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brashcandy

From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XX

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It's clear which relationship was a lot healthier at the end of everything, and whatever the physical/emotional distance between the two does not prevent Jon from insisting that Winterfell belongs to his sister, or Sansa from imagining how "sweet" it would be to see him again. It will be very interesting to see how these long-reaching bonds with their brothers play out for Sansa and Dany in the next two books.

Ok, now back to normal brother/sister relationship. I think Sansa and Jon mirrors each other paths in so many ways. Sansa, of course as a younger one, less experienced and deprived of role models Jon had, missed a very important moment Jon had, and I think she`ll have it too `Fetch me a block`. Sansa killed a girl and woman grew up. Her maturity in Vale isn`t just because of her new bastard status, it`s also because she learnt tough lessons on her own. So, once she has her `fetch me a block` moment, in some other form, it doesn`t have to be beheading or murder, she will become the ultimate Stark role model - Brandon the Builder. If Winterfell is going to be rebuilt, it`s going to be done with her in charge. For Sansa and Jon have something that is so different from other Stark kids. They are able to reunite the family.

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I know many people either want or think that Sansa will become Queen but I'm just not seeing it.

The first problem is that she isn't actively seeking power. Even if she was this leads to the second problem. Sansa has no claims except for the North. A few things need to happen for her to actually be Queen of the North though. First the North would have to remain independent of the IT. Second Bran needs to stay hidden, Rickon either needs to die or never show up again, and Jon can't be Robb's heir. All of these are unlikely but even if all the stars align there is another huge problem. Sansa was born in 286 making her what? 14 right? She isn't old enough to rule and would need a regent.

As for Sansa becoming a regent for someone like Rickon this also makes little sense. If she would need a regent herself she surely should be a regent. Also she isn't qualifed to become regent of the North in times like this where war is all around. If Rickon is seated in Winterfell someone like a Umber or Mormont would be a good regent. Someone that can lead men to battle and who understands war. This is not Sansa.

If Sansa does become Queen I think it will be by marriage. I thought Aegon/Sansa would be likely but now it's not looking like that will happen. The only other Kings are Euron, Tommen and Stannis. Stannis and Tommen are already married and I can't see Euron marrying Sansa.

I am intrigued by the idea of Jon/Sansa though. If R+L=J is true then Sansa would be marrying her cousin. This is something that was fairly common and something I think that is very possible. If I recall correctly Tywin married his cousin. So if Jon was King in the North that would make Sansa Queen. This is the most likely scenario imo,

My crackpot theory is that somehow Tyrion gets a crown somehow and by marriage Sansa is then a Queen.

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It's clear which relationship was a lot healthier at the end of everything, and whatever the physical/emotional distance between the two does not prevent Jon from insisting that Winterfell belongs to his sister, or Sansa from imagining how "sweet" it would be to see him again. It will be very interesting to see how these long-reaching bonds with their brothers play out for Sansa and Dany in the next two books.

I agree. As far as Daenerys, I wonder whether her actual memories of Viserys or her rose-tinted view of Rhaegar will have more influence over her reaction to Aegon. Regarding Sansa, I'm currently bearish on her chances of meeting up with any of her siblings again - but I think that her memories of Winterfell and family will be the psychological core that gives her the strength to do the work that (I believe) lies ahead of her.

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I agree. As far as Daenerys, I wonder whether her actual memories of Viserys or her rose-tinted view of Rhaegar will have more influence over her reaction to Aegon.

Good question.

Regarding Sansa, I'm currently bearish on her chances of meeting up with any of her siblings again - but I think that her memories of Winterfell and family will be the psychological core that gives her the strength to do the work that (I believe) lies ahead of her.

I tend to this perspective as well, and the snow castle model for me remains one of the more reassuring symbols connected to this idea. Like all the Stark children, she's currently mired in an underworld experience, and considering the foreshadowing with LF and the pomegranate (which she did not eat), family and other important connections may prove instrumental in helping her to combat LF's influence. I spoke earlier of Sansa's and Jon's attempt to "kill" the boy and girl respectively. But as we've seen via Jon's arc, this can have very deadly consequences in the long run. As Jon challenges the hierarchy of the watch and becomes more aligned with the wildlings, so too might we see a similar breaking away of Sansa from LF's power, and a closer association developing between her and unexpected allies. Further, the issue of vows and breaking them with respect to family is central to Jon's experiences (and the stabbing) at the end of ADWD, and there might be a parallel to be found with Sansa and Sweetrobin in the upcoming novel. One reason to hope can be found when LF requests that she be his daughter in her heart - what I consider as his perverse attempt to get her to pledge herself to him - and instead she thinks of feeding him lies and arbor gold.

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I just spent the day catching up on my PtP reading and want to commend Daphne23 and redviper9 on their wonderfully insightful essays. I'm quite intrigued with Daphne's and redviper's respective speculation on the path Sansa will/can take.

Daphne23:

However, lest we should assume too neat a division between ‘gentle-hearted’ Sansa and ‘dark-hearted’ Arya, Martin plays with the reader by associating Sansa with Lady Stoneheart as well – in her alias, Alayne Stone. If Sansa allows her natural sympathy to be corrupted, he seems to be saying, she might well follow a path as dark as her sibling’s.

redviper9:

What could be shaping up then is a character that uses an interesting blend of courtesy, soft power, attentiveness, and outreach to get out of or improve her current situation. Sansa could very well use this combination to make them love her.

Littlefinger, the gambler, needs validation for his accomplishments which he's seeking from Sansa, giving Sansa an upper hand. How she will use this "soft power" will indeed be interesting to watch unfold. Cersei has already offered her own advice on how to wield a woman's weapon, advice Sansa did not seem particularly interested in taking, so I'm inclined to think that Sansa will make use of her status as protégé to "turn the tables" on Littlefinger, as redviper suggested.

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FWIW, it will be Branden the Greenseer who gathers the lost wolves of House Stark (or have the lot of you forgotten about him? If so, for shame!) Jon may not be able to warg through the wall, but as Lord Brynden has already demonstrated, a greenseer can, and Bran will soon enough be the most powerful greenseer in centuries if not longer.

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Haha, you're right Old-Growth, I think Bran will play a significant role in these events. But don't worry we haven't forgotten him :) In fact, the next presentation for the Women in Power project will be looking at Asha/Theon and Sansa/Bran. I hope you find time to read and comment.

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I have been incommunicado for several weeks because I mislaid my cell phone. I have now retrieved it and should be able to follow the thread again.

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Littlefinger, the gambler, needs validation for his accomplishments which he's seeking from Sansa, giving Sansa an upper hand. How she will use this "soft power" will indeed be interesting to watch unfold. Cersei has already offered her own advice on how to wield a woman's weapon, advice Sansa did not seem particularly interested in taking, so I'm inclined to think that Sansa will make use of her status as protégé to "turn the tables" on Littlefinger, as redviper suggested.

Although it may appear that way, my take is that Littlefinger underestimates Sansa just as much as everyone else, if not more. He's using her for his own means (while playing the caring role). It's exactly for this reason, because he's let his guard down around her, that Sansa will eventually take advantage of the situation in the Eyrie (that Littlefinger himself put her in) and turn the tables. Effectively, Littlefinger will have screwed himself over. Brilliant. :)

Sorry, don't really spend to much time on the Rethinking Sansa, thread, just wanted to add my two cents...

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Although it may appear that way, my take is that Littlefinger underestimates Sansa just as much as everyone else, if not more. He's using her for his own means (while playing the caring role). It's exactly for this reason, because he's let his guard down around her, that Sansa will eventually take advantage of the situation in the Eyrie (that Littlefinger himself put her in) and turn the tables. Effectively, Littlefinger will have screwed himself over. Brilliant. :)

Sorry, don't really spend to much time on the Rethinking Sansa, thread, just wanted to add my two cents...

Oh, I absolutely agree Sansa will take advantage of being underestimated.

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First of all, I should proffer the texts for the Ave Maria; Milady having linked to Schubert's song in her Knights and Song discussion. The original was a medieval Latin prayer, but Schubert wrote his music to a German translation from The Lady of the Lake (that again :). Alas late in the 19th century, someone figured out that one could fit the Latin text to Schubert's music with deplorable results: one should respect the intentions of the composer, unless there is good reason not to, for which there seems little enough in the present instance. So here is the English:

Ave Maria! maiden mild!

Listen to a maiden's prayer!

Thou canst hear though from the wild.

Thou canst save amid despair.

Safe may we sleep beneath thy care,

Though banished, outcast, and reviled--

Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer;

Mother, hear a suppliant child!

Ave Maria! Ave Maria! undefiled!

The flinty couch we now must share

Shall seem with down of eider piled,

If thy protection hover there.

The murky cavern's heavy air

Shall breathe of balm if thou hast smiled;

Then, Maiden! hear a maiden's prayer,

Mother, list a suppliant child!

Ave Maria! Ave Maria! stainless styled!

Foul demons of the earth and air,

From this their wonted haunt exiled,

Shall flee before thy presence fair.

We bow us to our lot of care,

Beneath thy guidance reconciled:

Hear for a maid a maiden's prayer,

And for a father hear a child!

Ave Maria!

Now to go and retrieve the German translation

Well after checking You Tube again, I see that some kind person has not only posted a performance by Barbara Bonney but also posted both the English and German texts:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=aQVz6vuNq7s

So no need for me to duplicate the effort, and I can pass on to Verdi's setting of the Latin text.

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@Old-Growth,

Your post reminded me of the on-going discussion in the Arya reread of her first AFFC chapter when she's on the boat heading into Braavos. The boat she's on is called The Titan's Daughter, and we've talked before on the relevance of that to Sansa's current situation as the bastard daughter of Petyr Baelish, whose family sigil is the Titan. Also there's this description:

Arya stood at the prow, one hand on the gilded figurehead, a maiden with a bowl of fruit.

Blisscraft had an interesting interpretation in the thread:

] The Gilded Figurehead - The gilded figurehead, a maiden with a bowl of fruit seems to be a reference to Persephone, Demeter's daughter and another myth regarding seasonal change. Most of you are familiar with her story. Persephone is abducted by Hades and taken to the Underworld. Persephone's mother, Demeter, mourns her loss to the point where the earth becomes fallow. Demeter is assisted by the goddess Hecate, a goddess associated with the moon. Eventually, Demeter and Persephone are reunited for limited part of each year. During the time of Persephone's return to above ground and to her mother, Demeter, the world becomes ripe and produces abundantly.

Arya has her hand upon the figurehead. Which hand and exactly at what part of the figurehead it's resting upon is not specified. It may be Arya's left hand, as that is her dominant one. Perhaps this is a suggestion that Arya will have a hand in Sansa's return to the world.

In their opening chapters of AFFC, Sansa and Arya have pretty much reached a low point in terms of faith. Sansa remembers herself as a foolish little girl begging the gods to send a singer back to Winterfell - a prayer that went unanswered; and Arya has no use for the Seven religion which allowed her mother to be murdered at the Twins. Both have now become entangled in some unsavoury situations: Sansa only prays for silence from Marillion's nightly singing, and we know what Arya prays for. I think that questions of faith, and whether or not the girls can find their way "back" - not erasing the damage and disillusionment, but in spite of it, will be central in TWOW, and as you noted earlier, Bran could play a significant role in that.

Thoughts and opinions are welcome.

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Actually. If Robb named Jon his heir - that was done on the belief that Bran and Rickon were dead, Sansa was forcibly married to a family enemy and Arya disappeared without trace, possibly also "presumed dead". If Sansa turns up - and claims that her marriage to Tyrion was unconsummated (a fact known all over King's Landing anyway) and can therefore be annulled - then Jon, if in charge of Winterfell, would almost certainly step aside for her, just as he would for Bran, Rickon or Arya.

Also, re. previous post. Sansa "remembering herself as a foolish little girl begging the gods to send a singer back to Winterfell"... Be careful what you ask for. Winterfell just got a singer - Mance "Abel the Bard" Rayder, who has already played a major role in freeing Theon and her friend Jeyne, and who may play a greater role in future, for good or ill...

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Also, re. previous post. Sansa "remembering herself as a foolish little girl begging the gods to send a singer back to Winterfell"... Be careful what you ask for. Winterfell just got a singer - Mance "Abel the Bard" Rayder, who has already played a major role in freeing Theon and her friend Jeyne, and who may play a greater role in future, for good or ill...

Interesting :) She was definitely lamenting that wish in AFFC when Marillion would not shut up, but I like the connection you've made to Mance Rayder as Bael - a name that also has associations with Petyr Baelish, and his "theft" of Winterfell's daughter.

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Hi guys,

So, I absolutely love this thread. You guys are doing a fantastic job. Sansa is obviously one of my favorite characters and her development and her arc is interesting and...different compared to the rest of the characters and that is what intrigues me. Anyway, I was reading some of the past posts and I came upon this post in Ragnorak's analysis (which is excellent btw) where tze said that Sansa could possibly control the dead. Sorry to derail of the current topic of Sansa/Jon, but this is indirectly related.

snapback.pngbrashcandy, on 05 August 2012 - 02:00 PM, said:

she hears the wind howling and thinks that it sounds like a "ghost wolf, as big as the mountains." There's a connection there to her Stark heritage, maybe a suggestion that although she's lost her wolf, the protection of Lady still lives on, and maybe even a link to Jon's wolf, Ghost.

tze:

"I'm going to enter into crackpot territory here. Sansa explicitly includes the lichyard in her Winterfell model, and the lichyard is where Lady is buried. She takes control of the "giant" doll associated with Robert---Robert Strong is a walking corpse. The image of Sansa finally finding "snow" when she's fallen onto the ground evokes death imagery---Sansa "falling to the ground" = death. Is Sansa's destiny to not be a skinchanger in the same sense as Bran, but instead, to control the dead? Like the Others apparently do?"

However, I was also reading some of the heresy posts (which are fascinating on it's own)

snapback.pngHrafntýr, on 16 May 2013 - 07:35 AM, said:

As to the Night Queen/White Queen: Since I suspect her to be the Sovereignty Goddess, I suspect that she is immortal, and appears whenever there is a rightful King of Winter. If we see her again (and I'm not at all sure we will, but if we do), I personally anticipate that it will be with the Horn to offer the King a libation and to sleep with him.

tyryan lannister:

"There is an old Heresy that it is more of the White Walkers are looking for the right Daughter of Winter to take on the role of their Queen. And that (short of/in addition to Summerhall) it was the removal of their most recent chosen, that being Lyanna, that has caused them to stir. Which would add in that they have been looking for a new chosen--who of course would be Sansa."

I think it was pretty interesting correlation made here where tze crackpots that Sansa would control the dead while tyryan lannister suggests Sansa being the Ice Queen. Considering the fact that there is a lot of foreshadowing regarding Sansa being a queen, it got me interested when I connected tze's post to what they were discussing on Heresy regarding Sansa being the daughter of winter and the new queen to rule over them.

Again, it's crackpot, but I would love this idea to happen imo. Also, it was interesting that they mentioned Jon being King of Winter, and that Sansa and Jon did not have to be married to take on their respective roles.

Anyway, it's just my two cents and keep up the great work! :D

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Very interesting D&P :) To be honest, I've always been more attracted to this idea of Sansa as a Winter/Ice Queen, than any of the traditional Queen in the North/Queen of Westeros positions that have been imagined for her. Perhaps I just personally find it more fascinating, but I also think that it adheres to Sansa's lack of interest in conventional power and the game playing shenanigans she's currently involved with in the Vale.

And since you mentioned the Heretical stuff, here's Black Crow's post from Rethinking XVI:

As you were so kind is to invite a heretical thought the other day I thought you might appreciate this one as well. It was mentioned (in text) that warging is a two-way business and that just as a warg goes into its familiar, so a part of the familiar goes into the warg. Thus, it is suggested, Arya's readiness to kill may be down to having a part in Nymeria inside her, that in turn raised the question of what Ghost has done to Jon...

... and the question was answered by the last Jon chapter in Storm of Swords. He's gone for a walk outside, pondering Stannis offer to make him Lord of Winterfell, when Ghost re-appears at last:

Red eyes, Jon realized, but not like Melisandre’s. He had a weirwood’s eyes. Red eyes, red mouth, white fur. Blood and bone, like a heart tree. He belongs to the old gods, this one. And he alone of all the direwolves was white. Six pups they’d found in the late summer snows, him and Robb; five that were grey, and black and brown, for the five Starks, and one white, as white as snow.

Jon Targaryen First of his name - nah

Azor Ahai! - don't make me laugh, he's on the other side, "He belongs to the old gods, this one"

He's Jon Snow, he's the King of Winter.

And funnily enough (well its not funny at all) the very next chapter is the one which starts off with Sansa's taking a communion of snow.

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Woooh finally managed to catch up on this thread since it got bumped. WTB Search function back plz kthnx. :)

Great essays Daphne and Redviper. I love the highlights between Arya - Sansa and Cat. Fabulous stuff and very thought provoking. Something to keep in mind during the Arya re-read as well, especially when she turns into Cat of the Canals.

After the Tyrion marriage, however, I think all flirtation with being the good girl or the good wife is completely removed from Sansa's sensibilities. She doesn't remove her courtesy armour, and she continues with her escape plot.

Yes, I think this is very true and also why Sansa will not go quietly into the marriage with Harrold Hardyng. She is no longer a Good Girl who will obey without question.

As for having a gentle heart, I agree that it's an important quality that defines Sansa's interactions with others. I wonder though about what meaning Martin wants us to attribute to her "Stone" identity. I think your point about the connection to Lady Stoneheart, and Arya's "heartless" condition is quite suggestive, but I'm also thinking of Mya's characterisation of a stone as a mountain's daughter, which seems to be a lesson about not trusting easily in men (particularly fickle fathers), and learning to depend on oneself. Perhaps this can also be viewed as Mya's own "hard-heartedness" after Robert's abandonment and her disappointment with Mychel Redfort, but in light of Sansa's experiences up to this point, I can't help thinking that becoming a stone for her is less about walking a dark path and more to do with achieving badly needed agency.

It brings to mind Cat's conversation with Brienne about how the men of the house are supposed to protect the women, which of course in Cat's case (and many oher's too) failed miserably and the menfolk are dying like flies and is heavily tinged with irony and sadness in Cat's case.

Further, that men fail at their traditional task feels like it's somehow linked to the more overarching themes of a society in the clutches of decay. Knighthood isn't what it was meant to be, knights don't protect women, children and the weak; they slaughter the children and the weak and rape the women. The men are dying in pursuit of pointless military victory or in huge bloody revenge parties courtesy of Tywin Lannister (or even in duels, courtesy of Tywin more indirectly, when it comes to Oberyn and Ellaria). The Nights Watch, the Shield of Men, is also in decay. The male line of the Targaryens have failed (on the face of it), as has the male Blackfyre line and possibly also soon the male Greyjoy line (if we assume that Euron and Vicky will never be kings of the Iron Islands, because you know, ouch). Suddenly we are left with a lot of women who are either betrayed, or left by their men, or deprived of fathers, husbands, brothers, sons. All of them probably wish they were a bit more like a mountain's daughter and a bit more hard-hearted than is the traditional role for women.

Further, there is a theme of that when winter is coming, you need to harden your heart, turn it more into stone. It's illustrated with how Jon states that the wildlings do not cry and that tears freeze on their cheeks.

I also wonder, in the show Season I Dany says "I do not have a gentle heart". I can't recall if she says that or not, I instantly connected it to Lady Tanda's words to Sansa, actually.

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Very interesting D&P :) To be honest, I've always been more attracted to this idea of Sansa as a Winter/Ice Queen, than any of the traditional Queen in the North/Queen of Westeros positions that have been imagined for her. Perhaps I just personally find it more fascinating, but I also think that it adheres to Sansa's lack of interest in conventional power and the game playing shenanigans she's currently involved with in the Vale.

And since you mentioned the Heretical stuff, here's Black Crow's post from Rethinking XVI:

As I haven't followed the heresy threads, could you please tell me what is the Winter/Ice Queen?

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ASHA AND THEON GREYJOY

Many thanks to the good ladies of Sansa PtP,especially Milady of York for inviting me to contribute to this project.Here,we'll be looking at the power struggles and decision making of Asha and Theon,but also of Bran and Sansa Stark.All four are still going at the end of ADWD and we'll examine where their narratives,some of which are intersecting,may take them going forward.

The girl with the wicked smile and the boy who smiled too much.

Theon begins his first serious power play in ACOK.He has devised a plan,agreed by King Robb Stark,that in return for the use of Balon Greyjoy's fleet against the Lannisters,Balon will be granted kingship of the Iron Islands.(Catelyn 1,ACOK).It's an optimistic Theon who's sailing towards Pyke with the proposal safe in an oilskin pouch.Indeed,this is a win-win situation for Theon,a plan that can win power and glory for the Starks,the Greyjoys and of course,himself.As he says to the captain's daughter in Theon 1(ACOK), "...you're likely with child.It's not every man who has the honor of raising a king's bastard".But of course,it's not all plain sailing.

A large part of Theon's problem is that he has spent half of his 20 years a ward,or hostage in Winterfell,and when he meets Balon to present his plan he is met with suspicion and mistrust.

The proposal is rejected in no uncertain terms,Balon will pay the iron price for his crown.He has longships gathered at anchor and plans to carve out a kingdom with "fire and sword".He won't reveal his plans but Theon knows,it's the north.

By now Theon is in a difficult spot,and it doesn't get any better when he meets his sister Asha.Especially since he doesn't recognize her and tries to seduce her.Asha,posing as Esgred the shipbuilder's wife plays along and gives as good as she gets in the groping department.Here's our first look at Asha..

He liked what he saw.Ironborn,he knew at a glance;lean and long legged,with black hair cut short,windchafed skin,strong sure hands,a dirk at her belt.Her nose was too big and too sharp for her thin face,but her smile made up for it.[..]She had the wickedest smile he'd ever seen on a woman.
(Theon 2,ACOK).

Not only does Asha keep up the pretense all the way to Pyke,but also gets Theon to reveal his inner most thoughts on Balon,his uncles,Winterfell and Asha herself,as he remembers her,"As I recall,she had a nose like a vultures beak,a ripe crop of pimples,and no more chest than a boy."

This is undoubtedly a humiliation of her brother,and a power play in it's own right.DuringTheon's 10 year absence at Winterfell Asha has taken Theon's place as Balon Greyjoys eldest "son",indeed Balon refers to them both as his sons when giving Victarion his orders to take Moat Cailin.(Theon 2,ACOK).That she is brave,witty,intelligent,more than capable of captaining a crew of Ironborn and adept with arms probably helped her case,but I think this play is about consolidating her position and putting Theon in his place.

Her display with the dirk and the throwing axe at the captain's gathering further humiliates Theon,-

Theon had time for a choked gasp before Asha snatched the axe from the air and slammed it down into the table,splitting his trencher in two and splattering his mantle with drippings."There's my lord husband."His sister reached down inside her gown and drew a dirk from between her breasts."And here's my sweet suckling babe."

He could not imagine how he looked at that moment,but suddenly Theon Greyjoy realized that the Great Hall was ringing with laughter,all of it at him.Even his father was smiling,gods be damned,and his uncle Victarion chuckled aloud.[..]We shall see who is laughing when all this is done,bitch.

Balon's plans when they are revealed show that it is the north he's targeting.Theon is to get eight longships and raid the Stony Shore,Victarion is to take Moat Cailin and Asha with thirty longships is to take Deepwood Motte.This seems to seal the deal for Theon.Soon after this Theon hatches a plan that's going to have tragic consequences for many,none more so than himself.He's going to trump his sister and win glory in his fathers eyes by taking Winterfell.

One can argue that perhaps Asha was overly aggressive (and sexual) in her humiliation of Theon but it would be difficult to foresee he would react in such a radical way (unless you're Jojen Reed).It didn't help that Theon acted the lord on his return to Pyke and failed to recognize his sister in the first place.

Anyway,Winterfell is taken with thirty men whilst Cleftjaw draws the Winterfell garrison to Torrhens Square.Bran wakes up from a wolf dream to find Theon has taken the castle.(Bran 6,ACOK).That part was easy enough.Problems begin when neither Balon nor Asha send reinforcements,compounded by the "escape" of Bran,Rickon,the Reeds,Hodor,Osha and the direwolves.A desperate Theon with guidance from "Reek" mounts the heads of the miller's boys on the gates of Winterfell,passing them off as Bran and Rickon.(Theon 4,ACOK)

Asha,when she does arrive with twenty men,is quick to point out to Theon the folly of his ways,-"The Prince of Winterfell.....or is it the Prince of Fools?"As Theon admonishes her for not supporting him,Asha points out the long term hopelessness of his situation,-

"Your prize will be the doom of you.Krakens rise from the sea,Theon,or did you forget that during your years among the wolves?Our strength is in our longships.My wooden pisspot sits close enough to the sea for supplies and fresh men to reach me whenever they are needful.But Winterfell is hundreds of leagues inland,ringed by woods,hills,and hostile holdfasts and castles.And every man in a thousand leagues is your enemy now,make no mistake.You made certain of that when you mounted those heads on your gatehouse.[..]How could you be such a bloody fool?Children....."

Asha implores Theon to put the castle to the torch and return with her to Deepwood Motte,but he refuses to give up his prize.Further humiliation is the only alternative in his eyes.And there we leave Theon to his fate for now.

The death of Balon Greyjoy starts a new chapter in Asha's power issues.This creates a power vacuum and now the process of choosing Balon's successor begins.That Euron Greyjoy sails into port the day after poses problems for Aeron Damphair ,who believes "no ungodly man can sit the Seastone Chair".But then again Euron is ahead of Victarion in the line of succession as the elder brother.Asha,technically the first in line as Theon is believed dead,is not a candidate in Aeron's eyes,"No woman will ever rule the Ironborn,not even a woman such as Asha."Aeron solves this dilemma by conferring with the Drowned God and deciding to resurrect the ancient practice of choosing the king by a "kingsmoot."(The Prophet,AFFC)

Asha hears of this from her nuncle Rodrik on Harlaw,-

Asha threw back her head and laughed."The Drowned God must have shoved a pricklefish up Uncle Aeron's arse.A kingsmoot?.Is this some jape,or does he mean it truly?"[....]Better a kingsmoot than a war.
(The Kraken's Daugter,AFFC)

Pricklefish or no a kingsmoot it is,on Old Wyk.The Reader counsels strongly against Asha challenging for the Driftwood Crown,-"You will not want to hear this Asha,but you will not be chosen.No woman has ever ruled the Ironborn."He points out that previous kingsmoots have turned into bloodbaths and also that the Iron Throne will not tolerate another king or queen in Westeros.But Asha proves almost as oblivious to good advice as Theon,and hints that she will steer a "third course" between thralldom and war at her "queensmoot".(The Kraken's Daughter,AFFC)

Victarion also tries to dissuade Asha to no avail.Asha even offers to back Victarion in the kingsmoot if he shares the rule or makes her hand of the king.But Victarion is old school and believes women should be wives not rulers.Perhaps it's his stated intention to continue Balon's rebellion,a war Asha believes is a lost cause that decides Asha in taking part in the kingsmoot?She also shows her bravery,or is it brashness ,in questioning Euron on the timing of his return to the Iron Islands,the day after Balon's death.(The Iron Captain,AFFC)

That Euron wins the kingsmoot comes as little surprise given his promises of conquering all of Westeros using his dragonhorn,found in the smoking ruins of Asshai,"where no man dares to tread".However,it's worth looking at Asha's pitch in light of how she intended to use her power.

"I give you the wealth of the Stony Shore,"Asha said as the first (chest) was upended.An avalanche of pebbles clattered forth,cascading down the steps....."I give you the riches of Deepwood,"she said,as the second chest was opened.Pinecones came pouring out,to roll and bounce into the crowd."And last,the gold of Winterfell."From the third chest came yellow turnips.....

"And if I shouted your name?"Harmund demanded."What then?"

"Peace," said Asha."Land.Victory.I'll give you Sea Dragon Point and the Stony Shore,black earth and tall trees and stones enough for every younger son to build a hall.We'll have the northmen too....as friends,to stand with us against the Iron Throne.Your choice is simple.Crown me for peace and victory.Or crown my nuncle,for more war and more defeat."

We can see here that though Asha wants power,she wants it for sound reasons and has a long term strategy to back it up.This contrasts with Theon's grab of Winterfell without thinking of the ongoing consequences.Of note,though,is that being "friends" with the northmen against the Iron Throne was essentially the plan that Theon brought to Pyke in the first place.

Asha is now in a spot of trouble,Euron is a king who may see Asha as a future threat to his crown.We learn in The Reaver that Asha had "run" after the kingsmoot."The night the driftwood crown was placed on Euron's head,she and her crew had melted away.But we find her again in Deepwood Motte in ADWD,The Wayward Bride.And we find that Asha had meant "to stay and fight"after the kingsmoot,but for once had taken the advice of the Reader and left.

Now sitting in Galbart Glover's chair and drinking his wine,she receives a letter from Ramsay Bolton containing "a piece of prince" which confirms Theon is still alive,and that she will share the fate of the flayed ironmen if she remains at Deepwood.Returning to the islands seems a poor option too,since Euron has married Asha in absentia to Erik Ironmaker,using a seal to represent Asha at the betrothal.She can at least admire the political astuteness of the move,and even jape,"I hope Erik did not insist on a consummation."

As Asha leads her crew back to their longships,they are set upon by Stannis' northmen,and despite a brave fight,Asha is taken hostage,she is now the king's prize.Tris Botley may have provided a future card to play with his story of "Torgon the Latecomer",a kingsmoot that was declared illegal due to the absence of the rightful heir.No doubt she's thinking of Theon here,but will she ever get to play that card?For now let's leave Asha on her snowbound journey to Winterfell as a prisoner of Stannis Baratheon.

The crippled boy and the Stark without a direwolf.

Bran and Sansa Stark have little in common with Asha and Theon as characters,and indeed have little interaction with each other,but their stories are connected and appear to become increasingly so as the novels progress.Power,as the Greyjoys see it is not a factor in the lives of the Stark siblings at the begining of the story,but power manifests itself in different ways,and they find themselves having to deal with it,also in different ways.

Bran and Sansa don't have any interactions in the books,but they seem to have a normal loving brother-sister bond and typical childhood aspirations.Bran want's to be a knight in the Kingsguard(Bran 2,AGOT),and Sansa is enchanted at the prospect of being queen to an ideal king,Joffrey.(Sansa 1,AGOT).They are both connected,as are all the Stark siblings (including Jon) by having their own direwolves.

But both face loss early in the story.Bran becomes a cripple having been pushed from a tower by a member of the Kingsguard,Jaime Lannister(Bran 2,AGOT) and Sansa loses her direwolf,Lady,due to the actions of her prince perfect.Their arcs reflect how they recover from these losses and shattered dreams,not there aren't more losses and shattered dreams to follow.

But first let's look at Bran and Theon,because not only do their arcs intersect but they have significant influence on each other.Theon is present at Winterfell throughout Bran's childhood,though he pays him little attention,-

As a boy,he had lived in fear of Stark's stern face and great dark sword.His lady wife was,if anything,even more distant and suspicious.

As for their children,the younger ones had been mewling babes for most of his years at Winterfell.Only Robb and his baseborn half-brother had been old enough to be worth his notice.

(Theon 1,ACOK)

From Bran's point of view,-

Bran looked away and pretended not to have heard,but he could feel Greyjoy's eyes on him.No doubt he was smiling.He smiled a lot,as if the world were a secret joke that only he was clever enough to understand.Robb seemed to admire Theon and enjoy his company,but Bran had never warmed to his father's ward.
(Bran 4,AGOT)

So,no love lost there.But Theon goes on to save Bran's life in the same chapter.As a knife is held to Bran's throat by a wildling,Theon kills him with an arrow in the back.Robb chides him for being reckless,though taking Winterfell was reckless too.It seems to be in his nature.

As Theon rides off to war against the Lannisters with Robb,Bran is left as the Lord in Winterfell and begins to try to understand his strange dreams.They began with his coma dream in which a three-eyed crow urged him to fly because "Winter is coming".

Bran has been having dreams of the crow since then,and also strange dreams of being a direwolf and dreams of a weirwood calling to him.Maester Luwin can make no sense of them.No one can,really until the arrival of Jojen and Meera Reed,ostensibly to re-pledge their oath to the Starks,but also to guide Bran towards his destiny.On the night of their arrival Bran has a wolf dream,-

The intruders had pushed a few yards into the wood when he came upon them;a female and a young male,with no taint of fear to them,even when he showed them the white of his teeth.[...]"They will be bigger still before they are grown,"the young male said,watching them with eyes large,green,and unafraid."The black one is full of fear and rage,but the grey is strong...stronger than he knows....can you feel him,sister?"

And so through his direwolves eyes Bran can see the insight that Jojen possesses.Greensight,in fact.He helps Bran understand his warging abilities and the nature of the three-eyed crow.

"You are the winged wolf,Bran," said Jojen."I wasn't sure when we first came,but now I am.The crow sent us here to break your chains."

Jojen proves the truth of his greendreams by predicting the Greyjoy attack on Winterfell,down to naming who will be killed.

"I dreamed that the sea was lapping all around Winterfell.I saw black waves crashing against the gates and towers,and then the salt water came flowing over the walls and filled the castle.Drowned men were floating in the yard.When I first dreamed the dream,back at Greywater,I didn't know their faces,but now I do.That Alebelly is one,the guard who called our names at the feast.Your septon's another.Your smith as well."

It comes to pass.Bran senses the attack in a wolf dream and wakes to find Theon has taken over the castle.He forces Bran to yield Winterfell.But Bran escapes to the crypts along with the Reeds,Rickon,Hodor and Osha.And it's there in the darkness that Bran opens his third eye (reaching out to Jon).Theon's actions seem to have set the circumstances which activate Bran's powers, and the subsequent sacking and burning of Winterfell sets him on his journey to find the three-eyed crow.

At the end of that journey is a greenseer formerly known as Brynden Rivers,or Bloodraven.A former member of the Night's Watch,a bastard Targeryen,Hand of the King and alleged sorcerer with 1001 eyes.He's deep in a cave,tended by the Children of the Forest,and so bound up in a weirwood throne that a root is extending through one of his eye sockets.This scary 150 year old is now Bran's mentor,teaching him the secrets of skinchanging and seeing through the eyes of the weirwoods.He can't walk but he can fly.And perhaps much else besides.In terms of power who knows what a greenseer can do?The only caveat to add to that is that Bran is only ten...

Theon,meanwhile,has changed considerably.In fact he's not Theon anymore,he's Reek.He's been tortured by Ramsay Bolton to the extent that he's aged 40 years in appearance,has been disfigured physically and can't even think his own name,never mind say it.(Reek 1,ADWD).But the Boltons have put him to use.First by leading the Ironborn abandoned at Moat Cailin to their deaths by flaying,then giving away fake Arya away in a sham marriage to Ramsay beneath the heart tree in Winterfell.(The Prince of Winterfell,ADWD).

At this point,in power terms Theon/Reek is possibly as low as a man can get.Hated by everyone as a "turncloak",Theon finds that he has only the heart tree that he once renounced to confide to,-"Ned Stark prayed to a tree.No,I care nothing for Stark's gods"(Theon 1,ACOK)

But in the Turncloak,ADWD,-

Tendrils of mist hung in the air like ghostly ribbons.Why did I come here?This is not my place.The heart tree stood before him,a pale giant with a carved face and leaves like bloody hands.[..]Theon sank to his knees beside it."Please," he murmured through his broken teeth,"I never meant..."The words caught in his throat."Save me," he finally managed."Give me..."What?Strength?Courage?Mercy?Snow fell around him,pale and silent,keeping it's own counsel.The only sound was a faint soft sobbing.Jeyne,he thought.It is her,sobbing in her bridal bed.Who else could it be?Gods do not weep.Or do they?

They might if they were a ten year old boy who knew Theon as he once was and his birthplace as it used to be,with Starks,not Boltons in control.Theon is required to escort Lady Dustin down to the crypts and to hear her story of why she hates the Starks.But she also asks a pointed question,-"Why do you love the Starks?""I...."Theon put a gloved hand against a pillar."....I wanted to be one of them....."

One of them he's not,but is there a chance of salvation or redemption for Theon here?Can Bran see Theon and hear his thoughts through the snows?

The world is gone.King's Landing,Riverrun,Pyke, and the Iron Islands,all the seven Kingdoms,every place that he had ever known,every place that he had ever read or dreamed of,all gone.Only Winterfell remained.

Theon is tasked with helping Abel and the washerwomen kidnap "Arya" from the castle.Theon knows Arya is not Arya,but Abel probably knows it too.The idea is that her escape will destabilize the Bolton alliance,which is built on the falsehood of the fake marriage.Reek would never have the strength to go with this plan,but Bran helps him remember his name,-

The night was windless,the snow drifting straight down out of a cold black sky,yet the leaves of the heart tree were rustling his name."Theon,"they seemed to whisper,"Theon."

The old gods,he thought.They know me.They know my name.I was Theon of House Greyjoy.I was a ward of Eddard Stark,a friend and a brother to his children."Please."He fell to his knees."A sword,that's all I ask.Let me die as Theon,not as Reek[...]They know.The gods know.They saw what I did.And for one strange moment it seemed as if it were Bran's face carved into the pale trunk of the weirwood,staring down at him with eyes red and wise,and sad.Bran's ghost,he thought,but that was madness.Why would Bran want to haunt him?

Bran doesn't want to haunt him,he wants him to know his name so he can rescue "Arya",which he does with the help of the washerwomen.And when he and Jeyne are deposited in front of Asha,at least he recognizes her and knows his own name.

Bran and Sansa

Whereas Bran loses his legs and gains super powers of sorts,Sansa in contrast loses what seems to be her only connection to the old gods,her direwolf, Lady, and has to make do with what she apparently has little of to start with,her wits.

Aside from hints at normal sibling affection,we don't see any direct interaction between Bran and Sansa.But we get a sense of empathy when Sansa's "treason" letter arrives at Winterfell.

Bran would never forget the look on Robb's face as he stared at their sister's words."She says Father conspired at treason with the king's brothers,"he read."King Robert is dead,and Mother and I are summoned to the Red Keep to swear fealty to Joffrey.She says we must be loyal,and when she marries Joffrey she will plead with him to spare our lord father's life."His fingers closed into a fist,crushing Sansa's letter between them."And she says nothing of Arya,nothing,not so much as a word.What's wrong with the girl?"

Bran felt all cold inside."She lost her wolf," he said,weakly,remembering the day when four of his father's guardsmen had returned from the south with Lady's bones.

To Bran losing your direwolf is akin to losing part of yourself.Wiser and older heads realize these are Cersei's words not Sansa's.Bran goes on to ponder on the fate of all the Starks who went south and never returned.It's quite a list,Rickard,his uncle Brandon "and two hundred of his best men.None had ever returned."

And Father had gone south,with Arya and Sansa,and Jory and Hullen and Fat Tom and the rest,and later Mother and Ser Rodrik had gone,and they hadn't come back either.And now Robb meant to go.

We know Robb's fate,but can Sansa buck this trend?It appears that she's doing just that,and using her wits to do so,saying the right things,learning to act,learning to lie.Asha chose to act as Esgred for her own purposes,but Sansa has to act as Alayne for her own survival,and she seems to be doing a good job of it.

Bran also sees Sansa in his coma dream,-

He looked south,and saw the great blue-green rush of the Trident.He saw his father pleading with the king,his face etched with grief.He saw Sansa crying herself to sleep at night and he saw Arya watching in silence and holding her secrets hard in her heart.There were shadows all around them.One shadow was dark as ash,with the terrible face of a hound.Another was armored like the sun,golden and beautiful.Over them both loomed a giant in armor made of stone,but when he opened his visor there was nothing but thick black blood.
(Bran 3,AGOT)

A lot has been written about the Hound/Sansa relationship,so no need to go there.The giant is of interest,as Petyr Baelish,Sansa's mentor and tormentor in chief ,fits that description.(His grandfathers sigil was the Titan of Braavos).The Ghost of High Heart also uses the word "giant" in relation to Sansa,-

"I dreamt of a maid at a feast with purple serpents in her hair,venom dripping from their fangs.And later I dreamt that maid again,slaying a savage giant in a castle built of snow."
(Arya 8.ASOS)

A fairly accurate prophecy,and it seems to play out in Sansa's "snow" chapter in AFFC.Here,she decides to build a replica of Winterfell from the falling snow,-

When she opened the door to the garden,it was so lovely that she held her breath,unwilling to disturb such perfect beauty.[...]A pure world,Sansa thought.I do not belong here."

And then an epiphany,-

At the center of the garden,beside the statue of the weeping woman that lay broken and half- buried in the ground,she turned her face up to the sky and closed her eyes.She could feel the snow on her lashes,taste it on her lips.It was the taste of Winterfell.The taste of innocence.The taste of dreams

As she builds Winterfell from the snow,a sense of power manifests in Sansa,-

"That was unchivalrously done my lady"

"As was bringing me here,when you swore to take me home"

She wondered where the courage had come from,to speak to him so frankly.From Winterfell,she thought.I am stronger within the walls of Winterfell.

The Future

Contains Winds of Winter spoilers.

All four characters are alive going into The Winds of Winter though some are in better shape than others.Of the four Theon looks to be in the most imminent trouble.In the Theon sample chapter he's a prisoner of Stannis Baratheon,chained to a wall and condemned to die.Asha has asked Stannis to behead Theon in front of the nearby heart tree,as a humane alternative to death by fire.But one wonders if Bran is finished with Theon yet.The ravens in their cages seem very enthusiastic about the tree idea,calling out the word "tree" and "Theon" repeatedly.Will there be an old gods intervention?

Asha herself is seen more as a prize by Stannis and is coveted by Justin Massey.Indeed it seems Stannis has semi-promised her to him if he succeeds in his mission to Braavos.There may be an ongoing role for Asha in dealing with Euron and Victarion.Will she get to play that kingsmoot card?

Of course we need to be aware that a battle is imminent in which anything could happen.

It looks like we are only beginning Bran's story and to understand the powers he possesses.We will probably see a lot more Bran chapters in the next books.There maybe dark twists for Bran,we're not entirely sure of the motivations of the Children of the Forest or Bloodraven for that matter.

Sansa is continuing to grow more politically astute and the foreshadowing suggest she will get to Winterfell and defeat Littlefinger.Whether this is a metaphorical or literal "slaying" remains to be seen.In Westeros a hairnet can be as lethal as a throwing axe.

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I really enjoyed your essay, redriver! I have to say, I'm loving this project.

Asha, along with Sansa, is one of my favorite characters, but I never really thought to compare their arcs before. While they are radically different personality-wise, their arcs are quite similar. Both are highborn. Both expected to rule—Sansa as Queen as Westeros and Asha as the heir to the Iron Islands. Both are taken captive—Sansa by the Lannisters and Asha by Stannis. While Sansa's situation has improved slightly (depending on how one looks at it), she is in hiding and has had to change her identity, whereas Asha remains a prisoner. Asha's speech at the kingsmoot makes me wonder if Sansa will end up the Queen in the North and Asha the Queen of the Iron Islands in which an alliance between the two is made, allowing Asha to deliver the peace she promised.

Theon and Bran, on the other hand, can't be more on opposite ends of the spectrum. Bran starts his story as "broken" and refers to himself as "Bran the Broken", but after fleeing Winterfell due to Theon's actions, he is becoming omniscient and god-like. Theon is the one who truly ends up broken.

Sansa and Theon have both taken on different identities, but in much different ways. Sansa had to become Alayne Stone for her own protection, whereas Theon was forced into becoming Reek for the sake of someone else's sick, twisted sense of entertainment and pleasure.

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