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brashcandy

From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XX

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Not sure If I necessarily agree with your interpretation here. Do we have any evidence showing that Sansa does this purposefully or even subconsciously to exert power, dominance, and control over their marriage? I interpreted it as Sansa's inability to hide her true feelings, which makes her an easy read and thus an undesirable trait to have in the game of thrones. I even got the impression that Sansa avoided looking at Tyrion in the eye whenever possible:

Quote 1:

“My lady.” Tyrion offered Sansa his arm. She took it dutifully, but he could feel her stiffness as they walked up the aisle together. She never once looked down at him.

Quote 2:

They stepped out into the crisp autumn air. “I feared we’d never escape,” Tyrion quipped.

Sansa had no choice but to look at him then. “I... yes, my lord. As you say.” She looked sad. “it was such a beautiful ceremony, though.”

"The gaze" does involve a lot of un/subconscious elements, however, Martin is very careful to draw attention to the fact that Sansa "looks" at Tyrion - regularly and carefully, and that there is no desire on her part for him. I think the clearest example of this is their wedding night, when she remembers what Septa Mordane says about all men being beautiful, but does not fall victim to this particular line of brainwashing. Contrary to what you noted, we know Sansa is able to hide her feelings very well - hence why Tyrion never realizes the escape plan. When I talk about the gaze, I'm not referring to Sansa's giving Tyrion the stink eye, or anything like that, but a process whereby Tyrion becomes the object of Sansa's perception (to be judged and (de) valued), and he loses the control and dominion normally accredited to men in patriarchal societies (see the male gaze).

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...My write up here is only one part of a whole, and is mostly supported on the Tyrion re-read, but also on other analyses like DatePalm's dialectic approach of the Shae-Tyrion relationship (which for some reason Search does not want to turn up right now).

Was this what you had in mind Lyanna (continues dialectically over the page)? I like the point you make about Sansa's gaze, we know that Tyrion is sensitive about people looking at him and we know in what particular ways this affects him. While we have Sansa's gaze in her POV chapters what we don't have a sense that her theory of mind grasps the effect it has on Tyrion (which isn't surprising really considering her youth and his Lannister mummery). Her neutral gaze for him is an evaluating, judging gaze. Which effectively constrains him. But at least Tyrion, unlike Sweetrobin, doesn't wet the bed. :leaving:

Of course at the most unpleasant stage we know he is having an affair with Shae, while Sansa only notices Shae's Frechheit.

The whole thing is complex because of the power politics. The marriage is a Reynes of Castlemere moment, calculated as part of the destruction and humiliation of the Starks and that is in the back, and occasionally the forefront, of both their minds during the period they are together. Their marriage is the continuation of war by other means (with apologies to Clausewitz). And then further complicated by the layers of lies and the public and private elements of the union. Going back to Hegel and dialectic it probably can't be stressed enough that Tyrion's treatment of Sansa is the antithesis of his Tysha relationship. However in true GRRM style the dialectic has to exist in a particular social and political context which has the end result of the marriage being a particular prison for both of them.

No surprise that Sansa is notably unenthusiastic about Lord Baelish's proposal in AFFC. Her experience is that however fine the gilding a cage is not a pleasant thing to be in.

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Also, about the gaze, has anyone noticed that actually Sansa is contrasting others? Tyrion said that people usually don`t make prolonged eye contact with him, and she does look at him, which indicates some sort of bond Sansa inevitably but unwillingly created with him. We already have her looking at Sandor, and now we have her looking at Tyrion. It`s like she can connect with these 'broken things' as no one can. She saw him, and that's I think very important in this dynamic

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I wouldn't compare it to the Sandor/Sansa dynamic, or at least not positively. Sandor "invites" Sansa's gaze, and that establishes the conditions of their relationship from very early on, even when she is uncomfortable in doing so. Tyrion never sanctions Sansa's looking; he tells her he can be the Knight of flowers, "in the dark" and thinks bitterly of not being tall or handsome. Instead of fostering connection, it drives them apart, which is really the whole point anyways: this is a profoundly unequal relationship, built on the ruins of Sansa's House, and callous towards her own feelings and wishes.

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I wouldn't compare it to the Sandor/Sansa dynamic, or at least not positively. Sandor "invites" Sansa's gaze, and that establishes the conditions of their relationship from very early on, even when she is uncomfortable in doing so. Tyrion never sanctions Sansa's looking; he tells her he can be the Knight of flowers, "in the dark" and thinks bitterly of not being tall or handsome. Instead of fostering connection, it drives them apart, which is really the whole point anyways: this is a profoundly unequal relationship, built on the ruins of Sansa's House, and callous towards her own feelings and wishes.

I am not equalizing them, but this goes into something I believe is one of Sansa's greatet quality - the ability to invoke the beauty in people. Her gazes with Sandor are something that made him go on redemption road, she connected with Dontos, and even LF said Dontos wanted to save her, and now we have Tyrion. In her gaze, Tyrion finds his image, how she sees him as Lannister, and it's one of things that made him restrain from raping her later. Sansa connects with people on such deep, profound level that invokes the best in people - redemption in Sandor, knighthood in Dontos, some strength and courage in Sweetrobin, freedom from Tywin and virtue in Tyrion. Her gazes to Tyrion aren`t like the one with Sandor, but they invoke something in Tyrion. There is something truly Galadriel-esque in Sansa's gazes and in her too, or at least I see it...

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In Clash, Sansa thought to herself that she'd give bread to the people if she had it and then in Storm she thinks that Tyrion looks at her as if he wants something. But, she then thinks she has no food for him and questions why he won't just leave her alone. I like the contrast of thoughts as the former shows that Sansa would clearly help if she could whereas in the latter Sansa not only does not know how to help - she just wants to be left alone.

Her thoughts with Tyrion are a marked contrast for Sansa. Elsewhere, she knows to cup Sandor's cheek, say the correct words to LF, how to help Lollys across the bridge and so on. But, she can't do that for Tyrion, she can't connect in the same way that she is able to do with so many others. He seems to be an exception even though Sansa is able to understand and appreciate his kindness towards her.

For me, it serves as another subtle example at just how large the distance between two of them actually is.

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Interesting point on those feelings acting as an emotional shield, and Baelish not being aware is such a critical factor based on his efforts to discredit every other single connection she formed back in KL (along with his subtle undermining of Harry the Heir).

Thanks, Brashcandy. I'd like to elaborate a little more on the topic of this as emotional shield, if you will.

There are differences between a pedophile groomer and a groomer with preferences for older yet still underage victims—the latter being the type I am speaking of— which I will not expand on here, but they both begin the process with basically the same technique: by first trying to erode the girl’s emotional bonds with her family, especially with her parents, that’s what is called the "emotional dynamics of grooming," with the endgame of driving a wedge between the girl and her parents, so she can be convinced to distance herself from her family, see her father and mother under a different and negative light in comparison to the groomer, who will then be seen as caring and loving through the long conditioning process as opposed to the parents that “failed” in these aspects. Then they proceed to do the same with the girl’s other romantic interests, other boys or men, so there are no “rivals.” And finally the girl’s friends and closest allies, for the same reasons they have for isolating her emotionally from family and boyfriend/crush. The order can vary depending on how and in what circumstances they meet the girl, but the aim is the same: that the girl doesn’t have an emotional attachment to anyone stronger than the groomer himself, who will then proceed to fill her emotional needs: friendship and support at first, so the girl is little by little trapped into a coercive relationship with the groomer and starts seeing him as irreplaceable in her heart; and in the final stage he offers her love, which she will reciprocate “willingly,” because the grooming has prepared her mentally for the false belief that it’s by her choice and not realise that it’s a mockery of a real, voluntary relationship. Once the girl’s been convinced of this, the groomer can proceed to further his sexual advances and take her to bed, and she will accept it, not qualifying it as abuse.

This is a critical element of grooming; physical or social isolation have an important role as well, but aren’t nearly as crucial as this one, for many groomed victims aren’t alone and are active socially but don’t trust their peers and the people around as much as their groomers, which is one reason amongst several why it’s not easily detected. The more emotionally isolated the girl is, the more successful the grooming will be, as she will become completely dependent on the male, doing whatever he wishes. He therefore becomes the most important and trusted person for her, her sexual partner, her “boyfriend.” However, if the emotional isolation isn’t completed or hasn’t attained the goal of driving the others out of their place in the girl’s mind and heart to put the groomer in their stead, then the process is doomed, or at a minimum has high chances of failing, for the girl will not develop that unquestioning trust and “love” for the man that would make it possible for her to bed him “voluntarily,” without the use of force.

Bringing this approach to Sansa’s case, which is what interests us, she arguably has protection on four fronts against this emotional isolation: a. her ties to her family and her identity as a Stark of Winterfell, b. affection for her surviving brother on whom she models her bastard persona (and, since this is a fantasy novel, let’s add Brandon to the mix if he contacts her somehow), c. befriending other people that could prove trustworthy and helpful, and d. her feelings for Clegane.

As the other points were already discussed, let’s focus on the last. Like it was pointed out, grooming works because the girl’s bonds with others are broken, and Littlefinger is confident that she hadn’t formed any attachments in King’s Landing: he’s presented Dontos as someone willing to sell her for gold, and advises her not to spare any kind thought for an unloved husband who will soon be executed, and reveals the hypocrisy of the Tyrells, who participated in framing her. So the girl’s friendless, utterly dependent on him for survival, and all he has to do now is isolate her at the Eyrie passing her off as his bastard, cunningly inserting himself as replacement for her family’s affections, and more importantly: there are no real rivals for her love… In appearance, it’s perfect, the girl is ripe for grooming, the ideal clay in his hands.

But what happens when the girl has someone else in her mind and the groomer doesn’t know, much less suspect, the existence of this “rival,” and there’s no way the girl is ever going to reveal it to him? How does he erode emotional bonds he ignores? What is worse, how does he fight an ever growing and continually evolving sexual and romantic attraction to someone he would never guess, and who, additionally, is the girl’s own choice?

There lies the problem for Littlefinger, that someone came before and occupied the place he longs for, and, given his being in the dark about this, he proceeds with his grooming by forcing kisses on her, groping her, sitting her on his lap near his privates, coercing her to reciprocate his kisses, etc., all textbook groomer behaviours, whilst she, on the other hand, is entertaining her own fantasies and exploring her own feelings for another man, which runs contrary to the goal Littlefinger has with regard to her, so it shields her against this desired end.

What’s more, these feelings are not only ingrained deep in her identity as a Stark but are also part of the Stone identity Littlefinger imposed on her. In fact, by looking closely at the pattern of the UnKiss as it evolves, it seems that her fantasies become more fleshed out and her feelings begin to emerge to the surface (conscious) with more force precisely when she’s in the clutches of Littlefinger.

Let’s take a look at the first time she “remembers” the kiss, in ASOS Sansa II:

Megga couldn’t sing, but she was mad to be kissed. She and Alla played a kissing game sometimes, she confessed, but it wasn’t the same as kissing a man, much less a king.
Sansa wondered what Megga would think about kissing the Hound, as she had. He’d come to her the night of the battle stinking of wine and blood.
He kissed me and threatened to kill me, and made me sing him a song.

Here, Sansa thinks of the kiss as if it had been wanted by both: she says first that she kissed the Hound, and then says he kissed her; which sounds like she imagines it as mutually desired, and, interestingly, she puts her desire first.

Next time we read about her thinking of Clegane in a sexual context, she is at the Fingers, a prisoner of Littlefinger and posing as Alayne Stone. This time, it’s not a kiss she imagines. It’s a dream she has:

And she dreamed of her wedding night too, of Tyrion’s eyes devouring her as she undressed.
Only then he was bigger than Tyrion had any right to be, and when he climbed into the bed his face was scarred only on one side. “I’ll have a song from you,” he rasped
, and Sansa woke and found the old blind dog beside her once again. “I wish that you were Lady,” she said.

What is noteworthy here is that while the kiss belongs to the Sansa from King’s Landing and is consciously created, the erotic dream (a different occurrence not related to the UnKiss, as some believe, though it’s part of the same process of sexual awakening) belongs to Alayne Stone, or rather Sansa with a different name. And, unlike the kiss, it’s not consciously created but stems from her unconscious, therefore an even more genuine desire.

Then she again replays her fantasy of the UnKiss whilst at the Eyrie, and this time it’s in two stages:

Before she could summon the servants, however, Sweetrobin threw his skinny arms around her and kissed her. It was a little boy’s kiss, and clumsy. Everything Robert Arryn did was clumsy.
If I close my eyes I can pretend he is the Knight of Flowers.
Ser Loras had given Sansa Stark a red rose once, but he had never kissed her... and no Tyrell would ever kiss Alayne Stone. Pretty as she was, she had been born on the wrong side of the blanket.

In the first part, she’s in the skin of Alayne, for she’s referring to Sansa as a different person, and remarks that she was the one that had received a rose from highborn Loras, but now that she’s bastard Alayne, she thinks with reason that he wouldn’t even glance at her, so that fantasy is quickly discarded and replaced...

As the boy’s lips touched her own
she found herself thinking of another kiss. She could still remember how it felt, when his cruel mouth pressed down on her own
. He had come to Sansa in the darkness as green fire filled the sky.
He took a song and a kiss, and left me nothing but a bloody cloak.

And in the second part, she’s in the skin of Sansa, feeling it as real like Sansa. In other words, her fantasising with Loras is in the past and is unfit for a lowborn girl like the one she’s pretending to be, but the other man is still present as part of her memories and, curiously, this time she says it was he who kissed her, rather took the kiss and then left, which sounds funnily like a woman resentful of being abandoned by a lover; and considering that during the scene that originated this she’d mistakenly believed he was about to kiss her and was prepared to endure it, her thoughts are revealing.

She once more thinks of him in her last chapter in AFFC:

“You do know what goes on in a marriage bed, I hope?”

She thought of Tyrion, and of the Hound and how he’d kissed her,
and gave a nod.

In the last quote, we can see that Sansa says again that it was he who kissed her, which could be revealing an unconscious wish that it’d happened. So, by the time she is about to be told of her captor and groomer’s plans to marry her off again, she names her husband but immediately unites her dream of Sandor replacing Tyrion in the marriage bed and the UnKiss in the same conscious thought. And again, she “remembers” the kiss and the dream of the Hound in her bed whilst she’s in the skin of Sansa but being referred to and posing as Alayne. Both are part of her present, not just her past, and the confluence of the UnKiss and the dream indicates that it’s not the last time we read about this, for both might reappear in her future chapters at the Gates of the Moon, for in her last chapter she promised Randa Royce to sleep in her bedchamber that night of their arrival, and it’s likely that her talk will have a similar effect, prompting her to develop those thoughts further, more so now that she knows there’s another unwanted marriage plan for her.

In sum, it looks like the bolder Littlefinger becomes in his advances, the more explicit and more full-fledged Sansa’s own private romantic thoughts, desire for and fantasising with another man become, which is ironic given that she is being groomed to respond to her captor. That’s what her shield consists of: choosing the recipient of such thoughts, choosing whom she desires to be kissed by and loved by and have in her bed, instead of letting the groomer decide who it should be.

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She once more thinks of him in her last chapter in AFFC:

“You do know what goes on in a marriage bed, I hope?”

She thought of Tyrion, and of the Hound and how he’d kissed her,
and gave a nod.

In the last quote, we can see that Sansa says again that it was he who kissed her, which could be revealing an unconscious wish that it’d happened. So, by the time she is about to be told of her captor and groomer’s plans to marry her off again, she names her husband but immediately unites her dream of Sandor replacing Tyrion in the marriage bed and the UnKiss in the same conscious thought. And again, she “remembers” the kiss and the dream of the Hound in her bed whilst she’s in the skin of Sansa but being referred to and posing as Alayne. Both are part of her present, not just her past, and the confluence of the UnKiss and the dream indicates that it’s not the last time we read about this, for both might reappear in her future chapters at the Gates of the Moon, for in her last chapter she promised Randa Royce to sleep in her bedchamber that night of their arrival, and it’s likely that her talk will have a similar effect, prompting her to develop those thoughts further, more so now that she knows there’s another unwanted marriage plan for her.

Spot on analysis. In that quote above she's once again replacing Tyrion with the Hound, but now it's a conscious replacement, as you noted. And to the point about the conversations she might share with Randa, their final conversation is illuminating:

"... Count yourself fortunate that I'm so tired. All I want to do is curl up and go to sleep. Usually when ladies share my bed they have to pay a pillow tax, and tell me all the wicked things they've done."

"What if they haven't done any wicked things?"

"Why, then they must confess all the wicked things they want to do..."

I'd say there's a definite likelihood that Sansa will develop those thoughts further, especially as we already have evidence of things she does indeed want to do.

In sum, it looks like the bolder Littlefinger becomes in his advances, the more explicit and more full-fledged Sansa’s own private romantic thoughts, desire for and fantasising with another man become, which is ironic given that she is being groomed to respond to her captor. That’s what her shield consists of: choosing the recipient of such thoughts, choosing whom she desires to be kissed by and loved by and have in her bed, instead of letting the groomer decide who it should be.

Indeed. And it begs the question of just why those fantasies are so enduring... I suppose it also doesn't help that LF has a man like Lothor Brune in his service, who possesses very similar qualities to Sandor, and Sansa isn't without her own wishful thinking moments with respect to Brune. LF on the other hand is aligned with rapists like Marillion, as we see in the snow castle scene. While we can't predict exactly how all this will play out in TWOW, it's apparent that Sansa's emotional resilience to LF's incursions isn't to be underestimated.

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My impression is, that Tyrion and Sansa have one thing in common in the way they think about each other: they view each other as a situation, not as a person. None of them is particularly interested in getting to know each other.

While I agree that Sansa has learnt more about Tyrion than he has learnt about Sansa, I believe that her knowledge on him is limited to the degree that it's useful for her, in order to survive. She doesn't care to know why he reacts the way he does; it's enough for her to know the pattern. She had to observe him and figure out some of his personality traits, in order to accordingly adjust her behavior around him, so that she can efficiently defend her "walls" from any kind of danger he could pose.

For her, Tyrion is a Lannister and their marriage is another tool to steal her claim and forcibly alter her identity. On a more personal level, he is a man that she finds sexually repulsive, which is important, given that their (forced) relationship normally requires physical intimacy. It is only normal that she couldn't - and wouldn't - care to know Tyrion the person or create a bond with him.

I think it is telling that she only thinks of him as a person (the rare times she does) only when she's safely(?) away from the Lannister grab. Then, he becomes someone for whom she doesn't wish ill, she thinks he was relatively kind to her, and nothing more. She doesn't hate him as Tyrion, but as a part of the situation that she was forced to suffer.

For Tyrion, before the marriage, Sansa is only a representative of the innocent victim that, unfortunatelly, happened to be in the middle of the Lannister road to victory. Unlike Joffrey and, to a degree, Cersei, he doesn't wish to harm her. He will, though, if it advances the Lannister cause (up to a point - unlike Tywin, Tyrion has limits).

Even after the marriage, his gaze on Sansa is superficial. Put in her place any beautiful young girl that has been forced to marry him under the same conditions, and his feelings would be more or less the same, I think.

Tyrion has his own "armor": pragmatism, but this armor is very penetrable from the inside: his desperate wish to be loved (any kind of love, as his attachment to Jaime proves). Sansa somehow triggers the second, and so she evades the dire consequences of first.

The rest, has more to do with Tyrion's relationship with his family than with Sansa; The more he realises that his loyalty to his family is not really reciprocal, that he will actually be in serious danger, the less he's willing to use her and harm her, the more guilt is added to his feelings for her, and, by the time of Joffery's wedding, I think he genuinly wants to protect her (not necessarily expecting sex in return). Again, not because she's Sansa, but for what she respresents.

This story is over, IMO. There is nothing pending between them, apart a formal end of their marriage. There is no need to even interact ever again, as they 've been nothing more for each other than plot advancers.

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Great post ShadowCat Rivers. :)

I think it is telling that she only thinks of him as a person (the rare times she does) only when she's safely(?) away from the Lannister grab. Then, he becomes someone for whom she doesn't wish ill, she thinks he was relatively kind to her, and nothing more. She doesn't hate him as Tyrion, but as a part of the situation that she was forced to suffer.

This is a very good description, I think, and more spot on than anything I managed. :) I described it as Tyrion being part of the Lannister purpose, more or less, although I think situation is very good to describe it, and it highlights that regardless of their personalities and that we, the readers, may sympathise with both of them, the situation was intolerable for Sansa and she hated it.

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snip

Very nice essay, Lyanna :)

I like the fact that you studied the body language to show the lack of tenderness and understanding between them. Also every time there is a physical contact between them, Sansa is described as “stiff”:

It was not enough, though. He had wrapped his cloak around her shoulders and sworn to protect her, but that was as cruel a jape as the crown the Freys had place atop the head of Robb Stark’s direwolf after they’d sewn it onto his headless corpse. Sansa knew that as well. The way she looked at him, her stiffness when she climbed into their bed… when he was with her, never for an instant could he forget who he was or what he was.

ASOS ch. 53, Tyrion VI

Also, note that in this quote that you picked too, Tyrion is the one to call their marriage a jape.

I must be brave, like Robb, she told herself, as she took her lord husband stiffly by the arm.

ASOS ch. 60, Sansa IV

Next came Ser Garlan Tyrell and his lady wife, and finally it was their turn.

“My lady. ”Tyrion offered Sansa his arm. She took it dutifully, but he could feel her stiffness as they walked up the aisle together. She never once looked down at him.

ASOS ch. 61, Tyrion VIII

I believe this shows well her dislike for the whole situation.

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Lovely post, ShadowCat.

This story is over, IMO. There is nothing pending between them, apart a formal end of their marriage. There is no need to even interact ever again, as they 've been nothing more for each other than plot advancers.

I agree. We only see Sansa bringing up the marriage to Tyrion when she's trying to avoid an even more unpleasant/unwanted situation, and he spends his time in Essos asking where whores go. Martin could choose to have them reconnect in TWOW, but it would likely involve their respective alliances with other central characters, and not any exploration of personal dynamics between the two.

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This story is over, IMO. There is nothing pending between them, apart a formal end of their marriage. There is no need to even interact ever again, as they 've been nothing more for each other than plot advancers.

Your post was spot on. I do believe however that their marriage brought on a bit of character development for both of them. Sansa summarized Tyrion's feelinge in regard to her and their eintire situation when sh described him as a hungry child and her as having no food to give him. I think that Tyrion is aware of this as well. Sansa is perfect for bringing to the forefront and reinforcing his growing sense of futility in striving for the things he desired, which leads to stop trying to be a good Lannister (or good in general).

For Sansa it was the coup de gras to her dream of marriage that she still clung to, well into ASOS, revealling to be just another mean for her complete and utter objectificaiton and a source of bitterness and defeat (they made me into a Lannister).

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I actually really, really liked the idea of Sansa & Tyrion married. I thought that Sansa's plot arc, for the first three books, was pretty crisp--she was learning to see beyond appearances. Thanks to Joffrey, and then the Hound, she had it hammered home again and again that a pretty surface can hide a hideous character.

I thought that her arc would complete, in a satisfying way, if she could find a way to see Tyrion's worth. To look past his appearance and appreciate him.

For Tyrion--he really is needy, and Sansa is right to think of him like a hungry child. His craving for a woman's affection and love is warped, at this point, by years of self-loathing and delusion, of the sort he engages in with Shae. But I thought he did a good job of trying to put himself in Sansa's place, and trying to see to her needs.

I really thought, if the books had gone in a different direction, that they could have been an amazing couple. It was one of the threads I was saddest to see snap.

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Random Sansa Observation:

I was rereading some of Sansa's chapters from AGOT and ACOK and it struck me just how clearly she connects the great Sept of Baelor with her father's death. A few quotes:

From the high battlements of the gatehouse, the whole world spread out below them. Sansa could see the Great Sept of Baelor on Visenya’s hill, where her father had died.

Robert Baratheon was dead, and her father as well, beheaded for a traitor on the steps of the Great Sept of Baelor.

“Let him.” When Sansa had first beheld the Great Sept with its marble walls and seven crystal towers, she’d thought it was the most beautiful building in the world, but that had been before Joffrey beheaded her father on its steps. “I want it burned.”

She felt as if she were back again on the marble steps outside the Great Sept of Baelor, waiting for her prince to grant her father mercy, and instead hearing him command Ilyn Payne to strike off his head. Please, she prayed fervently, make him say it, make him say it.

It seems (without going through and counting) like almost every time she thinks of the Great Sept she adds on a reference to Ned's death. Except in this passage after Blackwater:

More than six hundred new knights were made that day. They had held their vigil in the Great Sept of Baelor all through the night and crossed the city barefoot that morning to prove their humble hearts. Now they came forward dressed in shifts of undyed wool to receive their knighthoods from the Kingsguard. ... Once knighted, each man rose, buckled on his swordbelt, and stood beneath the windows. Some had bloody feet from their walk through the city, but they stood tall and proud all the same, it seemed to Sansa.

So you have the new knights proving their purity in a place that Sansa had wished burnt to the ground and associates, above all else, with the murder of her father. The blood on their feet even feels reminiscent of Ned's death. These knights prove their 'trueness' in what is, for Sansa, a symbol of injustice and supreme cruelty.

I thought it was interesting given the importance of 'true knights' to Sansa and the evolution of that concept for her.

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Rebouncing on Greensleeves' last post, here is my long promised essay on Sansa and Knighthood. I hope you'll enjoy the reading.

Sansa and knighthood

“There are gods, she told herself, and there are true knights too.

All the stories can’t be lies.”

Sansa Stark, A Clash of King.

In A Game of Thrones, little Sansa Stark is fascinated by the songs and tales of adventure, love and honourable knights; and her passion for knighthood is actually an important component of her personality. However, her belief in knighthood is seriously challenged after her father’s death when she is repeatedly beaten by members of Joffrey’s Kingsguard, men who are supposed to be the incarnations of knightly values. In this new scenario, she has to reevaluate what knights really are, what those values are, and if there are true knights after all.

The historical evolution of knighthood

Historically, knighthood was first and foremost a profession that emerged with the appearance of heavy cavalry. Jean Flori, an expert of knighthood in medieval France, states that before 1180, in Old French poetry the term chevaler (knight in Old French) referred to a professional warrior on horseback with a special armour, and not to a social class nor to an “order of chivalry”. At the beginning, the social origins of these knights were rather modest, since they were wealthy peasants or landowners who were either free or vassals to a local lord. These people had servants working for them, which enabled them to leave their farms to fight without any loss of income. In wartime, nobles were the ones who lead armies, so the knights served the higher nobility in the beginning. But little by little, wealthy peasants and landowners acquired more influence, politically and economically, which brought them closer to the old nobility.

During peacetime, their main tasks were to keep things under the control of their lords and, more often than not, that would require to enforce their laws in a ruthless way. Those first knights could be violent, coarse, unlettered, rough in speech and manners, and did not hesitate to plunder the local villages on account of their liege lords or on their own. They did not have to worry about any kind of justice, as their liege lords would cover them up before the higher authorities, or even be the source of these questionable orders themselves. Due to this, the line between knight and bandit was quite blurry at the time. In short, during these early years until the first half of the 11th century, historical knights were far from the models of virtue we are now familiar with; they were no more than mounted soldiers, who were guided by their own set of values or lack thereof, and the ambitions of their superiors.

Things started to change in the second half of the 11th century. Weapons and armour evolved and became more expensive, which limited the number of people who could afford to be knights. Thus, knighthood became a prestigious “profession,” mostly accessible to the aristocracy, who turned it into an order of high moral values. The Catholic Church also tried to control those violent knights and reinforced the idea that knighthood was an order that protected the weak and the Church. This way, the values that we have come to associate with knights began to emerge.

Knighthood and the ideals attached to it had a massive impact on the culture and the mentality throughout the Middle Ages, until it died out slowly during the 15th century because of its obsolescence in the face of new tactics and weaponry. Heavy cavalry was now helpless against halberds, crossbows and artillery, that were more and more present on the battlefields. Even so, the spirit of knighthood lived on over the centuries long after it disappeared as a martial art.

The equipment of the knight

As it was mentioned earlier, it was their equipment that set the knights apart from other fighters. For this reason, it seems relevant to study their equipment a bit more carefully.

The lance: It was used for horseback fighting; the aim was to unhorse or pierce the enemy’s armour by taking advantage of the horse’s speed to deliver a powerful blow. Once the lance was broken, the knight resorted to the sword. In the 11th century, lances were about 2,5 m./8,2 ft. long, but at the end of the 13th century, they were more than 3,5 m./11,5 ft. long. In a fight, the knight had to handle his own weapon and, at the same time, he had to avoid being hit by his enemy’s lance; which required skill, strength and a lot of training.

The sword: It was used after the first onslaught, once the lance was broken. A knight was strongly attached to his sword, and would give it a name; for example, Charlemagne’s sword was called Joyeuse (joyful in French) and King Ferdinand III of Castile’s was Lobera (wolf's lair in Spanish). The knight used a double edged sword that was about 2 kg./4,4 lbs. and that was between 0,8 and 1 m./2,6 and 3,3 ft. long, which were commonly called longswords.

The hauberk: From the 11th to the 13th century, the armour (or hauberk) was a simple attire composed of a shirt of mail that went down to the knees. It was between 10 and 12 kg./22 and 26 lbs. The hauberk protected the knight by absorbing, deflecting and distributing the force of the impact. However, it was only efficient against swords, javelins and weak arrow shots. Therefore, in the 13th century, plate was slowly added to the armour. By the 15th century, the armour was entirely composed of iron plate. It was also heavier; it weighted between 15 and 20 kg./33 and 44 lbs. Here are examples of early armours (Bayeux tapestry) and here are later models.

The helmet: Until the end of the 12th century, the helmet did not cover the knight’s face. Only the nose was protected by a piece of metal called a nasal; like in this case. But in the 13th century, the helmet was progressively closed like in these examples.

The shield: The shield was made of wood and was covered with leather. In the 12th century, the knights started to paint their coat of arms on their shield.

The horses: These were more than simple means of transport, as they set the knight apart from the other warriors. They were a part of the military equipment, too, and gave great advantages to the knight on the battlefields. In medieval literature, knights were shown to be very attached to their horses and gave them names, like they did to their swords. Thus, we read in Arthurian romances that Gringolet is Gawain’s faithful steed; but it was also common in real life, as was the case of Babieca, the warhorse of famous Spanish knight Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar, El Cid. Only his warhorse had a name, because a knight owned more than one horse for each task: one to carry his armour and his weapons, one to travel, one for tourneys, another to ride to battle...

The knight’s equipment was costly, because iron was rare and expensive at the time. Good quality armour and weapons were even rarer, and there were blacksmiths who specialised in fabricating armour and/or swords for knights instead of more general metalworking. The warhorses, of races that do not exist anymore, were also extremely costly, as they were bred and trained especially to not be afraid of the clamor of battle, and they were also used as weapons themselves, for they were trained to kick, bite and trample foot soldiers, archers, and fallen knights. Let’s not forget that a knight had to ensure the life of several horses but also squires, who worked for him, taking care of his horses, his armour and training with him. Consequently, this expensive profession was reserved to the aristocracy, that had the money and the time to lead that kind of life. However, it was possible for young boys who had physical aptitude and skill for this job to be recruited by a powerful lord that would pay for their training and equipment.

Knighthood in Westeros

Like in medieval Europe, knights in Westeros are also sworn to fight for a lord, sometimes temporarily, other times long-term. This is how Duncan the Tall describes his life in The Hedge Knight:

The only life he knew was the life of a hedge knight, riding from keep to keep, taking service with this lord and that lord, fighting in their battles and eating in their halls until the war was done.

Knights in Westeros are warriors on horseback, too. The importance of the horse is especially emphasised in the Elder Brother’s speech to Brienne at the Quite Isle. In it, the Elder Brother also stresses the military function of the knights.

When I died in the Battle of the Trident. I fought for Prince Rhaegar, though he never knew my name. I could not tell you why, save that the lord I served a lord who served a lord who had decided to support the dragon rather than the stag. Had he decided elsewise, I might have been on the other side of the river. The battle was a bloody thing. The singers would have us believe it was all Rhaegar and Robert struggling in the stream for a woman both of them claimed to love, but I assure you, other men were fighting too, and I was one. I took an arrow through the thigh and another through the foot, and
my horse was killed from under me, yet I fought on. I can still remember how desperate I was to find another horse, for I had no coin to buy one, and without a horse I would no longer be a knight. That was all that I was thinking of, if truth be told
. I never saw the blow that felled me.
I heard hooves behind my back and thought, a horse!
But before I could turn something slammed into my head and knocked me back into the river, where by rights I should have drowned.

But knights are more than common warriors, because they are supposed to follow a certain code of honour that differentiates them from the ordinary sellswords. Here is what Ser Arlan of Pennytree and Ser Barristan Selmy have to say on this subject:

A hedge knight must hold tight to his pride. Without it, he was no more than a sellsword.

. . .

It is chivalry which makes a true knight, not a sword … without honor, a knight is no more than a common killer. It is better to die with honor than to live without it.

Not every warrior can become a knight. In order to do so, one must stand a vigil and be anointed by a septon, which means the man has to keep the Seven. After that, the aspiring knight must take his vows as stated in The Hedge Knight.

… it is more customary to stand a vigil and be anointed by a septon before taking vows.

And the oath of knighthood is the following according to The Hedge Knight:

… a touch on the right shoulder with the blade. "In the name of the Warrior I charge you to be brave."

The sword moves from right shoulder to left. "In the name of the Father I charge you to be just."

Right shoulder. "In the name of the Mother I charge you to defend the young and innocent."

The left. "In the name of the Maid I charge you to protect all women…

So according to these vows, knights are expected to be brave and just; but they should also protect the weak, the innocent and the women. And, according to Barristan Selmy, they should be chivalrous as well. But this is not the only way to become a knight in Westeros. In The Hedge Knight, Duncan the Tall claims that he was knighted in the following manner:

"He always said he meant for me to be a knight, as he was. When he was dying he called for his longsword and bade me kneel. He touched me once on my right shoulder and once on my left, and said some words, and when I got up he said I was a knight."

"Hmpf." The man Plummer rubbed his nose. "
Any knight can make a knight, it is true
, though it is more customary to stand a vigil and be anointed by a septon before taking your vows. Were there any witnesses to your dubbing?"

"Only a robin, up in a thorn tree. I heard it as the old man was saying the words.
He charged me to be a good knight and true, to obey the seven gods, defend the weak and innocent, serve my lord faithfully and defend the realm with all my might, and I swore that I would.
"

In this extract, Duncan asserts that he was knighted by a dying old knight, who made him swear to serve his lord faithfully and also to protect the weak. This oath is actually quite similar to the one taken in the official ceremony. In The Mystery Knight, the reader learns that Ser Glendon was knighted in front of witnesses in a similar way. However, this time, there is no mention of any oath:

“Half a year ago, however, a party of knights chanced upon the brothel and a certain Ser Morgan Dunstable took a drunken fancy to Ser Glendon's sister. As it happens, the sister was still a virgin and Dunstable did not have the price of her maidenhead. So a bargain was struck.
Ser Morgan clubbed her brother a knight, right there in the Pussywillows in front of twenty witnesses
, and afterwards little sister took him upstairs and let him pluck her flower. And there you are."

Any knight could make a knight. When he was squiring for Ser Arlan, Dunk had heard tales of other men who'd bought their knighthood with a kindness or a threat or a bag of silver coins, but never with a sister's maiden-head.

This extract also shows a less honourable aspect of knighthood: sometimes, it is not enough to be a brave and gallant knight to deserve the title of knight. In this case, Glendon Flowers is a talented warrior, but Ser Morgan accepts to knight him only in exchange for his sister’s virginity; so this example illustrates that sometimes all you need to do is to bring the right gift to the right person. In short, knighthood can be bought, although it seems quite alien to the values it promotes.

This leads us to another problematic aspect of knighthood. To begin with, knighthood is an unreliable profession, as knights are not always assured to be able to maintain their way of life. This can lead them to rather questionable acts that go against every knightly principle, as is shown in The Hedge Knight:

There were tourney from time to time as well, though less often, and he knew that some hedge knights
turned robber
during lean winters, though the old man never had.

Another problematic aspect lies in the nature of the knighthood oath. Knights are bound to serve their lord. However, what if their lord asked them to kill women and children, whom they swore to protect? What if their king sexually assaulted the queen they swore to protect? Jaime Lannister expresses this dilemma rather well in A Storm of Swords when he tells Brienne why he slew king Aerys. And in A Feast for Crows he shows that his vows are once again in contradiction:

The day he burned his mace-and-dagger Hand, Jaime and Jon Darry had stood at guard outside her bedchamber whilst the king took his pleasure. “You’re hurting me,” they had heard Rhaella cry through the oaken door. “You’re hurting me.” In some queer way, that had been worse than Lord Chelsted’s screaming. “We are sworn to protect her as well,” Jaime had finally been driven to say. “We are,” Darry allowed, “but not from him.”

As it can be seen, knights in Westeros are mounted soldiers with a specific code of honour; a code of conduct that is full of contradictions, as following one rule can lead the knights to break another. This would theoretically make it nearly impossible to live up to the ideals of knighthood. So, if knighthood is built on such contradictions, what can a knight do to be a “true knight”?

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Non-knightly and knightly figures in Sansa’s storyline

At the beginning of the story, Sansa is a girl fascinated by knights, but after being repeatedly beaten by knights, she has to reevaluate her opinion of them. She comes to the rather shocking conclusion that the only people who have ever done right by her during her time in King’s Landing aren’t knights.

Knights are sworn to defend the weak, protect women, and fight for the right, but none of them did a thing. Only Ser Dontos had tried to help, and he was no longer a knight. No more than the Imp was, nor the Hound … the Hound hated knights … I hate them too, Sansa thought. They are no true knights, not one of them.

So, who are these knightly and non-knightly figures in Sansa’s narrative? Let’s name them: (Jaime and Brienne are not included in this list as they haven’t had an impact in Sansa’s storyline yet.)

Sandor Clegane

In his own words, he is not a knight. He even goes as far as showing contempt for the concept of knighthood:

I am no knight. I spit on them and their vows.

This is quite interesting, because as far as we know, Sandor Clegane displays nearly all the marks of a knight. To begin with, he is a warrior (and a very talented one at that) sworn to House Lannister. Also, if we read carefully, we will see that he has all the equipment of a knight, and fights like one, too. The Hand’s Tourney is the first time the reader sees him fight. On this particular occasion, Sandor unhorses Jaime Lannister in the joust (a horseback fight with lances) which attests of his talent as Jaime is one of the best fighters in Westeros. He also seems quite attached to his sword, another important part of the knight’s equipment:

“So long as I have this,” he said, lifting the sword from her throat, “there’s no man on earth I need fear.

Sandor wears a plain grey and dinted armour (hauberk). Ned Stark describes his armour in the following manner:

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.

This description is also curiously reminiscent of Sansa’s description of Jory Cassel in the previous chapter. Thus, Sandor Clegane seems associated with the North and its people.

“Jory looks a beggar among these others,” Septa Mordane sniffed when he appeared. Sansa could only agree.
Jory’s armor was blue-grey plate without device or ornament, and a thin grey cloak hung from his shoulders
like a soiled rag.

In addition, he wears the Hound helmet that is famous in the Seven Kingdoms. Similar helmets existed in the medieval era as you can see from the links provided above. However, these helmets are thought to have had an entertaining function, as they were probably part of “costume armour.” Sandor also owns a shield with his house’s sigil on it:

Panting from exertion, Clegane jerked his shield up to cover his head just in time, and the cave rang with the loud crack of splintering oak.

“His shield is afire,” Gendry said in a hushed voice. Arya saw it in the same instant. The flames had spread across
the chipped yellow paint, and the three black dogs were engulfed
.

Finally, he owns Stranger, a bad-tempered black courser and one of the few named horses in the story. Through the Elder Brother’s speech to Brienne, we can perceive how important a horse is for the knight, as noted previously. And Sandor strongly expresses his concern for his horse when he accepts to go to Flea Bottom despite his fear of fire:

“Never saw her.”
The Hound glanced around the yard, scowling. “Where’s my horse? If anything 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. Fire, 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.

Stranger’s price might explain Sandor’s attachment to him. After all, Stranger has been trained to be a weapon, as Brienne notices:

She had seen the stallion,
had heard him kicking
, but she had not understood. Destriers were trained to kick and bite.
In war they were a weapon, like the men who rode them
. Like the Hound.

But such horses are also hard to find and knights used to train them themselves, which could also explain his attachment. This short extract also gives evidence of a special relationship between Sandor and Stranger as they seem to have similar functions. This special relationship is made even more evident in one of Arya’s chapters:

The horse was a heavy courser, almost as big as a destrier but much faster. Stranger, the Hound called him. Arya had tried to steal him once, when Clegane was taking a piss against a tree, thinking she could ride off before he could catch her
. Stranger had almost bitten her face off. He was gentle as an old gelding with his master, but otherwise he had a temper as black as he was
. She had never known a horse so quick to bite or kick.

To conclude this part on Stranger, note that the Elder Brother’s biggest fear at the time of his “death” was to have lost his horse, the incarnation of his knight’s status. As we know, this is not the case for Sandor. We can conclude, then, that in terms of equipment and fighting technique, Sandor is a proper knight.

But Sandor also displays knightly behaviours by bravely rescuing Sansa and by giving her advice. He even seems to find a middle ground in serving and protecting his king, his official job, but also in protecting the fair maid of the tale, which is what is expected of a proper knight. This is particularly prominent at the end of A Game of Thrones when he manages to save both Joffrey and Sansa. In fact, it is only because he has never taken the knighthood vow that Sandor Clegane is not considered a knight. However, not taking the vow does not prevent him from living in a knightly way as we have seen. Here is a link to my essay on courtly love so that you can see which precepts of behaviours for knights Sandor follows. And it certainly does not prevent him from being named Kingsguard despite a certain controversy at the time:

“The king and the council have decided that no man in the Seven Kingdoms is more fit to guard and to 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.

So Sandor Clegane is not a knight in title (“I am no ser”), but he is a knight in actions.

Ser Dontos Hollard

Our first encounter with Ser Dontos is on Joffrey’s first court session in A Game of Thrones. On that particular occasion, he is the only one to greet Sansa who is in disgrace after her father’s death. That day, Sansa notices that he is drunk as he always will on their following encounters. The next meeting happens on Joffrey’s name day’s tourney. That day, his knightly skills are seriously called into question as he does not wear half of his equipment and is unable to climb on his horse. We have already discussed the importance of the horse and the fact that Ser Dontos is unable to ride shows that his alcoholism affects his profession but it might also be a hint about his real ability.

Finally a chestnut stallion trotted into view in a swirl of crimson and scarlet silks,
but Ser Dontos was not on it
. The knight appeared a moment later, cursing and staggering,
clad in breastplate and plumed helm and nothing else
. His legs were pale and skinny, and his manhood flopped about obscenely
as he chased after his horse
. The watchers roared and shouted insults.
Catching his horse by the bridle, Ser Dontos tried to mount, but this animal would not stand still and the knight was so drunk that his bare foot kept missing the stirrup
.

Ultimately, in a reversal of the traditional tale, it is the fair maid who saves the knight, thanks to her wit. Again, this seems to negate his knightly skills. After this disastrous performance, Ser Dontos is turned into a fool. His fall from grace is symbolised by his tin armour, his broomstick horse and his melon morningstar which are only toys compared to the real items. Also in the medieval era, it was considered shameful for a knight to fight with wooden weapons because only the poor and the peasants fought with staffs. So once again, his knighthood is negated. In A Clash of Kings, Ser Dontos also proposes to help Sansa to escape King’s Landing, but he lies to her when he pretends that no one sent him.

“Are you going to stab me?” Dontos asked.

“I will” she said. “Tell me who sent you.”

“No one, sweet lady.
I swear it on my honor as a knight
.”

However, at that point Dontos is officially no longer a knight, so his claim seems a bit dodgy. In addition, we saw in the previous chapter what kind of knight he used to be: an old drunk unable to dress and fight as a knight. This is a sharp contrast to Sandor Clegane, who despite being occasionally drunk still manages to fight and do his duty efficiently. Ser Dontos also lies to Sansa whereas Sandor offers her honesty (“A hound will die for you, but never lie to you”). Despite all his personal issues, this comparison is far more flattering for Sandor Clegane. On top of that, Sansa wishes Ser Dontos were more like Clegane.

She was afraid of Sandor Clegane… and yet,
some part of her wished that Ser Dontos had a little of the Hound’s ferocity
.

Ser Loras Tyrell

Ser Loras Tyrell is a dashing, talented young warrior. He is not only an excellent jouster but also seems to be the essence of gallantry:

After each victory, Ser Loras would remove his helm and ride slowly round the fence, and finally
pluck a single white rose from the blanket and toss it to some fair maiden in the crowd.

His beauty and his gallantry deeply affect Sansa:

Her eyes were only for Ser Loras. When the white horse stopped in front of her,
she thought her heart would burst.

To the other maidens he had given white roses, but the one he plucked for her was red. “Sweet lady,” he said, “no victory is half so beautiful as you.”
Sansa took the flower timidly, struck dumb by his gallantry. His hair was a mass of lazy brown curls, his eyes like liquid gold.

Despite being dubbed a “true knight” by Sansa, the events of the Hand’s tourney cast some doubts on this statement. At this tourney, Ser Loras wins against Gregor Clegane only because he rode a mare in heat to inflame the Mountain’s stallion. This is dishonorable, as Ser Barristan affirms that “There is small honor in tricks.” It may also reveal a lack of confidence in his own fighting skills on Loras’s part. Despite being good, he is not good enough to win against the Mountain. Thus, when it comes to fighting for his life, Loras Tyrell is unable to defeat Gregor Clegane. Ironically enough, it is an ungallant, uncouth and ugly non-Ser who rescues him in the end. During that scene, Sandor Clegane demonstrates his skills and honour at the expense of his brother and Ser Loras.

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
.

Unlike Ser Loras, Sandor does not need tricks to keep the Mountain at bay. In addition, Loras’s gallantry is meaningless as it is shown in the following extract.

Ser Loras gave her a modest smile. “I spoke only a simple truth, that any man with eyes could see.”

He doesn’t remember
, Sansa realized, startled.
He is only being kind to me, he doesn’t remember me or the rose or any of it
. She had been certain that it meant something, that meant everything.

In short, Loras seems to be just a good enough fighter, but his gallantry is empty, as Sansa experiences it later. This is what finally destroyed Sansa’s belief that Loras is a perfect knight.

The Kingsguard

In Westeros, the members of the Kingsguard are the royal bodyguards, their job is to protect the king and his family, but they also have to obey his orders unquestioningly; which is sometimes problematic as it was shown earlier. The Kingsguard is allegedly composed of the seven finest knights in the kingdoms.

This concept of Kingsguard is not only a literary creation, as there were several similar institutions throughout history. This is the case of the seven Somatophylakes (literally bodyguards, but commonly translated as Chosen Companions), the seven bodyguards of Philip II of Macedon and his son Alexander the Great. The Somatophylakes were chosen among the élite cavalry which would make them actual knights. Being a Somatophylax was considered a great honour too, just like the Kingsguard.

Under the reigns of Robert and Joffrey, the Kingsguard seems to be slowly losing its prestige. To begin with, at the Hand’s tourney, only one of them manages to reach the final fours although the seven of them entered the competition, and out of seven, three fall to a very young knight, Loras Tyrell:

At sixteen, he was the youngest rider on the field, yet
he had unhorsed three knights of the Kingsguard
that morning in his first three jousts.

After Robert’s death, they also stop obeying the rules of chivalry when they repeatedly beat a defenceless Sansa Stark. This drop of prestige continues as the story progresses; Kingsguard die and they are replaced by obscure sellswords of dubious reputation like Osmund Kettleblack.

So, the Kingsguard have moved from skilled chivalrous knights to thugs who beat defenseless girls on their master’s orders. In Jaime’s own words:

He wondered what Ser Arthur Dayne would have to say of this lot. “
How is it that the Kingsguard has fallen so low
[?]”

Conclusion

Both in Westeros and medieval Europe, there is an important gap between the ideals of knighthood celebrated in literature and the harsh realities of life. Thus, Sansa is not the only one guilty of romanticizing knights. During her time in King’s Landing, Sansa encounters several knightly figures but soon comes to realize that perfect knights in shining armour do not exist. However, some of these characters like Sandor Clegane and Loras Tyrell act closer to what one would expect from a knight, although Clegane claims he is not one of them. But as the story progresses, Sansa learns, like her brother Bran, that “a man’s worth is not marked by a "ser" before his name”.

Fin :)

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I thought to leave my milestone post for my Animal project, but after this essay I can't resist posting my impressions.

Mahaut, this was beautifully written, well-researched and so insightful. I am really in awe with this essay. Truly brilliant job, my friend.

While I was researching heraldry in knights, I came to conclusion that beside that code of honor, there is a strong sense of vanity. First shields were colored in need, but in only 20 years, knights transformed this practice to show off with wonderfully colored shields and animals on them. It's wonderful how each member of the Kingsguard had this vanity in him. From Dayne's ''Kingsguard doesn't flee'' to incredible and shallow idea of knighthood Robert's Kingsguard had to Barristan who is honored of being a Kingsguard. Being a knight wasn't just about duty to landlord, or fighting. It was an honor that distinguished you from the rest. And just like you wonderfully pointed out, knights do see themselves as something more than common warriors.

But, behind code of honor, beautiful shield and chivarly, there is an shallowness and emptiness of made vows. We all know what has been Rhaella Targaryen surviving throughout the years. We saw Sansa's sufferings at the hand of knights. Rumors about Lewyn Martell and several members of Robert's Kingsguard, most notably Aerys Oakheart, about not honoring chastity vow speaks a lot. And that's the reality of the knighthood in Westeros. But above that, it all depends on one thing. It's not about ideal, it's about person living up to that. A 'true knight' does exist, and whether the harsh reality makes it difficult to find, it doesn't mean that he isn't out there. Perhaps it's just romantic notion that GRRM has deconstructed, but no matter how harsh and cruel reality is, no matter that vows aren't respected, there will always be those that keep some oaths. And that's why Sansa's line Mahaut quoted at the beginning is so true. If the perfect Queen isn't Queen, why would a true knight be a knight? It's about essence, not title, as Mahaut perfectly concluded in her essay.

One more time, congratulations on this onderful piece. It was truly an honor reading it.

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So you have the new knights proving their purity in a place that Sansa had wished burnt to the ground and associates, above all else, with the murder of her father. The blood on their feet even feels reminiscent of Ned's death. These knights prove their 'trueness' in what is, for Sansa, a symbol of injustice and supreme cruelty.

I thought it was interesting given the importance of 'true knights' to Sansa and the evolution of that concept for her.

Nice observation. The description of the men making that short pilgrimage from Baelor's always seemed to me as one of the rare moments where there's some sense of honour and dignity associated with knighthood.

But as the story progresses, Sansa learns, like her brother Bran, that “a man’s worth is not marked by a "ser" before his name”.

Great exploration of this subject, Mahaut :) A scene that aptly illustrates your concluding statement is when Sansa arrives at the Fingers in ASOS:

The ladder to the forecastle was steep and splintery, so Sansa accepted a hand up from Lothor Brune. Ser Lothor, she had to remind herself; the man had been knighted for his valor in the Battle of Blackwater. Though no proper knight would wear those patched brown breeches and scuffed boots, nor that cracked water-stained leather jerkin. A square-faced stocky man with a squashed nose and a mat of nappy grey hair, Brune spoke seldom. He is stronger than he looks, though. She could tell by the ease with which he lifted her, as if she weighed nothing at all.

Here we see that although Sansa acknowledges Brune's rather homely way of dressing, in contrast to what a "proper knight" would wear, her real focus is on the quiet strength that he displays, which she clearly appreciates. He may have been recently knighted, but it does not prove his worth in Sansa's estimation.

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