see the Queen. Sober.

“[...] Prince Joffrey returned this morning, with the Royces, Ser Balon Swann, and some twenty others of the party. The rest are still with the king.”

“The Hound?” Ned asked, frowning. Of all the Lannister party, Sandor Clegane was the one who concerned him the most, now that Ser Jaime had fled the city to join his father.

“Oh, returned with Joffrey, and went straight to the queen.” Littlefinger smiled. “I would have given a hundred silver stags to have been a roach in the rushes when he learned that Lord Beric was off to behead his brother.”

  • Eddard XIV: Eleventh appearance, he’s practising with the Lannister men in the training yard, in full control of his capacities. Later in the day, he’s on duty by the new king’s side, fights and kills a Stark man during Ned’s arrest.

The grey light of dawn was streaming through his window when the thunder of hoofbeats awoke Eddard Stark from his brief, exhausted sleep. He lifted his head from the table to look down into the yard. Below, men in mail and leather and crimson cloaks were making the morning ring to the sound of swords, and riding down mock warriors stuffed with straw. Ned watched Sandor Clegane gallop across the hard-packed ground to drive an iron-tipped lance through a dummy’s head. Canvas ripped and straw exploded as Lannister guardsmen joked and cursed.

Above them, Prince Joffrey sat amidst the barbs and spikes in a cloth-of-gold doublet and a red satin cape. Sandor Clegane was stationed at the foot of the throne’s steep narrow stair. He wore mail and soot-grey plate and his snarling dog’s-head helm.

Ned’s shout came far too late. Janos Slynt himself slashed open Varly’s throat. Cayn whirled, steel flashing, drove back the nearest spearman with a flurry of blows; for an instant it looked as though he might cut his way free. Then the Hound was on him. Sandor Clegane’s first cut took off Cayn’s sword hand at the wrist; his second drove him to his knees and opened him from shoulder to breastbone.

  • Sansa IV [There’s a mention of the Hound during a discussion between the sisters over the death of Mycah in her previous chapter, Sansa III]: Twelfth appearance, it’s the same day, so he’s still sober. He had been in the fight between the Lannisters and the Stark household, breaking the Poole girl’s door.

So she wept, pleading through her door for them to tell her what was happening, calling for her father, for Septa Mordane, for the king, for her gallant prince. If the men guarding her heard her pleas, they gave no answer. The only time the door opened was late that night, when they thrust Jeyne Poole inside, bruised and shaking. “They’re killing everyone,” the steward’s daughter had shrieked at her. She went on and on. The Hound had broken down her door with a warhammer, she said. There were bodies on the stair of the Tower of the Hand, and the steps were slick with blood. Sansa dried her own tears as she struggled to comfort her friend. They went to sleep in the same bed, cradled in each other’s arms like sisters.

  • Sansa V: Thirteenth appearance, he’s on duty beside Joffrey and is named to the Kingsguard. He’s not drunk.

“The king and council have determined that no man in the Seven Kingdoms is more fit to guard and protect His Grace than his sworn shield, Sandor Clegane.”

“How do you like that, dog?” King Joffrey asked.

The Hound’s scarred face was hard to read. He took a long moment to consider. “Why not? I have no lands nor wife to forsake, and who’d care if I did?” The burned side of his mouth twisted. “But I warn you, I’ll say no knight’s vows.”

“The Sworn Brothers of the Kingsguard have always been knights,” Ser Boros said firmly.

“Until now,” the Hound said in his deep rasp, and Ser Boros fell silent.

  • Arya V: Fourteenth appearance, he’s on duty during Ned’s beheading and there are no signs of inebriation.

Clustered around the doors of the sept, in front of the raised marble pulpit, were a knot of knights and high lords. Joffrey was prominent among them, his raiment all crimson, silk and satin patterned with prancing stags and roaring lions, a gold crown on his head. His queen mother stood beside him in a black mourning gown slashed with crimson, a veil of black diamonds in her hair. Arya recognized the Hound, wearing a snowy white cloak over his dark grey armor, with four of the Kingsguard around him.

  • Sansa VI: Fifteenth appearance, he’s following Joffrey, as his job demands, so he’s sober. He gives Sansa advice.

“You will attend me in court this afternoon,” Joffrey said. “See that you bathe and dress as befits my betrothed.” Sandor Clegane stood at his shoulder in a plain brown doublet and green mantle, his burned face hideous in the morning light. Behind them were two knights of the Kingsguard in long white satin cloaks.

“I’m king now. Dog, get her out of bed.”

Sandor Clegane scooped her up around the waist and lifted her off the featherbed as she struggled feebly. Her blanket fell to the floor. Underneath she had only a thin bedgown to cover her nakedness. “Do as you’re bid, child,” Clegane said. “Dress.” He pushed her toward her wardrobe, almost gently.

Ser Meryn and Ser Arys followed him out, but Sandor Clegane lingered long enough to yank her roughly to her feet. “Save yourself some pain, girl, and give him what he wants.”

“What . . . what does he want? Please, tell me.”

“He wants you to smile and smell sweet and be his lady love,” the Hound rasped. “He wants to hear you recite all your pretty little words the way the septa taught you. He wants you to love him . . . and fear him.”

Later that day, in what is his sixteenth and final appearance in this book, he is still on duty with the little monarch, who’s showing Sansa her father’s head. He subtly prevents her from pushing Joffrey to his death.

“I can have Ser Meryn drag you up,” he said. “You won’t like that. You had better do what I say.” Joffrey reached for her, and Sansa cringed away from him, backing into the Hound.

“Do it, girl,” Sandor Clegane told her, pushing her back toward the king. His mouth twitched on the burned side of his face and Sansa could almost hear the rest of it.
He’ll have you up there no matter what, so give him what he wants.

This one is your father,” he said. “This one here. Dog, turn it around so she can see him.”

Sandor Clegane took the head by the hair and turned it. The severed head had been dipped in tar to preserve it longer. Sansa looked at it calmly, not seeing it at all. It did not really look like Lord Eddard, she thought; it did not even look real. “How long do I have to look?”

The outer parapet came up to her chin, but along the inner edge of the walk was nothing, nothing but a long plunge to the bailey seventy or eighty feet below. All it would take was a shove, she told herself. He was standing right there, right there, smirking at her with those fat wormlips.
You could do it,
she told herself.
You could. Do it right now.
It wouldn’t even matter if she went over with him. It wouldn’t matter at all.

“Here, girl.” Sandor Clegane knelt before her, between her and Joffrey. With a delicacy surprising in such a big man, he dabbed at the blood welling from her broken lip.

Assessment: Sandor Clegane appears sixteen times in fourteen chapters in AGOT, from Eddard I to Sansa VI, a period of time that spans from May 298 AL to January 299 AL according to the Global Timeline and the ASOIAF Timeline posted in this board, and is drunk only once in nine months, during a banquet.

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In A Clash of Kings:

  • Sansa I: First appearance, he’s guarding the three Lannister children during Joffrey’s name day tourney. He mocks the participants and the tournament, backs up Sansa in her lie to save Dontos, and also supports Tommen against the taunting of his elder brother, and at the end of the chapter warns Tyrion to guard his tongue in the presence of the king. He hasn’t drunk.

In the back of the royal box, Sandor Clegane stood at guard, his hands resting on his swordbelt. The white cloak of the Kingsguard was draped over his broad shoulders and fastened with a jeweled brooch, the snowy cloth looking somehow unnatural against his brown rough-spun tunic and studded leather jerkin. “Lady Sansa,” the Hound announced curtly when he saw her.

The Hound’s mouth twitched. “Against this lot? Why not?”

He had been the champion in her father’s tourney, Sansa remembered. “Will you joust today, my lord?” she asked him.

Clegane’s voice was thick with contempt. “Wouldn’t be worth the bother of arming myself. This is a tournament of gnats.”

Joffrey curled his lip. “This is a feeble show.”

“I warned you,” said the Hound. “Gnats.”

“The girl speaks truly,” the Hound rasped. “What a man sows on his name day, he reaps throughout the year.” His voice was flat, as if he did not care a whit whether the king believed him or no. Could it be true? Sansa had not known. It was just something she’d said, desperate to avoid punishment.

The master of revels bowed, but Prince Tommen was not so obedient. “I’m supposed to ride against the straw man.”

“Not today.”

“But I want to ride!”

“I don’t care what you want.”

“Mother said I could ride.”

“She said,” Princess Myrcella agreed.

“Mother said,” mocked the king. “Don’t be childish.”

“We’re children,” Myrcella declared haughtily. “We’re supposed to be childish.”

The Hound laughed. “She has you there.”

Sansa found herself possessed of a queer giddy courage. “You should go with her,” she told the king. “Your brother might be hurt.”

Joffrey shrugged. “What if he is?”

“You should help him up and tell him how well he rode.” Sansa could not seem to stop herself.

“He got knocked off his horse and fell in the dirt,” the king pointed out. “That’s not riding well.”

“Look,” the Hound interrupted. “The boy has courage. He’s going to try again.”

  • Sansa II: Second appearance, encounter with Sansa in the Serpentine steps as she comes back from her secret meeting with Dontos; he asks where she was, talks of her womanly shape, asks for a song, speaks about wine, etc. In this occasion, again in his own words he’s drunk and also shows evident physical signs of it.

“And what’s Joff’s little bird doing flying down the serpentine in the black of night?” When she did not answer, he shook her. “Where were you?”

“The g-g-godswood, my lord,” she said, not daring to lie. “Praying… praying for my father, and… for the king, praying that he’d not be hurt.”

“Think I’m so drunk that I’d believe that?” He let go his grip on her arm, swaying slightly as he stood, stripes of light and darkness falling across his terrible burnt face.

“Gods,” he swore, “too much wine. Do you like wine, little bird? True wine? A flagon of sour red, dark as blood, all a man needs. Or a woman.” He laughed, shook his head. “Drunk as a dog, damn me. You come now. Back to your cage, little bird. I’ll take you there. Keep you safe for the king.” The Hound gave her a push, oddly gentle, and followed her down the steps.

He probably went to a winesink that night, for this was his day off, as he told Boros Blount (“The dog was drinking. It was your night to shield him, ser. You and my other
”) on finding him at the bridge leading to Sansa’s bedchamber in Maegor’s Holdfast, to where he escorts her, telling her some of the history of his house as they go, and ends up asking for a song once more and repeating his advice on liars after her innocent reply.

  • Sansa III: Third appearance, he goes to bring Sansa before Joffrey, who orders him to beat her but he doesn’t; he then tries to stop the beating, and the king doesn’t pay heed. He gives her his cloak once Tyrion intervenes.

“The longer you keep him waiting, the worse it will go for you,” Sandor Clegane warned her.

Sansa tried to hurry, but her fingers fumbled at buttons and knots. The Hound was always rough-tongued, but something in the way he had looked at her filled her with dread. […] When she emerged, Sansa walked on the Hound’s left, away from the burned side of his face. “Tell me what I’ve done.”

“Not you. Your kingly brother.”

“Robb’s a traitor.” Sansa knew the words by rote. “I had no part in whatever he did.” […]

The Hound snorted. “They trained you well, little bird.” He conducted her to the lower bailey, where a crowd had gathered around the archery butts.

“Your Grace, whatever my traitor brother has done, I had no part. You know that, I beg you, please—”

“Get her up!”

The Hound pulled her to her feet, not ungently.

Frowning, he lowered the crossbow. “I’d shoot you too, but if I do Mother says they’d kill my uncle Jaime. Instead you’ll just be punished and we’ll send word to your brother about what will happen to you if he doesn’t yield. Dog, hit her.”

“Let me beat her!” Ser Dontos shoved forward, tin armor clattering.

Boros slammed a fist into Sansa’s belly, driving the air out of her. When she doubled over, the knight grabbed her hair and drew his sword, and for one hideous instant she was certain he meant to open her throat. As he laid the flat of the blade across her thighs, she thought her legs might break from the force of the blow. Sansa screamed. Tears welled in her eyes.
It will be over soon.
She soon lost count of the blows.

“Enough,” she heard the Hound rasp.

“No, it isn’t,” the king replied. “Boros, make her naked.”

“Someone give the girl something to cover herself with,” the Imp said. Sandor Clegane unfastened his cloak and tossed it at her. Sansa clutched it against her chest, fists bunched hard in the white wool. The coarse weave was scratchy against her skin, but no velvet had ever felt so fine.

  • Tyrion IX: Fourth appearance, he’s escorting the King and Sansa the day the bread riots broke, he is ordered to kill some rioters; he rescues Sansa and later goes back to search for his horse in the fire.

King Joffrey followed on a tall grey palfrey, a golden crown set upon his golden curls. Sansa Stark rode a chestnut mare at his side, looking neither right nor left, her thick auburn hair flowing to her shoulders beneath a net of moonstones. Two of the Kingsguard flanked the couple, the Hound on the king’s right hand and Ser Mandon Moore to the left of the Stark girl.

Obedient, Sandor Clegane swung down from his saddle, but there was no way through that wall of flesh, let alone to the roof. Those closest to him began to squirm and shove to get away, while others pushed forward to see. Tyrion smelled disaster. “Clegane, leave off, the man is long fled.”

“I want him!” Joffrey pointed at the roof. “He was up there! Dog, cut through them and bring—”

Sandor Clegane cantered briskly through the gates astride Sansa’s chestnut courser. The girl was seated behind, both arms tight around the Hound’s chest.

Tyrion called to her. “Are you hurt, Lady Sansa?”

Blood was trickling down Sansa’s brow from a deep gash on her scalp. “They… they were throwing things… rocks and filth, eggs… I tried to tell them, I had no bread to give them. A man tried to pull me from the saddle. The Hound killed him, I think… his arm…” Her eyes widened and she put a hand over her mouth. “He cut off his arm.”

Clegane lifted her to the ground. His white cloak was torn and stained, and blood seeped through a jagged tear in his left sleeve. “The little bird’s bleeding. Someone take her back to her cage and see to that cut.” Maester Frenken scurried forward to obey. […]

Lady Tanda approached him. “My daughter—”

“Never saw her.” The Hound glanced around the yard, scowling. “Where’s my horse? If anything’s happened to that horse, someone’s going to pay.”

“He was running with us for a time,” Tyrion said, “but I don’t know what became of him after that.”

“Fire!” a voice screamed down from atop the barbican. “My lords, there’s smoke in the city. Flea Bottom’s afire.”

Tyrion was unutterably weary, but there was no time for despair. “Bronn, take as many men as you need and see that the water wagons are not molested,” Gods be good, the wildfire, if any blaze should reach that… “We can lose all of Flea Bottom if we must, but on no account must the fire reach the Guildhall of the Alchemists, is that understood? Clegane, you’ll go with him.”

For half a heartbeat, Tyrion thought he glimpsed fear in the Hound’s dark eyes.
he realized.
The Others take me, of course he hates fire, he’s tasted it too well.
The look was gone in an instant, replaced by Clegane’s familiar scowl. “I’ll go,” he said, “though not by your command. I need to find that horse.”

  • Sansa IV: Fifth appearance, he is contemplating the Bay of Blackwater aflame from the rooftop of Maegor’s Holdfast; and it can be inferred that it’s his night off duty, for otherwise he’d be guarding Joffrey, and also because the last time they had an encounter in the night, he was off duty as well. Yet this time he’s sober and even seems pensive. He grabs Sansa as she’s about to fall, reminds her of her rescue from the riots, she tries to thank him...

“The little bird thinks she has wings, does she? Or do you mean to end up crippled like that brother of yours?”

Sansa twisted in his grasp. “I wasn’t going to fall. It was only… you startled me, that’s all.”

“You mean I scared you. And still do.”

She took a deep breath to calm herself. “I thought I was alone, I…” She glanced away.

“The little bird still can’t bear to look at me, can she?” The Hound released her. “You were glad enough to see my face when the mob had you, though. Remember?”

She made herself look at that face now, really look. It was only courteous, and a lady must never forget her courtesies.
The scars are not the worst part, nor even the way his mouth twitches. It’s his eyes.
She had never seen eyes so full of anger. “I… I should have come to you after,” she said haltingly. “To thank you, for… for saving me… you were so brave.”

“Brave?” His laugh was half a snarl. “A dog doesn’t need courage to chase off rats. They had me thirty to one, and not a man of them dared face me.”

They have one of their longest conversations, in which he talks rough about killing and killers, her father’s beheading…

Sansa hugged herself, suddenly cold. “Why are you always so hateful? I was thanking you…”

“Just as if I was one of those true knights you love so well, yes. What do you think a knight is for, girl? You think it’s all taking favors from ladies and looking fine in gold plate? Knights are for killing.” He laid the edge of his longsword against her neck, just under her ear. Sansa could feel the sharpness of the steel. “I killed my first man at twelve. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve killed since then. High lords with old names, fat rich men dressed in velvet, knights puffed up like bladders with their honors, yes, and women and children too—they’re all meat, and I’m the butcher. Let them have their lands and their gods and their gold. Let them have their sers.” Sandor Clegane spat at her feet to show what he thought of that. “So long as I have this,” he said, lifting the sword from her throat, “there’s no man on earth I need fear.”

The upcoming conflagration and what he’ll do, the gods and evil deeds, true knights and so on… It’s their last interaction on-page, until approximately a week later, the last day of the battle of Blackwater.

Clegane’s eyes turned toward the distant fires. “All this burning.” He sheathed his sword. “Only cowards fight with fire.”

“Lord Stannis is no coward.”

“He’s not the man his brother was, either. Robert never let a little thing like a river stop him.”

“What will you do when he crosses?”

“Fight. Kill. Die, maybe.”

“Aren’t you afraid? The gods might send you down to some terrible hell for all the evil you’ve done.”

“What evil?” He laughed. “What gods?”

“The gods who made us all.”

“All?” he mocked. “Tell me, little bird, what kind of god makes a monster like the Imp, or a halfwit like Lady Tanda’s daughter? If there are gods, they made sheep so wolves could eat mutton, and they made the weak for the strong to play with.”

“True knights protect the weak.”

He snorted. “There are no true knights, no more than there are gods. If you can’t protect yourself, die and get out of the way of those who can. Sharp steel and strong arms rule this world, don’t ever believe any different.”

Sansa backed away from him. “You’re awful.”

“I’m honest. It’s the world that’s awful. Now fly away, little bird, I’m sick of you peeping at me.”
  • Davos III: In Tyrion XII, there’s a mention of sending the Hound to lead sorties against Stannis’ men attempting to land on their side of the Blackwater. And in Davos III, Sandor makes his sixth appearance: we see him doing precisely that, which is later confirmed by one of the Kettleblacks in Sansa VI. Sandor is therefore involved in the defence of King’s Landing for a considerable time since the very beginning of the battle.

landed two-dozen yards upstream and
was slanting toward the bank when the defenders came pounding down the riverside, the hooves of their warhorses sending up gouts of water from the shallows. The knights fell among the archers like wolves among chickens, driving them back toward the ships and into the river before most could notch an arrow. Men-at-arms rushed to defend them with spear and axe, and in three heartbeats the scene had turned to blood-soaked chaos. Davos recognized the dog’s-head helm of the Hound. A white cloak streamed from his shoulders as he rode his horse up the plank onto the deck of
hacking down anyone who blundered within reach.

Sansa was finishing her broth when he came the first time, entering through the back. She glimpsed him talking to his brother Osfryd. Then he climbed the dais and knelt beside the high seat, smelling of horse, four long thin scratches on his cheek crusted with scabs, his hair falling down past his collar and into his eyes. For all his whispering, Sansa could not help but hear. “The fleets are locked in battle. Some archers got ashore, but the Hound’s cut them to pieces, Y’Grace. Your brother’s raising his chain, I heard the signal. Some drunkards down to Flea Bottom are smashing doors and climbing through windows. Lord Bywater’s sent the gold cloaks to deal with them. Baelor’s Sept is jammed full, everyone praying.”

On a side note, it’s striking to see that the enemy ship the Hound boarded on horseback was named
, because in the chapter that comes before Davos III—Sansa V—we have Sansa in the sept
to the Mother to save Sandor if she could.

  • Tyrion XIII: Seventh appearance, he’s commanding the defence of the King’s Gate with what’s left of his men, he disagrees with Tyrion on tactics, and then refuses to lead a fourth sortie due to the fire. He asks for wine, which is very significant considering his physical and emotional state after long hours of exhausting fighting in the fire, but doesn’t drink on-page, so that must’ve happened between the ending of this chapter and his later reappearance in Sansa VII.

“Form up,” he shouted as he leapt to the ground. The gate moved under the impact of another blow. “Who commands here? You’re going out.”

“No.” A shadow detached itself from the shadow of the wall, to become a tall man in dark grey armor. Sandor Clegane wrenched off his helm with both hands and let it fall to the ground. The steel was scorched and dented, the left ear of the snarling hound sheared off. A gash above one eye had sent a wash of blood down across the Hound’s old burn scars, masking half his face.

“Yes.” Tyrion faced him.

Clegane’s breath came ragged. “Bugger that. And you.”

A sellsword stepped up beside him. “We been out. Three times. Half our men are killed or hurt. Wildfire bursting all around us, horses screaming like men and men like horses—”

“Did you think we hired you to fight in a tourney? Shall I bring you a nice iced milk and a bowl of raspberries? No? Then get on your fucking horse. You too, dog.”

The blood on Clegane’s face glistened red, but his eyes showed white. He drew his longsword.

He is afraid,
Tyrion realized, shocked.
The Hound is frightened
. He tried to explain their need. “They’ve taken a ram to the gate, you can hear them, we need to disperse them—”

“Open the gates. When they rush inside, surround them and kill them.” The Hound thrust the point of his longsword into the ground and leaned upon the pommel, swaying. “I’ve lost half my men. Horse as well. I’m not taking more into that fire.”

Ser Mandon Moore moved to Tyrion’s side, immaculate in his enameled white plate. “The King’s Hand commands you.”

“Bugger the King’s Hand.” Where the Hound’s face was not sticky with blood, it was pale as milk. “Someone bring me a drink.” A gold cloak officer handed him a cup. Clegane took a swallow, spit it out, flung the cup away. “Water? Fuck your water. Bring me wine.”

He is dead on his feet.
Tyrion could see it now.
The wound, the fire. . . he’s done, I need to find someone else, but who? Ser Mandon?
He looked at the men and knew it would not do. Clegane’s fear had shaken them. Without a leader, they would refuse as well, and Ser Mandon . . .
a dangerous man,
Jaime said, yes, but not a man other men would follow.

This is madness,
he thought, but sooner madness than defeat. Defeat is death and shame. “Very well, I’ll lead the sortie.”

If he thought that would shame the Hound back to valor, he was wrong. Clegane only laughed. “You?”

Tyrion could see the disbelief on their faces. “Me. Ser Mandon, you’ll bear the king’s banner. Pod, my helm.” The boy ran to obey. The Hound leaned on that notched and blood-streaked sword and looked at him with those wide white eyes.

  • Sansa VII: Eighth and final appearance in the second book. Having deserted from the battle, he is really drunk this time, and is actually drinking on-page from a flagon of wine.

Sansa opened her mouth to scream, but another hand clamped down over her face, smothering her. His fingers were rough and callused, and sticky with blood. “Little bird. I knew you’d come.” The voice was a drunken rasp.

Outside, a swirling lance of jade light spit at the stars, filling the room with green glare. She saw him for a moment, all black and green, the blood on his face dark as tar, his eyes glowing like a dog’s in the sudden glare. Then the light faded and he was only a hulking darkness in a stained white cloak.

“If you scream I’ll kill you. Believe that.” He took his hand from her mouth. Her breath was coming ragged. The Hound had a flagon of wine on her bedside table. He took a long pull. “Don’t you want to ask who’s winning the battle, little bird?”

“Who?” she said, too frightened to defy him.

The Hound laughed. “I only know who’s lost. Me.”

He is drunker than I’ve ever seen him. He was sleeping in my bed. What does he want here?
“What have you lost?”

“All.” The burnt half of his face was a mask of dried blood. “Bloody dwarf. Should have killed him. Years ago.”

“He’s dead, they say.”

“Dead? No. Bugger that. I don’t want him dead.” He cast the empty flagon aside. “I want him burned. If the gods are good, they’ll burn him, but I won’t be here to see. I’m going.”

Then he reminds her of the promised song, offers to keep her safe and kill whoever tries to hurt her, hinting at taking her with him out of the city, interprets her body language as rejection and demands his song at knifepoint. She sings the Mother’s Hymn, he leaves then, ripping his cloak off his shoulders, which she wraps herself with and keeps later.

Assessment: Sandor Clegane appears eight times in eight chapters in ACOK, not counting several mentions of him in passing in other Arya, Tyrion and Sansa chapters; from Sansa I to Sansa VII, a period of time that spans from February 299 AL to October 299 AL according to the Global Timeline posted in this board; and he is drunk twice: first on his night off in March 299 AL, and the second time seven months later (October 299 AL) after a long time fighting and leading three sorties surrounded by wildfyre.

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In A Storm of Swords:

Clegane’s arc in the third book has already been analysed in detail, chapter by chapter, in the psychological study of his last days that can be found in the Resources section, so here Milady will just provide a concise summary of the textual evidence:

  • Arya V and Arya VI: First appearance; he’s not exactly drunk but suffering from a hangover because he’d been captured whilst inebriated.

Down in the square, a thrown stone caught the captive on the cheek, turning his head.
Not the Kingslayer,
Arya thought, when she saw his face. The gods had heard her prayers after all.

They had bound his wrists with hempen rope, strung a noose around his neck, and pulled a sack down over his head, but even so there was danger in the man. Arya could feel it across the cave. Thoros—if that was Thoros—met captor and captive halfway to the fire. “How did you take him?” the priest asked.

“The dogs caught the scent. He was sleeping off a drunk under a willow tree, if you believe it.”

Following the timeline, it’s been a month and a half after he left King’s Landing; and it’s not stated in the text what he was doing during that time, but considering that he’s wanted by his former masters for desertion, has no home because the Clegane lands are his brother’s, no income but his tourney winnings, no overlord to serve and to protect, and, in sum, isn’t wanted anywhere, we can therefore infer that he was wandering aimlessly throughout the Riverlands, in the thick of the war, be it in search of Gregor or of a way to enter into the service of the northern king. We don’t know for a certainty if he’d been drinking much in this period, which is possible considering his psychological state and hopelessness of his situation, but then he’d have been robbed or captured much sooner had he been crossing those lands full of his brother’s pets and Lannister men, Stark-Tully men, fickle sellswords, organised outlaws, desperate peasants resorting to robbery, etc., whilst being stone-drunk all the time.
  • Arya VII to Arya XI: He is completely sober in all his appearances in these five chapters, a period that consists of two weeks and five days according to the Global Timeline, and if to that we add the two days since the Hound’s trial until Arya VII, it’s three weeks in which he’s not had a drop of wine nor has reason for doing that, on the other hand, since he’s now on his way to ransom the girl to her family and see if it’d be possible to become a part of her brother’s forces.

  • Arya XII: Sandor and Arya are both undergoing a depressive relapse and the first stages of bereavement respectively, after the Red Wedding has crushed their respective dreams, including the loss of two family members for her, which explains why her grief is more evident in her behaviour. Sandor doesn’t touch a drink until they reach a remote mountainous village where they can stay and he can work:

In the higher hills, they came upon a tiny isolated village surrounded by grey-green sentinels and tall blue soldier pines, and Clegane decided to risk going in. “We need food,” he said, “and a roof over our heads. They’re not like to know what happened at the Twins, and with any luck they won’t know me.”

The villagers were building a wooden palisade around their homes, and when they saw the breadth of the Hound’s shoulders they offered them food and shelter and even coin for work. “If there’s wine as well, I’ll do it,” he growled at them. In the end, he settled for ale, and drank himself to sleep each night.

“Might be we should stay here awhile,” the Hound told her, after a fortnight. He was drunk on ale, but more brooding than sleepy. “We’d never reach the Eyrie, and the Freys will still be hunting survivors in the riverlands. Sounds like they need swords here, with these clansmen raiding. We can rest up, maybe find a way to get a letter to your aunt.” Arya’s face darkened when she heard that. She didn’t want to stay, but there was nowhere to go, either. The next morning, when the Hound went off to chop down trees and haul logs, she crawled back into bed.

But when the work was done and the tall wooden palisade was finished, the village elder made it plain that there was no place for them. “Come winter, we will be hard pressed to feed our own,” he explained. “And you... a man like you brings blood with him.”

Sandor’s mouth tightened. “So you do know who I am.”

“Aye. We don’t get travelers here, that’s so, but we go to market, and to fairs. We know about King Joffrey’s dog.”

“When these Stone Crows come calling, you might be glad to have a dog.”

“Might be.” The man hesitated, then gathered up his courage. “But they say you lost your belly for fighting at the Blackwater. They say—”

“I know what they say.” Sandor’s voice sounded like two woodsaws grinding together. “Pay me, and we’ll be gone.”

When they left, the Hound had a pouch full of coppers, a skin of sour ale, and a new sword. It was a very old sword, if truth be told, though new to him. He swapped its owner the longaxe he’d taken at the Twins, the one he’d used to raise the lump on Arya’s head. The ale was gone in less than a day, but Clegane sharpened the sword every night, cursing the man he’d swapped with for every nick and spot of rust.

From the Red Wedding in the previous POV until the end of this chapter, a month has passed, and despite his depressive state of mind, Sandor drinks only during the later half of the chapter, and he still has control of it because he drinks
only in the night after work
, and it goes on for a fortnight, that is, two weeks. That means he’s been sober for five weeks previous to starting to get drunk at the village.
  • Arya XIII: The encounter with his brother’s soldiers at the Crossroads inn is perhaps the most famous scene in which he gets drunken on-page, and has been already examined in its minute details in The Two Faces of the Beast II. For brevity, here’s a concise list of the relevant passages from that chapter:

Outside the inn on a weathered gibbet, a woman’s bones were twisting and rattling at every gust of wind.

I know this inn.
There hadn’t been a gibbet outside the door when she had slept here with her sister Sansa under the watchful eye of Septa Mordane, though. “We don’t want to go in,” Arya decided suddenly, “there might be ghosts.”

“You know how long it’s been since I had a cup of wine?” Sandor swung down from the saddle. “Besides, we need to learn who holds the ruby ford. Stay with the horses if you want, it’s no hair off my arse.”

“Looking for your brother, Sandor?” Polliver’s hand was down the bodice of the girl on his lap, but now he slid it out.

“Looking for a cup of wine. Innkeep, a flagon of red.” Clegane threw a handful of coppers on the floor.

“I don’t want no trouble, ser,” the innkeep said.

“Then don’t call me ser.” His mouth twitched. “Are you deaf, fool? I ordered wine.” As the man ran off, Clegane shouted after him, “Two cups! The girl’s thirsty too!”

The innkeep came scurrying back with two stone cups and a flagon on a pewter platter. Sandor lifted the flagon to his mouth. Arya could see the muscles in his neck working as he gulped. When he slammed it back down on the table, half the wine was gone. “Now you can pour. Best pick up those coppers too, it’s the only coin you’re like to see today.”

“King Joffrey’s dead, you know,” he added. “Poisoned at his own wedding feast.”

Arya edged farther into the room.
Joffrey’s dead.
She could almost see him, with his blond curls and his mean smile and his fat soft lips.
Joffrey’s dead!
She knew it ought to make her happy, but somehow she still felt empty inside. Joffrey was dead, but if Robb was dead too, what did it matter?

“So much for my brave brothers of the Kingsguard.” The Hound gave a snort of contempt. “Who killed him?”

“The Imp, it’s thought. Him and his little wife.”

“What wife?”

“I forgot, you’ve been hiding under a rock. The northern girl. Winterfell’s daughter. We heard she killed the king with a spell, and afterward changed into a wolf with big leather wings like a bat, and flew out a tower window. But she left the dwarf behind and Cersei means to have his head.”

That’s stupid,
Arya thought.
Sansa only knows songs, not spells, and she’d never marry the Imp.

The Hound sat on the bench closest the door. 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.” He raised his wine cup and drained it straightaway.

The Hound poured a cup of wine for Arya and another for himself, and drank it down while staring at the hearthfire. “The little bird flew away, did she? Well, bloody good for her. She shit on the Imp’s head and flew off.”

The opening line in this POV reveals that it’s been a while since he’s had a cup, and when we consult the Global Timeline, we find that it’s been two weeks since they were expelled from the little village when they arrive at this inn, so he’s been sober all this time. The sequence of events leading to the fight and his wound in the leg is quite straight and rapid: he enters the inn and meets Polliver, the Tickler and his squire; orders a flagon of wine with two cups for himself and Arya, and he drinks half of it with an empty belly, Polliver tells him that Gregor is in King’s Landing, that Joffrey is dead and that Sansa has married the Imp; he has to sit at hearing this and gulps down another cup of wine, he asks for information on Gregor, Harrenhal and the Blackfish, pours another cup of wine, stares at the fire, drinks it and speaks about Sansa; and after some words more, finally he and Arya fight with Polliver, the Tickler and the boy squire, and he is wounded in the ear, the neck and, most severe of all, the leg. He is left to die of this wound the next day, when he’s sober but in extreme pain.

Overall Assessment: Sandor Clegane appears in eight of the thirteen Arya chapters, spanning from December 299 AL to February 300 AL according to the Global Timeline, that is, two months spent with Arya Stark from his capture by the Mad Hunstman to the day he was left to his demise near the Trident. During this time, he’s been drunk thrice: once when he was captured, which we know about by description only, when he’s wandering in a state of emotional distress in the riverlands, having lost everything after deserting at Blackwater; then a second time five weeks later, once again due to a depressive state of mind which lasts until his last day, and is the only time we actually see him drinking daily for a determined period of time if we are to take the word of Arya as truthful, but only in the nights and not to the point of interfering with his daytime work for the villagers. And a third time, after another two weeks of travelling with the younger Stark girl. Comparatively, the time spent drinking is overall minimal and is always after some particularly distressing events, because there’s no indication whatsoever of drinking for the sake of drinking.

All textual evidence examined, it is certainly inaccurate to assert that Sandor Clegane is an alcoholic based on three isolated events in the first two books that take place over a period consisting of one year and five months, from May 298 AL to October 299 AL, each of which is separated by several months from the others, and overlooking the other innumerable occasions in which he’s perfectly in possession of his faculties and not drinking. Furthermore, it cannot be stressed enough that the circumstances in which he’s actually drunk help explain his state, so his drinking makes sense when put in context, within the surrounding events; for example, the first time he’s drunk in the books, he was at a banquet, in which anyone can have a cup too many at least once and where even prim, proper Septa Mordane passed out drunk. The second time, he’s out of duty, so he’s free to go drink, wench and gamble if he pleases, as he’s an adult, unmarried, and with no more responsibilities that those of his job; moreover, considering that he’s Joffrey’s personal bodyguard on top of being a regular Kingsguard, it isn’t like he can do that each night or even regularly, as he’s always by the king’s side (Tyrion doesn’t ask Varys if he does that, but when he does that, since he’s never far from Joffrey, hinting that he mightn’t have many days off), and standing guard by his bedchamber by night, as is the duty of all Kingsguard men by turns. Furthermore, Cersei and Jaime Lannister, who know him since boyhood and who call him by his first name (She: “Bring us Sandor’s head,” He: “Are you sure it was Sandor?” etc.), must know his personality and habits, especially Jaime who knows him much better than his sister does, and in their AFFC chapters, when thinking about him, none of them has trouble listing his character flaws: Jaime describes him as hard and brutal, but also knows he’s not capable of the crimes the Hound is accused of; and Cersei calls him a brute and describes his temper, doesn’t bother to question the veracity of the accusations leveled against him, and even lies to Kevan that she dismissed him from her service, yet none of them ever mentions that drunkenness was one of these flaws, which for Cersei would’ve been a reason for dismissing him from his job, because she was his liege lady and Queen Regent, since it’d endanger her son’s safety to have a bodyguard with a serious problem with wine.

And then we have the third time; we know that due to his brutal burning as a 6-7 year old child, in which he could’ve even died if three men hadn’t restrained Gregor, he’s developed a lifelong trauma-induced fear of fire, about which at least five people know in the books in real time: Sansa Stark (the only one who knows the full story), Tyrion (twice), Thoros of Myr, Beric Dondarrion, and Arya Stark; and to these we’d have to add Gregor’s men, to judge by one of them taunting Sandor at the inn about escaping from Blackwater when it got too “warm.” Despite this, he’s remarkably able to control his fright when he has to do a necessary task, like when he was asked to go back to Flea Bottom in flames with Bronn, and he went because of his prized horse, we had to fight Thoros in a melee and Beric in a trial by combat both using a flaming sword, and when he’s put in command of a detachment of Lannister troops in the battle of Blackwater, in which he fought non-stop and ably despite the numerical inferiority and the raging inextinguishable green fire around him, he lead three sorties and even charged a burning ship. So, when Tyrion finds him, he promptly notices his eyes white with fear, that he is “dead on his feet” and “he’s done.” It’s in this condition of PTSD and utter physical and mental exhaustion that he refuses to continue, and gets drunk afterwards.

His drinking during the time he spent travelling across the Riverlands is not at random either; it’s always linked to a grave circumstance that affects him emotionally. His drunkenness when captured is linked to his being a fugitive lacking a purpose and a destination, for when he’s something to do and harbours hopes and plans for the future, he doesn’t even think of a drink; thus he spent six weeks of the two months with Arya completely sober, and only started drinking regularly after everything collapsed due to the horrendous Red Wedding; and again when his other plan of ransoming her to Lysa Arryn also collapses and they’re expelled from a village, with no certainty at all about whether they might actually reach the Blackfish at Riverrun, as is his Plan C.

Therefore, how is it that the label of alcoholism is attached to his name? Alcoholism is an illness related to physiological as well as psychological factors that has to follow certain patterns to be diagnosed as such. For a start, the term alcoholism doesn’t figure in psychiatrists and psychologists’ official diagnosis manual (it’s used in other specialties, though), for whom this problem is officially known as Alcohol Dependence under the Substance Dependence Disorders category, and we differentiate strictly between Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependence, which Milady will explain in a succinct manner now. Alcohol Abuse is a disorder that involves consistently drinking excess amounts of alcohol on a regular basis or sporadically, and that person can stop drinking by him/herself and have periods of sobriety in between drinking episodes, but it has to be persistent over a determined period of time (generally twelve months), during which the individual has to exhibit four important symptomatic behaviours:

  1. Recurrent use of alcohol resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at the workplace, education place or at home: Clegane doesn’t fill in this field. His drinking doesn’t affect his performance as a royal sworn shield or as a Kingsguard, and neither has it prevented him from becoming one of the best swordsmen and unit commanders in Westeros. Also, when he’s effectively drinking daily in ASOS, he still fulfills his part of the agreement working for the villagers.
  2. Recurrent alcohol use in situations in which it is physically hazardous: The episode at the inn is the most glaring example of getting drunk during a hazardous situation, as in his other episodes he’s no longer on duty or required to work hard, so there’s no continuity.
  3. Recurrent alcohol-related disorderly conduct that results in problems with the authorities (legal problems): Apart from the fight at the inn, a one-time circumstance, we don’t read about him linked to breaking of laws publicly or any other conduct that disrupts the public order whilst inebriated.
  4. Continued alcohol use despite having recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by it: His drinking hasn’t been continued but episodic, and that he drank was not the root cause of his awkward social skills but rather his deeper psychological issues and his own personality.

It’s to be noted that as we apply the either/or rule when assessing individuals, more than one of these criteria should be met, meeting just one criterion and no more is merely an indicator and must always follow the criterion of at least one year of persistent recurrence. If there’s not continuity in the drinking episodes over the specified time and not all the criteria for Alcohol Abuse are met, then it can be considered as episodic binge drinking, a risk behaviour that is troublesome and harmful, and should give the individual pause to reflect and seek useful advice to moderate or change that conduct before/in case it becomes a worse problem, but it’s not in any way a substance-related mental disorder, much less alcoholism.

As for Alcohol Dependence, our clinical manual, the DSM-IV-TR lists seven criteria:

1. Tolerance; which means that either the same amounts of alcohol lose their effect, or there’s a need for increased amounts to achieve a state of inebriation, as a result. 2. Withdrawal symptoms, which drive the individual to resort to alcohol to alleviate these recurrent symptoms. 3. Alcohol is often used in larger amounts or over a longer period than was desired, that is, the person cannot control his intake nor where and for how long he/she drinks. 4. All efforts to cut down or control alcohol consumption on the person’s own initiative fail and are unsuccessful. 5. The person spends a lot of time trying to obtain alcohol, consume alcohol, or recover from its effects. 6. Social life, work, educational and recreational activities are given up or reduced to a minimum because of alcohol, and finally: 7. Continued alcohol consumption despite being aware of having a physical or psychological problem caused or exacerbated by alcohol.

In this category, the person doesn’t always fill in all the seven fields, though it can and does happen frequently, but it’s absolutely a requisite that the individual meet three important diagnosis criteria as a minimum, not less, which can vary from one case to another, though criteria 1, 2, 3 and 4 are normally the commonly met ones; and, again, the minimum period of recurrent drinking during twelve months is a necessary requisite, with no abstinence periods in between. And Sandor Clegane doesn’t fill in these important criteria: he doesn’t show physiological signs of tolerance and withdrawal because he doesn’t drink consistently all the time, his daytime job, social and recreational activities (tourneys for example) aren’t affected by his drinking, and neither does he spend large amounts of time looking for alcohol, drinking it or recovering from it when there’s work to be done, he can control and cut his intake by himself, and can go variable periods without touching a wineskin, etc.

With the release this month of the newer DSM-V, both categories of Alcohol Abuse and Alcohol Dependence are going to be merged into one, now called Alcohol Use Disorder, which combines the eleven criteria listed above, with the exception of criterion 3 in the list for Alcohol Abuse, replaced now by “recurrent cravings for alcohol” over a period of twelve months, that is, physiological cravings, and with the new severity gradation, meeting just one criterion results in no diagnosis at all independently of which criterion is met. And to reach this diagnosis and that of addiction, internal and external validators are employed: personality tests, questionnaires, interviews with the affected party and, often, the family as well, and also medical examinations, etc., because a diagnosis of alcohol abuse or addiction is for life, and once you’re diagnosed, you will always be considered as such no matter the extent of the period of remission/abstinence that can follow after treatment; thus, a label of “alcoholic” should not be attached lightly to just anyone’s name without due regard for factual evidence.

And the evidence demonstrates that Sandor of House Clegane is not an alcoholic, he doesn’t suffer from alcohol abuse nor alcohol addiction; he drinks in a social environment the first time, and on his free time the second, and later engages in binge drinking as a result of deeper psychological issues that have troubled him for long, that is, he used wine as a mood regulator when he exhibits PTSD and depressive symptoms, which is rightly a conflictive behaviour in itself and should be viewed as such, and not as a clinical disorder as is alcoholism. GRRM seems to view it that way, too, for he put this in the mouth of the Elder Brother in AFFC Brienne VI: "He drank, to drown his pain in a sea of wine."

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