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brashcandy

From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XX

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We've now reached the end of our little project on Littlefinger and the Hound, which we hope has been as productive and thought-provoking as was our intention when embarking on this series of analyses; so after the fifth and last part that yours truly will post in a moment, a wrap-up by Brashcandy with what we've learnt from these compare/contrast pieces will follow later.

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A Closer Look at Littlefinger and the Hound V: Cloaks

Bloody cloaks and bloodied hands

Sansa received a cloak from the Hound and another from Littlefinger during the Blackwater and the Purple Wedding respectively, scenes that are fundamentally escape plots fraught with lots of chaotic details, and in which her safety is at risk for different reasons. Clegane’s hasty escape plan goes horribly wrong due to an unfortunate confluence of psychological, behavioural and circumstantial factors, whilst Baelish’s goes off as planned, though he had the advantage of early planning, sobriety, ready means, a pawn to take Sansa to him, helpful servants at his disposal, powerful partners in crime to create the right opportunity...

Although it may not be immediately noticeable, Sansa's agency is the central issue in all the occasions a cloak is given to her, because the cloaks “given” to her by each of the three men who did that in her arc up to this point represent their respective attitudes towards Sansa’s freedom of choice. Starting with the Hound, although he had given Sansa his Kingsguard cloak to cover herself before, it’s the second time he does it which is the more significant of the two, for then he didn’t really attempt at giving her that but rather left his cloak on the ground, indicating the regret he feels over his behaviour and his recognition that forcing Sansa to come with him would be wrong. After he’d departed, we read:

When she crawled out of bed, long moments later, she was alone. She found his cloak on the floor, twisted up tight, the white wool stained by blood and fire. The sky outside was darker by then, with only a few pale green ghosts dancing against the stars. A chill wind was blowing, banging the shutters. Sansa was cold. She shook out the torn cloak and huddled beneath it on the floor, shivering.

Here we see Sansa seeking genuine warmth and comfort beneath the Hound’s cloak, like she had found comfort when she was stripped and beaten in public, and he was the person amongst many witnesses to step forward and give her a cloak that, in the end, isn’t strictly his personal cape nor has his House colours and sigil but is rather a status symbol, an uniform like the crimson cloaks of the soldiers of his Lannister masters or the gold ones of the City Watchers; and even though she had no option but to clutch that cloak since she was half-naked and had nothing else to cover herself with, it was definitely her decision to find whatever little consolation she could by finding the coarse woollen fabric finer than velvet. That would be the first time Clegane’s snowy white cloak was dirtied with the melon juice on Sansa’s face, and if her “angry red welts” did bleed, then also figuratively with her blood. In the scene described in the quoted passage, covering herself with his Kingsguard cloak is undoubtedly also a choice she makes, because: a. he didn’t give it to her, he tossed it away, and b. she’s in her bedroom, and there were warmer and certainly cleaner garments available, yet she chose that soiled woollen rag instead.

And she didn’t dispose of it either:

The night of the battle, Sandor Clegane had come to her chambers to take her from the city, but Sansa had refused. Sometimes she lay awake at night, wondering if she’d been wise.
She had his stained white cloak hidden in a cedar chest beneath her summer silks. She could not say why she’d kept it.

Traditionally, a maiden was given a new or inherited cedar chest by her mother or grandmother as soon as she was nearing the age of betrothal and womanhood, with the purpose of filling it with jewellery, fine clothing, bedclothes and linen that she would choose in person and often embroider herself, since all of it would be her personal property and would then take with her to her new home on her wedding day; which is why it was called a “hope chest” and why it slowly became a symbol of dreams, heritage, ties to the original family, wishes for a better future, etc.; and such a chest had to be made of cedar because this wood is extremely resistant and supposed to be purifying and protecting. The cedar box Sansa owned was therefore probably passed on to her by Catelyn and was certainly brought from Winterfell like all of her few possessions, so it’s a link not only to her lost home but a reminder of the hope she still harbours.

Back to the cloaks, interestingly, Sansa’s feeling cold during the Blackwater scene has a parallel in the scene with Baelish during her escape:

Two sailors were waiting by the rail to help her onto the deck. Sansa was trembling. “She’s cold,” she heard someone say. He took off his cloak and put it around her shoulders. “There, is that better, my lady? Rest easy, the worst is past and done.”

She knew the voice.
But he’s in the Vale,
she thought. Ser Lothor Brune stood beside him with a torch.

It’s the same perception of “cold” that prompts Littlefinger to give Sansa his cloak on the boat. But what is interesting here is that we have no indication that Sansa was trembling because she was physically cold, and neither is there any mention at any point in the chapter that the weather was particularly chill. Indeed, in preparing for her escape in the godswood after Joffrey is murdered, she recalls the recommendation she’d been told:

Dress warmly
,
Ser Dontos had told her, and
dress dark
. She had no blacks, so
she chose a dress of thick brown wool.
The bodice was decorated with freshwater pearls, though.
The cloak will cover them
. The cloak was a deep green, with a large hood. She slipped the dress over her head, and donned the cloak, though she left the hood down for the moment.

So Littlefinger misunderstands the reason for Sansa’s trembling, which has more to do with her fear and trepidation than experiencing distress due to the weather. He has provided no comfort or sense or security as he imagines by placing his own cloak, which certainly is in the colours of his House and embroidered with his sigil, on top of hers.

Thus once again, we see a level of presumption on Baelish’s part that simply isn’t there with the Hound. The latter is disgusted with his own behaviour, whilst Littlefinger celebrates his deceit, asking Sansa if Tyrion had liked his jousting dwarves. He tells her the worst is over, but she has no idea that he’s been the architect of much of her misery and imprisonment in King’s Landing, including the Lannister marriage cloak that was forced on her due in great part to Littlefinger.

Therefore, it could be argued that this cloak is truly the bloody one, though literally it’s clean. What looks like freedom to Sansa is just further entrapment, with a man who will do anything and say anything, even slander her mother’s reputation, to ensure that he gains more power over her. With the Hound, Sansa could choose to go or stay, but here she has no choice but to go with him, and that is how Baelish planned it. To refuse and return to the capital would mean certain trial and execution.

And there’s also a passage in the same chapter that is also meant to recall Sansa’s thoughts about the Hound’s cloak in her first ASOS chapter, quoted above. On the ship, Littlefinger tells her:

The cabin was low and cramped, but a featherbed had been laid upon the narrow sleeping shelf to make it more comfortable, and thick furs piled atop it. “It will be snug, I know, but you shouldn’t be too uncomfortable.” Littlefinger pointed out a cedar chest under the porthole. “You’ll find fresh garb within. Dresses, smallclothes, warm stockings, a cloak. Wool and linen only, I fear. Unworthy of a maid so beautiful, but they’ll serve to keep you dry and clean until we can find you something finer.”

The cedar chest Littlefinger has on the boat likely doesn’t belong to Sansa as hers contained summer silks, not wool and linen clothing, and getting it out of her room would’ve raised unduly suspicion. So here what we see is that Martin bothered to reference another cedar chest that happens to contain “a cloak,” as if meaning to highlight the free choice vs. coercion dichotomy: he just choses the cedar chest and its contents for her without giving her the opportunity to fill it by herself, as is the whole point of having a hope chest, implicitly assuming he knows exactly what her hopes and dreams are about. In this regard, both cedar chests are a metaphor: the second one is the dreams and marriages imposed on her because of political ambitions at the cost of losing her autonomy and her home, and the first one could be a metaphor for recuperating that which was lost. After all, it’s not a fortuitous coincidence that in psychotherapy we have a cognitive-behavioural technique for jaded, hopeless, purposeless and depressed people that we call Hope Chest, which essentially consists in identifying and reconnecting individuals to those old dreams, goals, memories, etc., with the purpose of achieving self-fulfillment.

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We've now reached the end of our little project on Littlefinger and the Hound, which we hope has been as productive and thought-provoking as was our intention when embarking on this series of analyses; so after the fifth and last part that yours truly will post in a moment, a wrap-up by Brashcandy with what we've learnt from these compare/contrast pieces will follow later.

I was finally able to read the last two installments of your Littlefinger/Hound project. As usual, the essays are brilliantly insightful, as well as a joy to read, brashcandy and Milady! With regards to LF and Sandor's respective attitudes toward their houses, brashcandy's point about Sandor's pride suggesting recuperation for himself and the social system has me wondering if it also could suggest a more hopeful future for House Clegane. Mayhaps Sandor will be able to reclaim and reform his house based on the original ideals of courage, fidelity, and sincerity, serving a great house he actually respects, while House Baelish falls into obscurity. Sandor Clegane just might have a longer life than I've expected for him.

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A wonderful essay, Milady. I don't have anything to add other than that trying to take away the chill when she isn't cold is another small nod at denying or ignoring her Stark identity. I do want to say that the "hope chest" metaphor is just brilliant and perfectly captures the essence of Petyr's whole dynamic with Sansa.

Pod, cedar has a distinct and potent smell (which I happen to think is very pleasant) and I think it is the smell that repels the moths. Cedar is also more rot resistant than other woods. When Martin describes the smells in the Northern forests the memory of the scent of cedars is the one most often triggered for me.

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CONCLUSION

In one of the first important events of A Song of Ice and Fire - the King's visit to Winterfell - Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon journey to the crypts to view the final resting place of the former's sister, Lyanna Stark. It's there Robert reveals an enduring fascination, one that even death has not diminished: not only with Lyanna, his purported beloved, but his rival Rhaegar Targaryen.

“In my dreams, I kill him every night,” Robert admitted. “A thousand deaths will still be less than he deserves.”

The Robert/Rhaegar/Lyanna affair exemplifies the theory of mimetic desire, introduced by René Girard in his text Deceit, Desire and the Novel where he examines the triangular structure of desire, which features a subject, object and a mediator/model. Girard's analysis, despite its problems, provides instructive insight with which to analyze the rivalry between Petyr Baelish and Sandor Clegane, one distinguished by the fact that the men are as yet unaware of this "conflict" with each other, revolving around their feelings for Sansa Stark.

Girard views the concept of spontaneous desire to be inherently flawed, arguing instead that we desire according to an other. Simply put, our desires are mediated: based not on a natural reaction, but dependent on someone else. As Brian Robinette explains in his article 'Deceit, Desire and the Desert':

Whereas we typically imagine desire arising from a simple subject - object relation (for example I desire this toy, this occupation, this style of dress, and so on), in fact the object is mediated and transfigured by light of another's attention. Desirability lies not in the object, per se, but in the value others confer upon it.

This perspective illuminates the respective "turning point" incidents in the personal narratives of the Hound and Littlefinger. In reading Sandor's story of his disfigurement, the mimetic nature of the attraction and punishment he suffers is foregrounded:

“I was younger than you, six, maybe seven. A woodcarver set up shop in the village under my father’s keep, and to buy favor he sent us gifts. The old man made marvelous toys. I don’t remember what I got, but it was Gregor’s gift I wanted. A wooden knight, all painted up, every joint pegged separate and fixed with strings, so you could make him fight. Gregor is five years older than me, the toy was nothing to him, he was already a squire, near six foot tall and muscled like an ox. So I took his knight, but there was no joy to it, I tell you. I was scared all the while, and true enough, he found me. There was a brazier in the room. Gregor never said a word, just picked me up under his arm and shoved the side of my face down in the burning coals and held me there while I screamed and screamed.

The value that Sandor accords to the toy does not merely correspond to an idealization of knighthood, but because the toy is Gregor's. He may have been afraid of his brother, but Gregor at this early time undoubtedly still served as Sandor's mediator/model, the older sibling who was already a squire and almost freakishly big and strong for his age. Similarly, despite the fact that Gregor was already too old to be playing with toys, his abusive response is fuelled by Sandor's clear desire for the object.

With Baelish, we have the archetypal rivalry featuring two men and a woman which Girard examines in his study of European novels. LF's recollections to Sansa underline this triangular conflict:

“Your mother was my queen of beauty once,” the man said quietly.

There was a time when Cat was all I wanted in this world. I dared to dream of the life we might make and the children she would give me . . . but she was a daughter of Riverrun, and Hoster Tully. Family, Duty, Honor, Sansa. Family, Duty, Honor meant I could never have her hand. But she gave me something finer, a gift a woman can give but once. How could I turn my back upon her daughter? In a better world, you might have been mine, not Eddard Stark’s.

As a young ward of the Tully's, Littlefinger becomes infatuated with Catelyn, but if we recall Milady's observation upthread that Cat was likely already betrothed to Brandon by the time LF came to be fostered at Riverrun, and his own transference of the rivalry from Brandon to Ned, the relevance of mimetic desire in LF's attraction towards Cat is discernible. As we saw in the example of Robert's attitude to Rhaegar, the preoccupation with the rival can oftentimes be even more consuming and powerful than towards the object. There is an implicit danger in this obsession which Robinette further outlines:

... our capacity for imitation can indeed become mechanical and destructive. If the other models my desire, he or she may become my rival in its fulfillment. Because desire is triangular ... it harbors here potential for all manner of conflict, including such "passions" as envy, fear, anger, loathing, hatred and resentment.

These emotions are recognizable features not only in the "originally" dysfunctional relationships of these two men, but also within the wider "love triangle" motif of the series which acts as the fundamental framework for Martin's exploration of intimate/romantic relationships, highlighting the role of the other in how and why we desire.

As we have tried to explore in the preceding essays of the project, what makes the Sandor/Petyr rivalry so compelling is that the men are not aware of each other's role in Sansa's life - an important choice by GRRM in creating narrative tension, but more so because it facilitates Sansa's agency, transforming her from the potentially doomed object of men's desires, to an active subject in how the drama unfolds. Indeed, one of the primary criticisms of Girard's work by feminist scholars is that it displaces the importance of women's experiences and does not give enough credit to female desire.

As one of the primary POV characters, the authority of Sansa's narrative was always assured, but within the dynamics of the story she occupied one of the most precarious positions in the patriarchal society of Westeros, defined by her early innocence, and "designated" to be a compliant conformer to society's rules and norms. In effect, Sansa was expected to be the ideal object choice, disconnected from her personal desires and the chance of genuine fulfillment.

By placing the Hound and Littlefinger in a rivalry that neither is aware of, the reader is forced to consider not the men's reactions to each other, but rather how Sansa responds to them. It is her desire that is significant, even as she is separated from Sandor Clegane at the end of the second novel, and later entrapped by Baelish. In her analysis of the triangulated rivalry between the main characters of El Curioso Impertinente, Ashley Hope Pérez observes the woman's predicament:

... what we see is precisely the rigorous exclusion of female desire from the closed relationship between Anselmo and Lothario, making Girard's model keenly relevant. Indeed, even the narrator, whose voice is emphatically male, participates in the restrictive structuring of the concepts through which Camila becomes intelligible to them only as an object and instrument.

In each of the five essays that compared LF and Sandor, Sansa is not a passive bystander transcribing their thoughts and behaviour to us or simply being "acted upon" in the schemes of others. At the Hand's tourney she has placed her own bet on the Hound, one that she only reveals after he has defeated Jaime Lannister (and informed by their meaningful interaction the previous night). In the respective promotion scenes, Martin presents her as an astute and compassionate observer of what is taking place in the court, and how it will affect her family. Her detection of Littlefinger's minty breath directly ties into his duplicity, and the overall awareness of scents reveals a keen "wolfish" sensibility. The essay on Bloody cloaks and Bloodied hands perhaps offers the strongest symbolism of Sansa making a free choice relating to her own desires, symbolism that grows stronger as Martin references the cloak up to her final chapter in AFFC. Unlike Camilla in El Curioso Impertinente, Sansa is not defined and subjugated by the rivalry, but instead it allows for the articulation of her desires and her overall growth as a character.

The "mechanical and destructive" potential of imitative desire can be appreciated in LF's transference of his resentment towards Ned, and his own perverse interest in Sansa as a Cat replacement lover and daughter. Instead of breaking free of the mediator/model after being beaten and humiliated by Brandon, LF continues its detrimental possibilities by viewing Ned as another obstacle in his "love" for Cat. An argument could be made that his desire for Sansa is further predicated on her being Joffrey's betrothed, and his direct involvement in the death or downfall of other romantic suitors or any other potential male rival that he knows of speaks to the destructive nature of LF's mimetic desire. The compulsion does not end with the removal of the rival, as evidenced by Robert's continued obsession with Rhaegar. Rather, LF's plan for Harry the Heir suggests that he's again setting up a mediator in his desire for Sansa. Like Robert, LF seems to have the same need to defeat his own silver prince in a thousand different guises. The task for Sansa becomes how to evade this kind of static and dehumanizing fate.

Unlike what we see with LF, Sandor Clegane's mimetic desire suffers a profound rupture after he is horribly burnt by his brother. The inclination towards knights and knighthood is fractured, especially when Gregor - the monstrous rival - is knighted, leading Sandor to appreciate the essential hypocrisy and callousness of this order:

“My father told everyone my bedding had caught fire, and our maester gave me ointments. Ointments! Gregor got his ointments too. Four years later, they anointed him with the seven oils and he recited his knightly vows and Rhaegar Targaryen tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Arise, Ser Gregor.’”

Just as it was Gregor's toy knight that attracted Sandor's interest, it is his brother's knighting that effects his contemptuous repudiation, illustrating how Sandor is caught in his own harmful relationship with the rival. But unlike LF who continues his pursuit of the object, involving perverse imitation of his mediators, Sandor attempts a complete disavowal of the object and consequently Gregor. However, this disavowal is still a mediated disavowal, caught within the dynamics of a dysfunctional relationship with his brother, and as such, results in the kind of bitterness and antipathy that defined Sandor's life and stunted his growth. The Elder Brother confirms:

Where other men dream of love, or wealth, or glory, this man Sandor Clegane dreamed of slaying his own brother, a sin so terrible it makes me shudder just to speak of it. Yet that was the bread that nourished him, the fuel that kept his fires burning. Ignoble as it was, the hope of seeing his brother’s blood upon his blade was all this sad and angry creature lived for . . . and even that was taken from him, when Prince Oberyn of Dorne stabbed Ser Gregor with a poisoned spear.”

Although the EB's words here are literally correct, they do not address the truth of the metaphysical qualities of desire, where we've seen that death alone is not enough to vanquish the rival. My contention is that it's the nature and development of Sandor's relationship with Sansa which effects this change, which allows for a functional and productive relation to the object. In this revision, Sansa acts as the mediator/model, reconfiguring Sandor's outlook on knighthood, even as she moves closer to a more realistic understanding due to his influence. In the new schema, Sandor no longer has to possess or repudiate the object through a rival. This positive interaction between the two corresponds to a process Robinette calls "creative mutuality":

Regarding creative mutuality, mimetic theory underscores the fundamental goodness of imitation in human development. We have all observed for instance, how infants naturally imitate facial expressions, or how toddlers' motor skills are learned by mirroring and interiorizing the bodily gestures of others. Long before the acquisition of language which itself is learned through imitation, mimetic responsiveness to gesture, touch, and articulated sound draws the infant into an intersubjective world that makes its nascent individuation possible... Mimesis is not necessarily mechanical or slavish, but a creative process that introduces novelty and uniqueness along the way.

Individuation is an important development for both these characters, and directly related to the theme of agency in Sansa's arc, transforming her from the mechanical "talking bird" into someone with a growing understanding of the expectations and institutions which impact her autonomy. For Sandor, who struggles to differentiate himself from his brother and exists in a kind of self-negating state of anger, this process is absolutely vital.

The Scapegoat: Tyrion Lannister

In mimetic theory, the scapegoat acts as the chosen person to diffuse the tension by bearing the burden of violence and responsibility that threatens to erupt between the two rivals. In the essay 'To Double-Business Bound: Girardian Triangles and Modernist Writing', Tom Cousineau writes on the scapegoat:

It is formed by, first, the protagonist, second, the rival who denies fulfilment of his desire, and, third, the scapegoat upon whom the protagonist displaces the suffering that otherwise would be his own.

Because LF and Sandor have no concept of each other as rivals, Tyrion Lannister becomes the visible scapegoat for each man in his relationship with Sansa, deflecting their attention from each other, but never intending to serve as a serious obstacle of Sansa's affection by the author. Cousineau illustrates how this works in The Great Gatsby:

In this triangle, the role of the protagonist is played by Nick Carraway, the model/obstable is, as always, Tom Buchanan, and Gatsby, who had been the protagonist of the classic Girardian triangle, has now become the scapegoat. It is interesting in this respect to recall that, in Fitzgerald's original conception of the novel, Nick Carraway was in love with Daisy. This bit of factual information helps us to see that, in the final version of the novel, Gatsby, the eponymous hero of the novel and its presumed center of interest, actually plays a subsidiary role in a novel that is "really" about the rivalry between Nick Carraway and Tom Buchanan.

In Littlefinger's case, Tyrion has served as his scapegoat from the first novel, as he places the blame for the dagger on the Imp and will later implicate him in Joffrey's death with the Tyrells. When he reveals the plot of the marriage to Willas Tyrell, LF indirectly scapegoats Tyrion again, this time in the marriage to Sansa, which he already knows is only a temporary predicament in light of his plans. Sandor and Tyrion also have a contentious relationship in AGOT, one which deteriorates by the end of the second book. Upon hearing that Tyrion is married to Sansa, Sandor wishes that Cersei would "dip him in wildfire and cook him."

Further, the constitution of a traditionally triangular relationship involving Tyrion shows how the woman's subjectivity can be threatened and negated. Sansa's narrative is virtually silenced during the time frame of the marriage and she's deeply depressed. Littlefinger is responsible for her entrapment within the marriage (not to erase Tyrion's personal responsibility), and Sandor on his deathbed is deeply remorseful, but he suggests annihilation in the face of such a terrible fate.

Sansa's confrontation with what is required of women in their marriages - "all men are beautiful" - contributes to the critical awareness noted above, and is significant to understanding her own desires as legitimate vs. what Septa Mordane preaches. As discussed, in the unknown rivalry it is LF who represents the greatest threat to her autonomy, in contrast to Sandor who facilitates the expression of those desires, and where there is the possibility of mutual fulfilment and growth.

Looking ahead to TWOW, it doesn't really matter whether or not Harry the Heir is a pleasant fellow with good intentions, because within the triangular structure of mimetic desire, his relation to Sansa (in order to arouse LF's desires to triumph over a rival) will only reinforce her status as an object and pawn. With respect to Tyrion, his relationship with Sansa is not only absent of any personal resonance for her, but on his end too.

TWOW spoiler

In the report of the second Tyrion chapter in TWOW, there's no mention of Sansa, but rather of Tyrion thinking about Shae, and receiving kisses from Penny. It doesn't prove much on its own, but it is suggestive (along with what we see in ADWD) that Tyrion's demons (or angels) are focused on women other than his estranged wife.

Ultimately, what Milady and I have attempted to highlight in the essays is how this rivalry helps to elucidate the characters of LF and the Hound, and what it means for the question of Sansa's agency. Given the positive potential of her relationship with Sandor, it's crucial that LF does not know (yet) of this relationship or just how much it has contributed to Sansa's development. We believe that it will work to her advantage, not in being rescued as a damsel in distress, but through an active engagement in her own liberation based on these very constructive partnerships she is able to form.

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Bravo, brashcandy!!! I never even considered Tyrion as a scapegoat before, nor do I recall a single thread discussing him as such. Food for thought, indeed. A bit more pondering is required before I comment at length, but, as usual, I thoroughly enjoyed this amazing essay. Much thanks to you and Milady!

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Yes I want to echo DogLover and say how much I enjoyed this series of essays! Great job Milady and Brash! I had mentioned this to Milady in a PM but it bears repeating here too that these essays really show how the opposing characters of Sandor and Petyr go right to their core. Given how thoroughly this was done I would say it was very carefully planned on the part of the author and since it is obvious which one is not faring as well in Sansa's thoughts, I'd say this is further proof of which character he planned as a romantic partner for Sansa. As for the conclusion, I too had not thought about Tyrion as a scapegoat and I really found that part of the last essay very interesting. I also really liked the parallels to the Rhaegar, Lyanna, Robert triangle.

ETA I meant to comment on this:

Looking ahead to TWOW, it doesn't really matter whether or not Harry the Heir is a pleasant fellow with good intentions, because within the triangular structure of mimetic desire, his relation to Sansa (in order to arouse LF's desires to triumph over a rival) will only reinforce her status as an object and pawn
I really think this is a key point and it shows that there is a basis for making a general prediction of where Sansa's story will go. I know it's impossible to predict details, but a thorough reading does reveal a trajectory or path for Sansa's character. A lot of people on this forum seem to think Sansa will go along merrily with LF's plans and marry Harry but the above suggests to me that the opposite will happen.

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Thanks for the appreciation, DL and Elba :)

... these essays really show how the opposing characters of Sandor and Petyr go right to their core. Given how thoroughly this was done I would say it was very carefully planned on the part of the author and since it is obvious which one is not faring as well in Sansa's thoughts, I'd say this is further proof of which character he planned as a romantic partner for Sansa.

I agree, and it surpasses the issue of romantic compatibility as well, considering that both men have taken on surrogate roles in Sansa's life - giving advice, acting as mentors, and actively involved in rescues. Sansa's choice is less about which man will be an ideal partner and more focused on what kind of "life philosophy" she will ultimately adopt and modify to suit. That LF offers her one which negates her own inclinations - "life is not a song" - and goes against the Stark principles of direct responsibility, suggests that we will eventually see a split occurring, especially as Sansa grows in confidence through the influence of women like Mya Stone and Myranda Royce.

With respect to surrogacy, Sandor's role also extends to Arya in the events surrounding the Red Wedding and their time in the Riverlands. What's interesting is that LF too "takes care" of an Arya - Jeyne Poole, who will eventually be provided as Ramsay Bolton's bride in the North. So there's not only a profound opposition in intent and behaviour of these two towards Sansa, but also with regard to her loved ones.

ETA I meant to comment on this:

I really think this is a key point and it shows that there is a basis for making a general prediction of where Sansa's story will go. I know it's impossible to predict details, but a thorough reading does reveal a trajectory or path for Sansa's character. A lot of people on this forum seem to think Sansa will go along merrily with LF's plans and marry Harry but the above suggests to me that the opposite will happen.

Yeah, if Tyrion is the scapegoat then Harry is the red herring. That both are generated by LF is already a bad sign for Sansa, and calls into question the idea that she could be empowered in a marriage to Harry.

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Don't know is this going to be welcomed - coming from a known Tyrion apologist I am - but your essay was very interesting and well-written, brashcandy. I'll second DogLover in what she said, that putting Tyrion in a position of a scapegoat is quite refreshing. Even though a number of readers rightfully recognized that the marriage between Sansa and Tyrion has no emotional meaning whatsoever for either of them, and that therefore GRRM never intended to incept any romance between them, the overall discussion about the subject is now, after brashcandy's contribution, finally ready for a conclusion: Tyrion is/was a scapegoat, while the true rivalry over Sansa's heart is between Sandor and Litllefinger.

And it is an ironic twist for Petyr - while fighting for Cat's love, he was the underdog; this time around, his rival is: the society would have much easier time accepting Sansa-Petyr than Sansa-Sandor, not to mention that even at the beginning of the saga Littlefinger, as a Master of coin, was in a much more powerful position than Sandor ever was. LF obviously learned how to enjoy and benefit from being a dark horse, and he'd like to be against favorites like Tyrion or Harry the Heir all the time, but he fails to see that in the fight for Sansa he is the favorite bound to loose. If he ends up 'loosing' Sansa just like he 'lost' Cat - though it would be more accurate to say he never had either of them - LF is going to be among the most tragic characters in the series.

Also, brashcandy, kudos for crafty and insightful parallels with "The Great Gatsby", a novel that obviously served as a great inspiration for GRRM especially in regards to Cat-LF-Sansa-Sandor rectangle.

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Also, brashcandy, kudos for crafty and insightful parallels with "The Great Gatsby", a novel that obviously served as a great inspiration for GRRM especially in regards to Cat-LF-Sansa-Sandor rectangle.

Thanks Miodrag :)

GRRM had an interesting blog post on the recent movie version of The Great Gatsby, and in the comments section he states:

... there's a lot of Gatsby in Littlefinger. Book Littlefinger, anyway. TV Littlefinger is a different sort of creature.

An excerpt from Martin's review of the movie:

I loved it.

And at the end, it broke my heart, the way the novel always does ever time I reread it, the way it did the first time I read it, back in the early 70s.

Now I will admit, I am prejudiced. This is one of my favorite books. This is a book that has vast personal meaning to me, one that has affected me deeply. The romantic in me identifies strongly with Jay Gatsby (and sometimes with Nick Carraway). I know what it is to chase after that green light. So I will not pretend to be disinterested.

But I love the book, I love the story, and I loved this movie. Go see it.

"... And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther.... And one fine morning — So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."

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Thank you very much Branshcandy and Milady for these wonderful essays and for your commitment :) .

The analysis is so thorough that I haven’t much to add. Like Elba, the thing that really strikes me after all these essays is the complete opposition between the two characters. Romantically or not, I don’t think that Sansa’s future lies with Littlefinger. We’ve seen her evolving and we’ve seen her changing her mind about the things that matter most to her. Courage, gentleness and honesty are values that she’s come to appreciate and associate with Sandor Clegane. These are also values that tie her up to her own family since it was her father who first tried to instill them into her:

"Sweet one," her father said gently, "listen to me. When you're old enough, I will make you a match with a high lord who's worthy of you, someone brave and gentle and strong. This match with Joffrey was a terrible mistake. That boy is no Prince Aemon, you must believe me."

This is what Sansa’s looking for. And Littlefinger is neither of these things.

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