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From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XX


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Wonderful essay, Redriver :)

To back track for a moment:


Loved how you linked this to the overarching theme of societal decay, Lyanna. Sansa has had personal experience on just how pervasive this breakdown is, from the institutional level with tyrant kings, and knights who abuse without question, to seeing Lysa Tully thrown out the moon door by her husband. "Hardening" is this environment is unavoidable, but it's always necessary for survival. And let's remember too that Sansa's becoming a stone is prefigured by her realisation in ASOS that her skin had turned "to porcelain, to ivory, to steel."

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

Well, I can't speak to exactly how the Heresy folks have conceived of this idea, but in the PTP threads it basically refers to Sansa's awakening old gods' power, where she may represent the complementing figure to Jon as a King of Winter via resurrection/ some kind of rebirth. The symbolism connected to the snow castle scene and the Pomegranate/Persephone myth are interesting pieces in the puzzle. What powers she could potentially possess are still unknown, but there have been provocative suggestions. For more on this I'd suggest you read the tze's presentation on Jon/Sansa, and the discussion that follows, as well as the opening pages of Rethinking XI.

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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.

I am beginning to suspect that the name similarity is actually a matter of our author teasing us: the association of Rhaegar the bard and the daughter of Winterfell to the tale of Bael the bard and the daughter of Winterfell is far stronger in the story as we have it thus far. The only difference is that Jon is not a lord of Winterfell to be but rather a King to be---as the raven (that is Lord Brynden) tried to tell him.

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To return to Redriver's post:

There are some interesting similarities in language and tone between Theon’s Ghost in Winterfell chapter and the one where Sansa builds the snow castle at the Eyrie:

A Ghost in Winterfell:

Outside the snow was coming down so heavily that Theon could not see more than three feet ahead of him. He found himself alone in a white wilderness, walls of snow looming up to either side of him chest high. When he raised his head, the snowflakes brushed his cheeks like cold soft kisses. He could hear the sound of music from the hall behind him. A soft song now, and sad. For a moment he felt almost at peace.

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 about or dreamed of, all gone. Only Winterfell remained.


When she opened the door to the garden, it was so lovely that she held her breath, unwilling to disturb such perfect beauty. The snow drifted down and down, all in ghostly silence, and lay thick and unbroken on the ground. All color had fled the world outside. It was a place of whites and blacks and greys. White towers and white snow and white statues, black shadows and black trees, the dark grey sky above. A pure world, Sansa thought. I do not belong here.

Drifting snowflakes brushed her face as light as lover’s kisses, and melted on her cheeks… 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.

Both end up falling to their knees:

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 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.” Tears trickled down his cheeks, impossibly warm. “I was ironborn. A son … a son of Pyke, of the islands.”

When Sansa opened her eyes again, she was on her knees. She did not remember falling. It seemed to her that the sky was a lighter shade of grey. Dawn, she thought. Another day. Another new day. It was the old days she hungered for. Prayed for. But who could she pray to? The garden had been meant for a godswood once, she knew, but the soil was too thin and stony for a weirwood to take root. A godswood without gods, as empty as me.

If we can see Theon's scene as instructive, then it appears as though Sansa was able to say a prayer after all, and that it was answered in the inspiration to build Winterfell. Theon reaffirms his identity before the heart tree - a son of Pyke - and it is in constructing Winterfell that Sansa too is able to call on the strength associated with her Northern roots.

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.

Good points, Doglover. I suppose it's possible that you could say that "Alayne Stone" also provides LF with that twisted sense of pleasure, but ultimately the identity has proven to be an empowering one for Sansa, whereas "Reek" delivered Theon to the depths of misery, and humiliation. Alayne allows Sansa to live - with added courage and confidence, whilst Reek demanded Theon had to die - in a violent assault on the body and mind. When you contrast how these two identities function, it highlights IMO that Sansa is not at risk of losing herself to Alayne as has been suggested, or in becoming some thrall of Littlefinger's. The ghost wolf she hears could have very well been a reminder from Bran, and foreshadowing of their eventual contact and co-operation.

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I want to believe Sansa is getting more politically astute, but why does she have no reaction whatsoever to all the secrets Lysa blurted out before she died? Sansa can't be expected to understand most of them, but why isn't she curious?

She is curious and disturbed:

He is serving me lies as well, Sansa realized. They were comforting lies, though, and she thought them kindly meant. A lie is not so bad if it is kindly meant. If only she believed them ...

The things her aunt had said just before she fell still troubled Sansa greatly. "Ravings," Petyr had called them. "My wife was mad, you saw that for yourself." And so she had. All I did was to build a snow castle, and she meant to push me out the Moon Door. Petyr saved me. He loved my mother, and ...

Right now it's LF's word against Lysa's, and Sansa can hardly appreciate the latter as a reliable, unbiased source. It doesn't mean that she isn't suspicious of LF as we see in this chapter however, and she recognizes that while he may have saved Alayne, he did very little for Sansa in King's Landing. And yet, she has no one else to depend on at the moment, and LF is quite clear in making her guilty by association in his crimes. Even if Sansa were to believe completely in what Lysa said, it would not be wise to make a move against Littlefinger before she could be sure of her own standing in the Vale with respect to allies and security. To do so is what would highlight the lack of politically astuteness IMO.

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Let's also not forget that Sansa was shellshocked - she saw her "foster father" murder her aunt, that aunt nearly murdered HER, and now she has to collude in the coverup. Lysa spilled a whole lot of beans right before she went flying - especially the true story behind Jon Arryn's death - and I'm sure that wasn't just for exposition. But having almost been a victim of murder - at the hands of her own mother's sister, who was her only remaining family - and then seeing that aunt killed in front of her - I think Sansa probably shut down from PTSD.

It will all come back to her, I am sure. It will probably come back to her before she is able to actually do anything with it - but do something with that ticking time bomb I know she will. Sansa is probably the only living person in Westeros (except maybe Varys, and of course Petyr himself) who knows LF's role in the death of Ned Stark and the war.

Re Jon and Sansa as King and Queen of Winter: I like the idea of them ruling in a brother/sister capacity rather than as spouses (I just can't get behind Jon/Sansa, I'm sorry). I'm reminded of some matrilineal nations in Native North America, ancient Japan, and parts of Africa where power is vested in brother/sister rather than husband/wife. (The Moso of China still have brother/sister heads of households.) And on an archeology blog I read about an excavation in some ancient kingdom - and I'm sorry, I do not remember the blog or the kingdom or I would post it - where two skeletons, male and female, who were thought to be a husband and wife "King and Queen" - were DNA-tested and turned out to be siblings or cousins. Brother/sister rulership has a long history outside the West and probably in the West itself before Christianity made the marriage bond the central one.

The brother/sister bond, in general, seems to be quite strong in the story. Jaime and Cersei (twisted though it was), Loras and Margaery Tyrell, Brandon and Ned and Lyanna, Oberyn and Elia Martell. It seems that in many cases a woman can rely on her brother much more than her husband. Robb failed Sansa, though I don't think it was deliberate malice on his part, more like him flailing around trying to please all of his bannermen. And Jon made way to desert the Wall when he thought that "Arya" needed rescuing.

Daphne, RedRiver, Lyanna - great posts/essays all!

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The brother/sister bond, in general, seems to be quite strong in the story. Jaime and Cersei (twisted though it was), Loras and Margaery Tyrell, Brandon and Ned and Lyanna, Oberyn and Elia Martell. It seems that in many cases a woman can rely on her brother much more than her husband. Robb failed Sansa, though I don't think it was deliberate malice on his part, more like him flailing around trying to please all of his bannermen. And Jon made way to desert the Wall when he thought that "Arya" needed rescuing.

Come to think of it, most of Bran's existence since the beginning of the novel has been defined by the brother/sister relationship - for bad or good. Cersei's and Jaime's escapades led to his defenestration, and Theon's need to prove himself as Balon's true heir over Asha resulted in the tragic series of events at Winterfell. It's then up to Meera and Jojen Reed to teach him about his powers and guide him beyond the Wall to the three-eyed crow. That he and Sansa were the two most "Southern" of the Stark children already links them in the wider thematic structure of the novels, and if they can find a way to work together it would be appropriate in light of the events that propelled them back to their Northern roots.

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Redriver, that was an excellent piece to contribute to our little project; it's me who should be thanking you for participating with your thoughtful insight.

There are some interesting similarities in language and tone between Theon’s Ghost in Winterfell chapter and the one where Sansa builds the snow castle at the Eyrie:

Good observation, Brashcandy. I’d add that there’s also another set of similarities between a passage in A Ghost in Winterfell and Sansa’s meeting with Dontos:

In the godswood the snow was still dissolving as it touched the earth
. Steam rose off the hot pools, fragrant with the smell of moss and mud and decay.
A warm fog hung in the air, turning the trees into sentinels, tall soldiers shrouded in cloaks of gloom. During daylight hours, the steamy wood was often full of northmen come to pray to the old gods, but at this hour Theon Greyjoy found he had it all to himself.

And in the heart of the wood the weirwood waited with its knowing red eyes. Theon stopped by the edge of the pool and bowed his head before its carved red face.
Even here he could hear the drumming,
boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM. Like distant thunder, the sound seemed to come from everywhere at once.

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 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.”
Tears trickled down his cheeks, impossibly warm. “I was ironborn. A son … a son of Pyke, of the islands.”

A leaf drifted down from above, brushed his brow, and landed in the pool. It floated on the water, red, five-fingered, like a bloody hand.
“… Bran,”
the tree murmured.

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 should Bran want to haunt him? He had been fond of the boy, had never done him any harm.

ACOK Sansa II:

By the time she reached the godswood, the noises had faded to a faint rattle of steel and a distant shouting.
Sansa pulled her cloak tighter.
The air was rich with the smells of earth and leaf.
Lady would have liked this place, she thought. There was something wild about a godswood; even here, in the heart of the castle at the heart of the city,
you could feel the old gods watching with a thousand unseen eyes.

Sansa had favored her mother’s gods over her father’s.
She loved the statues, the pictures in leaded glass, the fragrance of burning incense, the septons with their robes and crystals, the magical play of the rainbows over altars inlaid with mother-of-pearl and onyx and lapis lazuli. Yet she could not deny that the godswood had a certain power too. Especially by night.
Help me, she prayed, send me a friend, a true knight to champion me…

She moved from tree to tree, feeling the roughness of the bark beneath her fingers. Leaves brushed at her cheeks. Had she come too late? He would not have left so soon, would he? Or had he even been here? Dare she risk calling out? It seemed so hushed and still here…

The smell of the godswood, the distant sounds, it’s the same hour (the night), they both feel the presence of the old gods: Theon in the whispering of the wind and Sansa thinks a thousand eyes are on her; both reflect on their initial attitude towards the old gods: Theon didn’t pay heed to them and Sansa had favoured the Seven… But what strikes me as most relevant is what they pray for and who answers: Sansa begged the old gods for a true knight, that is, a protector, but the one that appears isn’t the gods’ answer but Littlefinger’s puppet… yet when she leaves the godswood, she stumbles upon the Hound. Is Bloodraven observing her? Probably, if we go by the “thousand eyes” line, and also that the master might have had a hand in the Hound’s survival when gravely wounded (Arya notices a crow following them in their last chapter). In Theon’s case, at first he doesn’t know what to ask for ("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?), but then he begs for a quick death with dignity, and this time it’s the pupil who answers, calling him by his name, and after this he musters enough courage to save the fake Arya and escape.

We have theorised about the possibility that Brandon could be the one to help Sansa in the Vale, and that he might be the one behind the wind sounding like a wolf she heard when descending from the Eyrie, so this passage makes me think that, if Sansa goes to the godswood in the Gates of the Moon to pray, her little brother might attempt to communicate with her like he did with Theon. He has greater motivations in this case, after all, and also, by that time his magical skills would be more developed.

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Very interesting, Milady. I think it was you who said that a knight was essentially a sword and a horse? In a sense then, just like Sansa, Theon is asking for a true knight, even though he prays for death with dignity. Bran - the boy who so longed to be a knight in the songs, but ended up cruelly crippled - is the one who answers that call. He becomes Theon's true knight. Hmmm, did I make a connection between Bran and Sandor? :)

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Very interesting, Milady. I think it was you who said that a knight was essentially a sword and a horse?

It was a certain someone from House Clegane who said that, but Milady said something that was close to it: a knight was essentially a warrior on horseback.

Now, here comes another lengthy piece...

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Baelish vs. Stark:

Parallels in Littlefinger’s interplay with Eddard and Sansa

Many readers have the conviction, acquired due to abundant textual hints and foreshadowing, that Sansa Stark will be the person to cause the fall and ruin of the man who was the mastermind behind some events that led to the deaths of her loved ones, Petyr Baelish. Littlefinger’s participation in those events has been indirect, through pawns and puppets, but in one he was involved personally: the downfall, arrest and beheading of Lord Eddard Stark, which, amongst other things, made it possible for him to have his eldest daughter in his power, to use her for his own ends.

And it’s precisely by closely examining the details in this series of fateful events that a case can be made for Sansa as the Stark that will bring him down, because as it’ll be seen in the following passages, Baelish is now unknowingly treading the same path with another Stark. Only that this time the second Stark has aces up her sleeve that the first Stark didn’t have.

“The lies we tell for love”

Before moving to the breakdown of the Baelish vs. Stark/Stark vs. Baelish face-off, let’s examine the placement of the POV chapters in AGOT belonging to some of the Starks, that has been noted before by others, but not analysed in search for an underlying theme, which, once found, is very interesting.

There’s a pattern in this book: Lord Eddard’s chapters precede and follow those of four other people, as if nesting them for some reason. On glance, it doesn’t seem to have any particular significance, but once I took note of their names—Jon Snow, his bastard, Catelyn Tully, his wife, Sansa Stark, his eldest daughter, and Daenerys Targaryen, daughter of the last dragonking—it began to dawn on me the idea that there could be something hidden in this peculiar chapter placement.

Effectively, there’s something: all four are persons whom The Ned had been protecting by either omitting the truth or telling lies for their sake, even at the expense of his honour.

  • Jon IV is placed between Eddard V and Eddard, and Jon VI is between Eddard XIII and Eddard XIV: If due to the textual evidence we consider that Rhaegar and Lyanna are Jon Snow’s true parents, then Ned has had to lie for years to family and friends about a supposed marital infidelity that resulted in him fathering Jon, recognising him as his baseborn son and raising him along with his trueborn children, in order to keep him safe and protected.

There’s also a secondary pattern in AGOT related to two Stark children who are the only ones to be surrounded by both Stark parents’ POVs. Jon is the first, as Jon I is placed between Eddard I and Catelyn II, and curiously, it ties in with the “lies told for love” main motif, because in Ned’s chapter, we find out part of the story of Lyanna and we can figure what he’s had to do to keep the promise made to his sister, at the cost of alienating his wife, whose feelings of resentment toward the bastard boy and the incident in which she asked if Ashara Dayne was the mother are revealed in her next chapter.
  • Catelyn VI is placed between Eddard VIII and Eddard IX: His wife seized Tyrion Lannister and took him as prisoner to the Eyrie, an action she evidently hadn’t contemplated prior to unexpectedly finding him at the Crossroads Inn, and which Lord Stark didn’t know about until Jaime Lannister ambushed him when coming out of a brothel, and informed him about what his lady wife had just done. To protect her, Ned had to lie to the Kingslayer: “Your brother has been taken at my command, to answer for his crimes.” And he later repeated this lie to Robert as well.

  • Sansa III is placed between Eddard XI and Eddard XII: When Varys visited him in the black cells and recommended that he confess to high treason, to acknowledge Joffrey as the rightful monarch and denounce Stannis and Renly as usurpers, Ned refused all of that at first. But then, when the Spider mentioned that Queen Cersei had his daughter and that she might end up paying with her head for his refusal, he forsook his personal honour to protect Sansa and gave a public confession that unfortunately didn’t save him, though it did his child.

Continuing with the pattern of the Stark child sandwiched between the parents, there’s a third theme to be found in the placement of Sansa’s chapters in AGOT, which are always preceded or followed by a POV of one of her parents, excepting her last one when she’s already a hostage and in which the nearest Stark is Bran (which may or mayn’t be a hint that in the end he might be the one to somehow assist his isolated sister); and twice she’s “nested” between both: Sansa I is placed between Catelyn III and Eddard III, and Sansa II is encroached by Catelyn V and Eddard VII, which is interesting as Sansa is the child that is outwardly more like her mother, and inwardly more like Eddard, which brings us back to Baelish’s deluded assessment of her: he sees the mother in her, but brushes over the father.
  • Daenerys V is placed between Eddard XII and Eddard XIII: When King Robert ordered the murder of the pregnant Khaleesi with the compliance of his Council save for his Hand and Selmy, he and Ned had the second big fight of their lives, that resulted in the latter quitting the Handship. Interestingly, history was repeating itself, for their first big fight had also been over the murder of Targaryen children, and had ended much like the second round, with Ned storming out in a fury and a disgrace paving the way for reconciliation: the death of Lyanna the first time and Ned’s wound the second. In this case, Ned didn’t have to lie straightforwardly to protect Daenerys and her yet unborn child, as he voiced his objections clearly, but to redeem his lifelong friend he had to resort to lies old and new nonetheless: what he never revealed about Lyanna, hiding Jon’s paternity and lying to Robert about the identity of his mother, not telling him about Cersei’s incestuous adultery and her children’s bastardy, altering a line of the royal will declaring Joffrey his heir...

Lord Eddard seems to have adopted the view that to be a good and true ruler a high lord, Warden of the North and Hand of the King has the moral obligation to protect his people above all, so he listened to his household and bannermen, and even powerful lords like Bolton fear that the complaints of a mere nobody like one of his peasants will be heard in Winterfell, to give only some examples. At one point, Baelish tells Sansa that men of honour will do for their children what they will not do for themselves, and by Ned’s behaviour we can see that for once he wasn’t mistaken: he did what was right even if it meant doing something as dishonourable as lying to his wife, lying to his best friend who also happens to be his king, which would be treason from a strictly legalistic standpoint, and lying to the common folk in a sacred place. Those of his children most similar to him followed/could follow this very exemplary paternal behaviour: amongst the reasons Jon had for breaking his NW vows was family, his brother Robb the first time and his sister Arya later; and we can speculate that what could make Sansa snap and muster the courage to defy or escape Baelish could possibly be to help or protect her family, not necessarily Sweetrobin, although it’s more likely.

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Always remember this is a Stark

The first thing that is noticed when Lord Stark and Littlefinger meet on-page, as well as when he meets his eldest daughter later, is his fixation on the wife and mother of both, Catelyn. In AGOT Eddard IV, we read:

He eyed Ned with a smile on his lips that bordered on insolence. “I have hoped to meet you for some years, Lord Stark.
No doubt Lady Catelyn has mentioned me to you.”

“She has,” Ned replied with a chill in his voice. The sly arrogance of the comment rankled him. “I understand you knew my brother Brandon as well.”

Renly Baratheon laughed. Varys shuffled over to listen.

“Rather too well,” Littlefinger said. “I still carry a token of his esteem. Did Brandon speak of me too?”

“Often, and with some heat,” Ned said, hoping that would end it.

Littlefinger’s way of introducing himself reveals that he’s been obsessing for years over the husband of the woman he claims to have loved, and quickly prods him to see whether he is or isn’t aware of his past connection to his wife. The Ned’s 'of course she and my brother mentioned how he beat you bloody' reply is a reminder to Baelish of whom he’s talking to: a Stark of Winterfell, not just 'the man who stole my Catelyn,´ as the other seems to be implying slyly, as well as revealing that Catelyn has no secrets about her past with her lord husband, and that she’s told him the good, the bad and the ugly of her life growing up with Baelish in Riverrun.

Shortly after this, Littlefinger takes Eddard to see the newly arrived Catelyn in a brothel of his:

He crossed the outer yard, passed under a portcullis into the inner bailey, and was walking toward what he thought was the Tower of the Hand when Littlefinger appeared in front of him. “You’re going the wrong way, Stark. Come with me.”

Hesitantly, Ned followed. Littlefinger led him into a tower, down a stair, across a small sunken courtyard, and along a deserted corridor where empty suits of armor stood sentinel along the walls. They were relics of the Targaryens, black steel with dragon scales cresting their helms, now dusty and forgotten. “


At the foot of the steps was a heavy door of oak and iron. Petyr Baelish lifted the crossbar and gestured Ned through. They stepped out into the ruddy glow of dusk, on a rocky bluff high above the river. “We’re outside the castle,” Ned said.

“You are a hard man to fool, Stark,” Littlefinger said with a smirk. “Was it the sun that gave it away, or the sky? Follow me. There are niches cut in the rock. Try not to fall to your death, Catelyn would never understand.” With that, he was over the side of the cliff, descending as quick as a monkey.

Ned studied the rocky face of the bluff for a moment, then followed more slowly. The niches were there, as Littlefinger had promised, shallow cuts that would be invisible from below, unless you knew just where to look for them. The river was a long, dizzying distance below. Ned kept his face pressed to the rock and tried not to look down any more often than he had to.

When at last he reached the bottom, a narrow, muddy trail along the water’s edge, Littlefinger was lazing against a rock and eating an apple. He was almost down to the core.


He had two horses waiting. Ned mounted up and trotted behind him, down the trail and into the city.

In that place he’s sheltering Catelyn, to whom he’s lied with no shame about the ownership of the dagger carried by the man who attempted to murder her son Brandon and wounded her in the process; lies which in turn would spark a Stark-Lannister confrontation because, believing his version, Catelyn will arrest Tyrion, and to avenge this perceived affront to his family, Jaime will ambush Ned, most likely after he was fed information about his whereabouts by Littlefinger, since anyone that knew him would think it beyond ridiculous to look for the uptight Hand in a brothel, and Jaime knows him and his wife fairly well.

When Robert orders the assassination of Daenerys and unborn Rhaego, Eddard and Baelish find themselves on opposite sides once more, and Baelish gets to learn that a Stark will not condone the murder of children for political motives. Ned is the one that is most fiercely opposed to this assassination and has a heated argument with Robert, trying to get him to change his mind. Once the Council members start voting, only Lord Commander Selmy backs him. In Eddard VIII, we read how Baelish voted:

Littlefinger was the last. As Ned looked to him, Lord Petyr stifled a yawn. “When you find yourself in bed with an ugly woman, the best thing to do is close your eyes and get on with it,” he declared. “Waiting won’t make the maid any prettier. Kiss her and be done with it.”

“Kiss her?” Ser Barristan repeated, aghast.

“A steel kiss,” said Littlefinger.

The first part of this passage reads like an allusion to his relationship with Lysa, indicating what a poor Catelyn substitute he finds her to be, yet a useful one nonetheless. And it could also be gleaned from this that Baelish had already considered disposing of the younger Tully sister as soon as she ceased to be useful in his schemes, as he eventually did. Another interesting aspect of this episode is that Barristan Selmy, the only other Councilman that voted against the murder of children is now with the intended victim; and it could be detrimental to any of Baelish’s plans involving the Targaryen queen if he were to eventually tell her that Lord Stark was the one that opposed the murder and Baelish the one that approved of it. His chapters in ADWD reveal just what a poor opinion of Littlefinger the aged Queensguard has: he associates his reputation with “deceit, whispers and lies and plots hatched in the dark” and remembers that “bribes had been Littlefinger’s domain.”

Later, when a still recovering Eddard is named Lord Protector of the Realm upon King Robert’s death, he finds himself a lone man surrounded by lions and with no army, in dire need of allies in order to be able to successfully complete his plan of handing the throne over to a true-blooded Baratheon instead of a Lannister bastard. In Eddard XIII, Baelish proposes to become this ally and take measures that are in opposition to Stark’s honour:

“Joffrey is but twelve, and Robert gave you the regency, my lord. You are the Hand of the King and Protector of the Realm. The power is yours, Lord Stark. All you need do is reach out and take it. Make your peace with the Lannisters. Release the Imp. Wed Joffrey to your Sansa. Wed your younger girl to Prince Tommen, and your heir to Myrcella. It will be four years before Joffrey comes of age. By then he will look to you as a second father, and if not, well . . . four years is a good long while, my lord. Long enough to dispose of Lord Stannis. Then, should Joffrey prove troublesome, we can reveal his little secret and put Lord Renly on the throne.”

“We?” Ned repeated.

Littlefinger gave a shrug. “You’ll need someone to share your burdens. I assure you, my price would be modest.”

“Your price.” Ned’s voice was ice. “Lord Baelish, what you suggest is treason.”

“Only if we lose.”

Yet Lord Stark sticks to his principles, and quickly reminds him of the reasons why he cannot heed his advice:

“You forget,” Ned told him. “You forget Jon Arryn. You forget Jory Cassel. And you forget this.” He drew the dagger and laid it on the table between them; a length of dragonbone and Valyrian steel, as sharp as the difference between right and wrong, between true and false, between life and death. “They sent a man to cut my son’s throat, Lord Baelish.”

Littlefinger sighed. “I fear I did forget, my lord. Pray forgive me. For a moment I did not remember that I was talking to a Stark.” His mouth quirked.

But even so, Ned recognises he needs him for a task: to bring him the Gold Cloaks to enforce his orders and his rule as Lord Protector:

“Robert has named me Protector, true enough, but in the eyes of the world, Joffrey is still his son and heir. The queen has a dozen knights and a hundred men-at-arms who will do whatever she commands . . . enough to overwhelm what remains of my own household guard. And for all I know, her brother Jaime may be riding for King’s Landing even as we speak, with a Lannister host at his back.”

“And you without an army.” Littlefinger toyed with the dagger on the table, turning it slowly with a finger.


“I must have the gold cloaks. The City Watch is two thousand strong, sworn to defend the castle, the city, and the king’s peace.”

“Ah, but when the queen proclaims one king and the Hand another, whose peace do they protect?” Lord Petyr flicked at the dagger with his finger, setting it spinning in place. Round and round it went, wobbling as it turned. When at last it slowed to a stop, the blade pointed at Littlefinger. “Why, there’s your answer,” he said, smiling. “They follow the man who pays them.”


“For the sake of the love I bear for Catelyn, I will go to Janos Slynt this very hour and make certain that the City Watch is yours. Six thousand gold pieces should do it. A third for the Commander, a third for the officers, a third for the men. We might be able to buy them for half that much, but I prefer not to take chances.” Smiling, he plucked up the dagger and offered it to Ned, hilt first.

It’s so fitting that the dagger serves as a means to differentiate Ned from Littlefinger, because the dagger carries a two-edged symbolism: on one hand, it’s the symbol of deception, betrayal and treachery due to its millennial association with assassins (some scholars contend that the oldest assassination registered in literature, that of Abel at the hands of Cain, was committed with a sacrificial knife/dagger, though the Bible is silent on the issue of the weapon employed); and on the other hand, as it was their standard secondary weapon, it’s linked to the oaths of Roman legion officers and medieval knights, with all that it entails: justice, valour and honour.

Following this ambiguous symbolism, we see Stark use the weapon to remind Baelish that he is a man whose idea of fairness and honour prevents him from lending an ear to treasonous talk; and we see Baelish playing carelessly with the dagger, making it spin and wobble, an appropriate visual imagery alluding to his disregard for ethics and morals. Also, in Dr. Carl G. Jung’s theory, the dagger (only this, not the sword) is a representation of the Shadow, that unconscious dark side of the male Self, and this united to the traditional symbolism of the dagger, brings to the surface not just the moral deficiency that is Littlefinger’s trademark but also his unacknowledged delusion about Catelyn, that stems from a badly resolved encounter with his Shadow as a youth, the root cause of his desire to place Sansa in her mother’s pedestal, and his more immediate desire to get rid of her father.

As his men died around him, Littlefinger slid Ned’s dagger from its sheath and shoved it up under his chin. His smile was apologetic. “I did warn you not to trust me, you know.”

Thusly ends the first round of Baelish vs. Stark: the seemingly harmless little mockingbird personally puts the dagger to the big direwolf’s throat before he could lift a finger; an underhanded move in itself, because he takes advantage of surprise, the chaos around him, and his victim’s presently unfit physical state, because it’s doubtful that in other circumstances a short man with at best mediocre swordfighting skills could have done this to a taller, fitter and experienced warrior like The Ned.

The last time we see him and his victim sharing the stage is when, as a crowning achievement, he is present in that public trial where we’ll see how his persuading the Lannister boy-king to order Stark’s execution has found willing ears in said little monarch. In this scene, which we see through the eyes of Eddard’s younger daughter, there’s a clear yet subtle allusion to the real cause of his death when Arya identifies Baelish as “the man that fought a duel for Mother” and not by name, as if the author were reminding the readers that he’s dying as a result of lies told by the warped love that man had for his wife.

And even in his last hours, Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell is still symbolically linked to his eldest daughter:

He was dressed in a rich grey velvet doublet with a white wolf sewn on the front in beads, and a grey wool cloak trimmed with fur,
but he was thinner than Arya had ever seen him, his long face drawn with pain. He was not standing so much as being held up; the cast over his broken leg was grey and rotten.

He therefore dies wearing his House colours, but inverted: instead of the Stark sigil of a gray direwolf on a white background, it’s a white direwolf on a gray background… like a bastard. And he confesses his “treason” invoking the Seven as his witnesses, not he Old Gods he’s kept all his life and are the only ones he worships, which stresses just how false were the words he had to yell to save Sansa, who’d be later forced by the same man to adopt a false bastardy.

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In the name of the (true) father

“For a moment I did not remember that I was talking to a Stark,” said Littlefinger when Lord Eddard rejected his morally dubious counsel, and even if in the end he did win that match, he seems to be repeating that same mistake with Eddard’s daughter, as he purposefully chooses to focus just on one side of the girl. Let’s see his demeanour when he meets her for the first time in Sansa III:

When Sansa finally looked up, a man was standing over her, staring. He was short, with a pointed beard and a silver streak in his hair, almost as old as her father.
“You must be one of her daughters,”
he said to her. He had grey-green eyes that did not smile when his mouth did.
“You have the Tully look.”

“I’m Sansa Stark,”
she said, ill at ease. The man wore a heavy cloak with a fur collar, fastened with a silver mockingbird, and he had the effortless manner of a high lord, but she did not know him. “I have not had the honor, my lord.”

Septa Mordane quickly took a hand. “Sweet child, this is Lord Petyr Baelish, of the king’s small council.”

“Your mother was my queen of beauty once,” the man said quietly. His breath smelled of mint. “You have her hair.” His fingers brushed against her cheek as he stroked one auburn lock. Quite abruptly he turned and walked away.

It then becomes apparent that from Day One he seemingly wants to forget she’s a Stark. Baelish doesn’t see Sansa for what she is: daughter of Lord Eddard Stark, the Hand. When he approaches her, he tells her that she must be one of her daughters, and though the name isn’t spoken at first, it’s clear who it is. He “forgets” her Stark blood and is fixated on the 'my lost love Catelyn’s daughter' half of the girl, and it’s Sansa herself who had to remind him plainly that he’s forgetting she’s a Stark.

Littlefinger quickly “forgets” that again, and begins probing the child to learn about her personality, takes note of her naïveté, and also slyly seems to encourage her on questioning her father’s decisions through compliments (“Oh, I don’t know, Septa. Some of her lord father’s decisions could do with a bit of questioning. The young lady is as wise as she is lovely.”). Later, when the father is arrested and the little bird is called from her confinement before the Queen and the Council, he advocates for her tossing aside her Stark identity a second time.

“She reminds me of the mother, not the father,”
Lord Petyr Baelish said quietly. “Look at her. The hair, the eyes. She is the very image of Cat at the same age.”

It’s possibly at this point that he decided that he’d have her father killed instead of allowing him to be released to join the Night’s Watch, for we know from Cersei that he’d asked to marry Sansa himself and was refused (it’s curious that Baelish would request this, because Sansa was still betrothed to Joffrey, and it’s doubtful that the Lannisters would have had it annulled and then allowed her to marry just anyone, due to her value as hostage).

Months later, he uses his pawn Dontos the fool to spirit her away from King’s Landing after the poisoning of Joffrey. Reading the escape in ASOS Sansa V, there are some interesting details to be observed…

They continued down the serpentine and across a small sunken courtyard. Ser Dontos shoved open a heavy door and lit a taper. They were inside a long gallery. Along the walls stood empty suits of armor, dark and dusty, their helms crested with rows of scales that continued down their backs. As they hurried past, the taper’s light made the shadows of each scale stretch and twist.
The hollow knights are turning into dragons,
she thought.

One more stair took them to an oaken door banded with iron. “Be strong now, my Jonquil, you are almost there.” When Dontos lifted the bar and pulled open the door, Sansa felt a cold breeze on her face, She passed through twelve feet of wall, and then she was outside the castle, standing at the top of the cliff. Below was the river, above the sky, and one was as black as the other.

“We must climb down,” Ser Dontos said. “At the bottom, a man is waiting to row us out to the ship.”

“I’ll fall.” Bran had fallen, and he had loved to climb.

“No, you won’t. There’s a sort of ladder, a secret ladder, carved into the stone. Here, you can feel it, my lady.” He got down on his knees with her and made her lean over the edge of the cliff, groping with her fingers until she found the handhold cut into the face of the bluff. “Almost as good as rungs.”

Even so, it was a long way down. “I can’t.”

“You must.”

“Isn’t there another way?”

“This is the way. It won’t be so hard for a strong young girl like you. Hold on tight and never look down and you’ll be at the bottom in no time at all.” His eyes were shiny. “Your poor Florian is fat and old and drunk, I’m the one should be afraid. I used to fall off my horse, don’t you remember? That was how we began. I was drunk and fell off my horse and Joffrey wanted my fool head, but you saved me. You saved me, sweetling.”

He’s weeping,
she realized. “And now you have saved me.”

“Only if you go. If not, I have killed us both.”

It was him,
she thought.
He killed Joffrey.
She had to go, for him as much as for herself. “You go first, ser.” If he did fall, she did not want him falling down on her head and knocking both of them off the cliff.

“As you wish, my lady.” He gave her a sloppy kiss and swung his legs clumsily over the precipice, kicking about until he found a foothold. “Let me get down a bit, and come after. You will come now? You must swear it.”

“I’ll come,” she promised.

Ser Dontos disappeared. She could hear him huffing and puffing as he began the descent. Sansa listened to the tolling of the bell, counting each ring. At ten, gingerly, she eased herself over the edge of the cliff, poking with her toes until they found a place to rest. The castle walls loomed large above her, and for a moment she wanted nothing so much as to pull herself up and run back to her warm rooms in the Kitchen Keep.
Be brave,
she told herself.
Be brave, like a lady in a song.

Sansa dared not look down. She kept her eyes on the face of the cliff, making certain of each step before reaching for the next. The stone was rough and cold. Sometimes she could feel her fingers slipping, and the handholds were not as evenly spaced as she would have liked. The bells would not stop ringing. Before she was halfway down her arms were trembling and she knew that she was going to fall.
One more step,
she told herself,
one more step.
She had to keep moving. If she stopped, she would never start again, and dawn would find her still clinging to the cliff, frozen in fear. One more step, and one more step.

The ground took her by surprise. She stumbled and fell, her heart pounding. When she rolled onto her back and stared up at from where she had come, her head swam dizzily and her fingers clawed at the dirt.
I did it. I did it, I didn’t fall, I made the climb and now I’m going home.

Comparing this scene to the one quoted in the first part of this write-up, it dawns on the reader that the escape route is familiar. Sansa is following the same path her father did, thinking she’s going home, led by a puppet of the same man who lured unsuspecting Eddard down the cliff and into a brothel instead of his dwelling place in the Keep as he expected, where he’d feed him lies. At the center of both scenes is his obsession with Catelyn Stark, fittingly symbolised by his eating an apple, which, though the fruit itself can have different symbolical meanings, the act of eating it is generally either a metaphor for forbidden knowledge or forbidden love/desire, and in Littlefinger’s case, the latter is the one to be applied here for he harbours a delusional desire for a married woman who never reciprocated his sentiments, which is expressed outwardly when in the ship he lies to Sansa that he’d taken her maidenhead (curiously, there's a veriety of apple called Sansa). What also stands out from both scenes is precisely the difference in attitudes between father and daughter: The Ned was more trusting, he followed Littlefinger’s steps without questioning, and that trust would be his doom in the long run; yet the daughter does asks for alternatives, she wants choices, and follows the lead of Littlefinger’s paid man only after she’s told there’s no alternative. This might be significant in the future, because Sansa isn’t blindly accepting all of the Mockingbird’s prattle at face value (“he’s feeding me lies, too”) and she’s compliant only when she has no alternatives at the time.

Continuing with his underestimating of her Stark side, once he has her out of King’s Landing, he forces on her the identity of a bastard daughter of his as a way of appropriating Eddard’s place in Sansa’s mind and heart, as demonstrated by his comment that she should have been his daughter and not the Lord of Winterfell’s, manipulating her into forgetting her Stark father without setting aside her Tully mother despite rejecting the name Catelyn for her, as at this point “the love of his life” is already dead and now he sees Sansa as a replacement for her. And as he wants to start from zero, he chooses for her his own mother’s name, as another attempt at erasing Eddard from the girl’s family tree by introducing a grandparent she never had but who has his, Littlefinger’s, blood:

“Varys has informers everywhere. If Sansa Stark should be seen in the Vale, the eunuch will know within a moon’s turn, and that would create unfortunate... complications. It is not safe to be a Stark just now. So we shall tell Lysa’s people that you are my natural daughter.”

“Natural?” Sansa was aghast. “You mean, a bastard?”

“Well, you can scarcely be my trueborn daughter. I’ve never taken a wife, that’s well known. What should you be called?”

“I... I could call myself after my mother... ”

“Catelyn? A bit too obvious... but after my mother, that would serve. Alayne. Do you like it?”

“Alayne is pretty.” Sansa hoped she would remember. “But couldn’t I be the trueborn daughter of some knight in your service? Perhaps he died gallantly in the battle, and...”

“I have no gallant knights in my service, Alayne. Such a tale would draw unwanted questions as a corpse draws crows. It is rude to pry into the origins of a man’s natural children, however.” He cocked his head. “So, who are you?”

“Alayne... Stone, would it be?” When he nodded, she said, “But who is my mother?”

It’s likely that the story he told her of the woman that she should say was her mother, if asked, could be true at least in part, as it might have bits of Alayne Baelish, Petyr’s mother. Thus he starts the messiest subconscious projection ever, mixing the fake grandmother, the real mother, the fake daughter and the coveted lover all in one girl.

Yet whilst he’s confident in his own conviction that things are going as planned, the girl is showing small signs of not going along with his wishes so meekly. In the following two chapters since her escape until ASOS ends, for example, we have two instances in which she rejects his advances, one symbolically and the other not so symbolically.

Petyr cut a pomegranate in two with his dagger, offering half to Sansa. “You should try and eat, my lady.”

“Thank you, my lord.” Pomegranate seeds were so messy; Sansa chose a pear instead, and took a small delicate bite. It was very ripe. The juice ran down her chin.

Lord Petyr loosened a seed with the point of his dagger. “You must miss your father terribly, I know. Lord Eddard was a brave man, honest and loyal... but quite a hopeless player.” He brought the seed to his mouth with the knife. “In King’s Landing, there are two sorts of people. The players and the pieces.”

Is the dagger he’s using to eat the pomegranate the same he put to her real father’s throat? Quite probably. If so, then here we have again another parallel to his toying with a dagger whilst he speaks dismissively about honour and reveals the murky court politics he was involved in, like he did in the presence of Eddard, and he is trying to do with her the same he did with him: to suggest to her that she should not fixate on these values when playing the game of thrones, because it would mean her downfall as it did for her sire. All the while offering her a fruit that in itself is an outstanding metaphor for what he might really desire from her. Apart from the widely known symbolism of the pomegranate as a fruit related to fertility, abundance, etc., and its link to the myth of Hades and Persephone, there’s another: eating the seeds of a pomegranate symbolises the indissolubility of a marital union, which is why it was the fruit of weddings in Ancient Greece and the reason why it appears in the Hades/Persephone myth, and even today, it’s still used in weddings in China, be it employing real fruits or art depicting them, and amongst Bedouin tribes, to name some examples. She rejects his offer of this fruit, figuratively rejecting his desires, too. And interestingly, she chooses a pear, which in itself is a fruit that, amongst its varied symbolical meanings, stands for a healthy sexuality and innocent love.

Lord Petyr cut the blood orange in two with his dagger and offered half to Sansa. “The lads are far too treacherous to be part of any such scheme... and Osmund has become especially unreliable since he joined the Kingsguard. That white cloak does things to a man, I find. Even a man like him.” He tilted his chin back and squeezed the blood orange, so the juice ran down into his mouth. “I love the juice but I loathe the sticky fingers,” he complained, wiping his hands. “Clean hands, Sansa. Whatever you do, make certain your hands are clean.”

Sansa spooned up some juice from her own orange.

Whilst ordinary oranges have no specific symbolism applicable to this scenario, the pulp and the juice of this unique species of orange has been a long-standing metaphor for blood due to its colour (hence its name sanguinello, from sanguine = blood), including the blood of innocents in special, and just like bloodstains are hard to wipe out, sometimes never come out, the juice of the blood orange generally leaves permanent stains on fabric. Expanding on the idea posed to me by Ragnorak that in the Eddard-Petyr talk just before the latter goes to bribe the Gold Cloaks there’s this imagery of Littlefinger’s acts as a mockery of the First Men justice, here we can see the fake father again attempting at replacing the true father’s rule of “wield the sword yourself and get your hands bloody” with his own “keep your hands clean and let others own the blame” philosophy, so similar to Tywin Lannister’s modus operandi. Sansa accepts the orange, but keeps her hands clean by daintily spooning the juice, fitting with the image of herself as a tool. Yet Baelish himself gets his hands sticky with orange juice, only to clean them quickly afterward, which brings us back to his two-step act to bring Stark down: in the mentioned scene, he first hears The Ned’s “last words” that were his doom, and then personally “wields the weapon” by using the northman’s own dagger to arrest him, so in the first stage he did bloody his hands, and just as he cleans the orange juice as soon as it dirties his hands, he crowned the betrayal by “cleanly,” i.e. indirectly, having Ned beheaded through influencing the boy-king to have him executed with his own Valyrian greatsword. Fittingly, he later repeats this pattern a third time, when he dirties his hands with Lysa’s blood, but quickly cleans them by framing Marillion, and entrapping Sansa as an accomplice.

The scene that precedes this murder illustrates once more the multifaceted nature of Baelish’s obsession with Sansa. He’s posing as her father in Eddard’s shoes, yet he wants to be more than that, and he will not shy away from employing despicable tricks to attain this. After the snow castle is completed, he forcefully tries to relive a distant event in the godswood at Riverrun:

Sansa tried to step back, but he pulled her into his arms and suddenly he was kissing her. Feebly, she tried to squirm, but only succeeded in pressing herself more tightly against him. His mouth was on hers, swallowing her words. He tasted of mint. For half a heartbeat she yielded to his kiss... before she turned her face away and wrenched free. “What are you doing?”

Petyr straightened his cloak. “Kissing a snow maid.”

“You’re supposed to kiss her.” Sansa glanced up at Lysa’s balcony, but it was empty now. “Your lady wife.”

“I do. Lysa has no cause for complaint.” He smiled. “I wish you could see yourself, my lady. You are so beautiful. You’re crusted over with snow like some little bear cub, but your face is flushed and you can scarcely breathe. How long have you been out here? You must be very cold. Let me warm you, Sansa. Take off those gloves, give me your hands.”

“I won’t.” He sounded almost like Marillion, the night he’d gotten so drunk at the wedding. Only this time Lothor Brune would not appear to save her; Ser Lothor was Petyr’s man. “You shouldn’t kiss me. I might have been your own daughter...”

“Might have been,” he admitted, with a rueful smile. “But you’re not, are you? You are Eddard Stark’s daughter, and Cat’s. But I think you might be even more beautiful than your mother was, when she was your age.”

That would be the second time in which Baelish’s allowed his undisguised lust be uncomfortably evident to her, and this time not just to her but to anyone that could be looking. And he gets from the daughter the same response he did from the mother, with good reason, as he’s reminding her of a previous failed rape attempt. This line:

“[…] How long have you been out here? You must be very cold.
Let me warm you, Sansa
. Take off those gloves, give me your hands.”

Is exactly the same her would-be rapist, the singer Marillion, had uttered at the Fingers:

“Alayne.” Her aunt’s singer stood over her. “Sweet Alayne. I am Marillion. I saw you come in from the rain. The night is chill and wet.
Let me warm you.

Lysa Arryn had witnessed the scene at Riverrun (“Petyr tried to kiss your mother, only she pushed him away.” “Catelyn kissed you in the godswood, but she never meant it, she never wanted you.”), and witnessing it happening again with a younger and more beautiful version of her sister, forced the unstable-minded woman to kill the “rival,” and also explains why when she tried to shove Sansa out the Moon Door she seemed to be having difficulty with differentiating between her niece and her sister. Baelish himself shifts during this scene from naming her as the child of the woman he thinks he lost (“She’s a child, Lysa. Cat’s daughter.”) to calling her Alayne, his daughter (“I think she understands now. Isn’t that so, Alayne?”), and again Sansa, the girl he lusts after (“Just let go of Sansa’s hair...”), and ends the scene with pushing her to her death in the name of Catelyn.

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With the girl now entangled in his web and isolated in an inaccessible castle, he can now begin to groom her and transform her into what he desires, hoping that she sheds her old Stark self. But Sansa doesn’t comply as readily, and begins to model Alayne after her bastard brother Jon, coincidentally the other child more similar to Eddard, showing that she’s not devoid of means of protecting herself from complete emotional isolation, for even if the fake identity is forced upon her, she is the one that decides which this persona’s characteristics will be and not her groomer, which in itself doesn’t forecast success for the conditioning, for emotional isolation is a key component, more than physical isolation. And later, when in her first AFFC chapter Littlefinger insists that she’s his daughter, she thinks to herself:

He smiled. “I know Lord Nestor, sweetling. Do you imagine I’d ever let him harm my daughter?”

I am not your daughter,
she thought.
I am Sansa Stark, Lord Eddard’s daughter and Lady Catelyn’s, the blood of Winterfell.

She’s also aware that the man that supposedly is helping her has a double identity as well, and that none of his personalities means well for her:

He saved Alayne, his daughter,
a voice within her whispered.
But she was Sansa too...
and sometimes it seemed to her that the Lord Protector was two people as well. He was Petyr, her protector, warm and funny and gentle... but he was also Littlefinger, the lord she’d known at King’s Landing, smiling slyly and stroking his beard as he whispered in Queen Cersei’s ear.
And Littlefinger was no friend of hers.
When Joff had her beaten, the Imp defended her, not Littlefinger. When the mob sought to rape her, the Hound carried her to safety, not Littlefinger.

When the Lannisters wed her to Tyrion against her will, Ser Garlan the Gallant gave her comfort, not Littlefinger.
Littlefinger never lifted so much as his little finger for her.

Except to get me out. He did that for me. I thought it was Ser Dontos, my poor old drunken Florian, but it was Petyr all the while. Littlefinger was only a mask he had to wear.
Only sometimes Sansa found it hard to tell where the man ended and the mask began. Littlefinger and Lord Petyr looked so very much alike.
She would have fled them both, perhaps, but there was nowhere for her to go.

The daughter is therefore cognisant of the dual nature of this man, thus more suspicious and mistrustful than her true father ever was, though she also has witnessed what he’s capable of. When Petyr decides to further his campaign to obliterate that old identity and asks her to be his daughter more than just from the teeth outward, she uses his own counsel against him:

“Thank you.” She felt absurdly proud for puzzling it out, but confused as well. “
I’m not, though. Your daughter. Not truly. I mean, I pretend to be Alayne,
but you know...”

Littlefinger put a finger to her lips. “I know what I know, and so do you. Some things are best left unsaid, sweetling.”

“Even when we are alone?”

“Especially when we are alone. Elsewise a day will come when a servant walks into a room unannounced, or a guardsman at the door chances to hear something he should not. Do you want more blood on your pretty little hands, my darling?”

Marillion’s face seemed to float before her, the bandage pale across his eyes. Behind him she could see Ser Dontos, the crossbow bolts still in him. “No,” Sansa said. “Please.”

“I am tempted to say this is no game we play, daughter, but of course it is. The game of thrones.”

I never asked to play.
The game was too dangerous
. One slip and I am dead.
“Oswell... my lord, Oswell rowed me from King’s Landing the night that I escaped. He must know who I am.”

“If he’s half as clever as a sheep pellet, you would think so. Ser Lothor knows as well. But Oswell has been in my service a long time, and Brune is close-mouthed by nature. Kettleblack watches Brune for me, and Brune watches Kettleblack. Trust no one, I once told Eddard Stark, but he would not listen. You are Alayne, and you must be Alayne all the time.” He put two fingers on her left breast. “Even here. In your heart. Can you do that? Can you be my daughter in your heart?”

I do not know, my lord,
she almost said, but that was not what he wanted to hear.
Lies and Arbor gold,
she thought. “I am Alayne, Father. Who else would I be?”

Lord Littlefinger kissed her cheek. “With my wits and Cat’s beauty, the world will be yours, sweetling. Now off to bed.”

Three things stand out in this scene in what is the last POV in the books with her real name Sansa: one, that Littlefinger is repeating to the daughter what he had told the father, but unlike the father, the daughter actually uses his lessons to her benefit and to his detriment not long after she’s gotten them, as we see in the example of the usefulness of lies, damned lies and Arbor gold; two, that she doesn’t trust him and she’s lying to him, definitely not the actions of someone that is following him unquestioningly. And three, perhaps the more important point: Sansa finally adopts the persona of Alayne, and from then on her remaining POVs have that name, only after Petyr Baelish has threatened her with more deaths for her cause: “Do you want more blood on your pretty little hands, my darling?”

Even so, Alayne isn’t an entirely different person as Baelish would have it, because in the following two chapters, we observe that parts of Sansa Stark are so well interwoven into Alayne Stone as to make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obliterate her at a subconscious level, which is the most important level when it comes to personality, though she can separate both on a conscious level at will, because she knows she has to pretend to be that new person. Let’s see how Sansa is still present:

  • “A falcon soared above the frozen waterfall, blue wings spread wide against the morning sky. Would that I had wings as well.”

Alayne Stone is supposed to be the daughter of the Lord Protector, not be feeling like prisoner Sansa Stark, who is a warg as a bonus. This would be a severe blow to Baelish’s plans, for if her warging abilities are somehow awakened, possibly through the assistance of Bran through the godswood at the Gates of the Moon, she’d be beyond his control.
  • She still has that habit Lord Eddard had, of getting up from bed and walking barefoot to greet the cold air.

  • She deliberately chooses a dress of her aunt’s in Tully colours: “This morning her eye was caught by a parti-colored gown of Tully red and blue, lined with vair.”

A bastard girl raised in a sept would be using dull clothes; Alayne Stone isn’t supposed to have any preference for pretty dresses, much less choose the colours of the House of Sansa Stark’s mother. Alayne has no highborn mother.
  • She refers to Lysa as her “aunt” once. Alayne Stone is supposed not to have any aunts, it’s Sansa who is the niece of Lysa Tully.

  • As Sansa, she perceives her “father” lusts for her: He looked at her with Littlefinger’s eyes,” which she had also noticed in AGOT, and it’s after noticing this that she chooses to switch to Alayne, the dutiful daughter of Petyr:

“A true daughter would not refuse her sire a kiss, so Alayne went to him and kissed him, a quick dry peck upon the cheek, and just as quickly stepped away.

“How... dutiful.” Littlefinger smiled with his mouth, but not his eyes

It’s noteworthy to remember that Tyrion Lannister, another man who also lusted for her and whom she flatly rejected, also remarked on this behaviour of hers: “She’s nothing if not dutiful, this wife of mine.”
  • When she learns that Bronze Yohn Royce is coming, she worries that he’ll recognise Sansa, immediately having a flashback of her first infatuation, his son Ser Waymar, and then corrects her slip of the tongue for Petyr’s benefit telling him who Bronze Yohn saw was Sansa a second time at King’s Landing, omitting the first time at Winterfell. Petyr underestimates the threat, which proves to be very valid, since even if she’s older and with different hair, she still looks familiar to the Lord of Runestone.

  • She thinks of the Hound when she sees Bronze Yohn Royce arriving in the Eyrie (“The Lord of Runestone stood as tall as the Hound”), and because his sole presence brings back memories of happier times at Winterfell, she considers revealing herself to him and ask for protection, curiously linking a possible protector to her memory of the Hound, as she’d done with Lothor Brune for saving her from Marillion and Petyr for not saving her. Again, Alayne Stone isn’t supposed to know the Hound at all, much less think of him positively in comparison to all men she encounters. She also thinks of Robb, when she supposedly has no brothers, trueborn or baseborn, and decides not to trust him.

It’s to be noted that during this scene, she’s fully is in the skin of Sansa and thinks of herself with that name, not Alayne, until Lord Royce asks her if they’ve met before and she goes back to wearing her bastard mask.

Then we have these examples in Alayne II:

  • “Will they be lemon cakes?” Lord Robert loved lemon cakes, perhaps because Alayne did.

Alayne likes lemon cakes, another personal preference she’s keeping from Sansa.
  • She tries to fantasise about Sansa’s old infatuation Loras Tyrell whilst Sweetrobin is kissing her; it doesn’t work, and she ends up reliving the kiss with the Hound instead. She consciously separates the first as a memory belonging to her past personality, but not the second, which is still part of her new personality as Alayne. That gives Clegane a place in both girls’ lives, for she fantasises about him when she’s Sansa Stark and when she’s Alayne Stone, whereas the only other man she’s thought about in a sexual context, Loras, is left behind in Sansa’s past.

  • When she’s told there’s going to be music and dancing at Lord Nestor’s feast at the Gates of the Moon, she’s conflicted because Sansa loves to dance, but Alayne shouldn’t. In the end, Sansa wins, because when she arrives in the castle, these are amongst the things she’s happy for.

  • She laments that the Eyrie has a sept without a septon, and a godswood without a heart tree, so she believes no prayers are heard or answered in that place. Yet Alayne is supposed to worship only the Seven as she’s been raised by septas; Sansa is the one that keeps to both the old gods of her father and the new gods of her mother.

  • She again repeats that she “must be Alayne all the time, inside and out” for fear of being discovered by Cersei’s bounty hunters when she learns about it from “Petyr’s friends at court.” But so far she doesn’t seem to be doing so well, to judge by the examples we’ve examined thus far, and those to come after, below.

  • She notices on her own that Lothor Brune harbours feelings for Mya, and earns his trust enough that he confesses part of his earlier life to her. This in itself isn’t related to keeping her Stark identity, but is important because this means she’s not emotionally or psychologically isolated, and is able to earn other people’s trust by herself, which can be valuable long-term when/if she tries to get out of where she is at present.

  • When she meets Mya, she thinks this:

, she thought, looking at her now,
those are his eyes, and she has his hair too, the thick black hair he shared with Renly.

Alayne Stone never met Robert the king nor his brother Renly. This is one hundred percent Sansa. What happened to “being Alayne inside and out”?
  • Thinking of Myranda Royce, she again separates Sansa from Alayne: Sansa had been at the Gates of the Moon on her way to the Eyrie, but Randa hadn’t been there, yet Alayne knows a lot about this woman from the servants. In this passage, she thinks of Lysa Tully as Sansa’s aunt, not Alayne’s. But some passages later, she is again Sansa, wondering what “her aunt” could’ve been thinking as she was pushed out the Moon Door and about her last thoughts, and tries not to dwell on it.

  • She decides that Alayne should be older than Sansa: instead of three-and-ten it would be four-and-ten now, the age of Jon Snow, the brother on whom she’s modeling her bastard persona, when they parted ways.

  • Speaking of Jon, it’s not only the mention of him which makes her accidentally blurt out his name to Myranda but also her real father’s name:

There’s a new High Septon, did you know? Oh, and the Night’s Watch has a boy commander,
some bastard son of Eddard Stark’s.”

“Jon Snow?” she blurted out, surprised.

“Snow? Yes, it would be Snow, I suppose.”

This is a chain reaction: the name Eddard Stark makes her think of her brother Jon, and in turn thinking of her brother Jon makes her think also of her brothers Robb, Bran and Rickon.
  • Her descent from the Eyrie to the Gates of the Moon is filled with references to her real mother, Catelyn Stark, that are examined in a separate heading below.

  • When she’s asked by Randa if Alayne is still a maiden, she thinks of Sansa’s husband and of the Hound in Sansa’s bed, all whilst thinking, feeling and reacting like Sansa.

  • She again slips into Sansa when thinking about wishing for a friend: “Despite herself, Alayne found herself warming to the older girl. She had not had a friend to gossip with since poor Jeyne Poole.” Yet Alayne is supposed to never have met Jeyne Poole, who was Sansa’s best friend.

  • This inner monologue is also very much based on Sansa’s memories and wishes:

It will be a featherbed
, she told herself,
soft and warm and deep, piled high with furs. I will dream a sweet dream, and when I wake there will be dogs barking, women gossiping beside the well, swords ringing in the yard. And later there will be a feast, with music and dancing
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The wolf pup follows in the mother’s footsteps

GRRM apparently is subtly reinforcing in the reader’s mind how intricate Sansa's connection to both her parents is precisely when there’s an apparent danger of losing her identity, through the textual similarities with their own ordeal. Before, we saw how Sansa followed in her father’s footsteps down the cliff to the boat that would take her to the Eyrie. And once she’s there, Martin again draws a parallel to a parent, this time her mother.

Even though she thinks that “Sansa Stark went up the mountain, but Alayne Stone is coming down” and to muster her courage during a perilous stage of the descent she tells herself that Alayne is braver than Sansa was, she still thinks and acts like her core original self. In fact, the whole descent from the castle is an inversion of the ascent and stay of her mother at the Eyrie:

There’s this scene of Catelyn when she was at her sister’s home awaiting the trial of her prisoner, the Imp:

The eastern sky was rose and gold as the sun broke over the Vale of Arryn. Catelyn Stark watched the light spread, her hands resting on the delicate carved stone of the balustrade outside her window. Below her the world turned from black to indigo to green as dawn crept across fields and forests. Pale white mists rose off Alyssa’s Tears, where the ghost waters plunged over the shoulder of the mountain to begin their long tumble down the face of the Giant’s Lance. Catelyn could feel the faint touch of spray on her face.

Alyssa Arryn had seen her husband, her brothers, and all her children slain, and yet in life she had never shed a tear. So in death, the gods had decreed that she would know no rest until her weeping watered the black earth of the Vale, where the men she had loved were buried. Alyssa had been dead six thousand years now, and still no drop of the torrent had ever reached the valley floor far below. Catelyn wondered how large a waterfall her own tears would make when she died.

Which is similar to this scene of Sansa in King’s Landing as the prisoner of the Lannisters and unwilling wife of her mother’s former prisoner:

She threw back the shutters and shivered as gooseprickles rose along her arms. There were clouds massing in the eastern sky, pierced by shafts of sunlight. They look like two huge castles afloat in the morning sky. Sansa could see their walls of tumbled stone, their mighty keeps and barbicans. Wispy banners swirled from atop their towers and reached for the fast-fading stars. The sun was coming up behind them, and she watched them go from black to grey to a thousand shades of rose and gold and crimson. Soon the wind mushed them together, and there was only one castle where there had been two.

They are looking at the same sky from the same angle and at the same time of the day: the morning. There's an interesting contrast in what mother and daughter are seeing in those occasions: by the time this happens, Catelyn hasn’t yet lost her husband, children and sibling, but she’s welcoming the new day filled with a sense of dread. And when she finally does lose them, in the same book where Sansa’s scene is, she is unable to mourn them as she would like; and then the piety of Dondarrion condemns her to live without knowing peace until she has avenged her loved ones. Hers is therefore a negative outlook. Sansa, on the other part, is already in a situation similar to Alyssa Arryn: she has lost both her parents and her brothers and her sister, and cannot mourn them properly either but in private, yet she’s welcoming the new day with hope. Hers is a positive outlook.

Then we have the similarities in the ascent and the descent:

  • Both Catelyn and Sansa describe Mya Stone similarly when they meet her, and both think of Jon Snow at different times during their respective ascent/descent.
  • Mother and daughter reflect on Mya’s love life, one thinking that she will not marry the highborn boy she loves, Mychel Redfort, and the other that her lowborn admirer, Lothor Brune, would be good for her.
  • Catelyn compares Mya to her daughter: “She sounded so like Sansa, so happy and innocent with her dreams.” Later, when Mya and Sansa have a talk, none of them are so happy or so innocent anymore: Mya tells her bitterly that men lie, die or leave, sounding like Sansa’s also bitter inner monologue about being left by a man with nothing but a bloody cloak.
  • The mother ascends from Sky to the Eyrie in the basket, the daughter descends from the Eyrie to Sky in the same basket, with Sweetrobin; and both are nervous during this stage.
  • At the beginning of the ascent, Catelyn boasts that she’s a Tully and a Stark, and not easily frightened, but where the slope is steepest, she’s weary and frightened, and has to be guided tiny step by tiny step by Mya. Sansa acts more resolutely and refuses to close her eyes and let the mule guide her, because that’d be what a frightened Stark girl would do, not a bastard brave girl.
  • Both describe the sound of the wind in the same words:


Alayne could hear the wind shrieking
, and feel it plucking at her cloak.

It sounds like a wolf,
thought Sansa
A ghost wolf, big as mountains.


Above Snow,
the wind was a living thing, howling around them like a wolf
in the waste, then falling off to nothing as if to lure them into complacency.

She could hear the wind shrieking.
  • Mother and daughter eat the same food, but curiously at different stages: Alayne eats “a hot meal of stewed goat and onion” at Snow, when she’s going down; and Catelyn eats “skewers of charred meat and onions still hot from the spit” at Stone, when she’s going up. This is noteworthy considering what snow means for Sansa and her identity, and that Catelyn would be later transformed into Lady Stoneheart.
  • They arrive in their destination when the sun is at opposite sides in the sky: at the end of Catelyn’s ascent, it’s dawn; at the end of Sansa’s descent, it’s dusk.
  • Catelyn ascended to the Eyrie as a gaoler taking prisoner Tyrion Lannister with her, which she lost at the Eyrie in a trial by combat that ruined her plans, and descended without him. We didn’t see her descending. Sansa ascended being herself a prisoner of Littlefinger, and we didn’t see her ascending; yet she descended without her gaoler and he may very well lose her due to events that might unfold at the new location and that might ruin his plans.

The trial by combat that wrested Catelyn’s prisoner from her hands was supposed to be won by martial prowess (although trickery wasn’t out of the picture); so considering that the “loss” of the real Catelyn—whom he never
in the first place—to a Stark thanks to his own atrocious swordsmanship is at the root of his present behaviour, one of the many variables is that things might come full circle with Littlefinger losing the surrogate Catelyn in circumstances that required of martial prowess as well.
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A king without an army

Finally, in their last scene in the books, in AFFC Alayne II, we again have Littlefinger assaulting her identity as a Stark, when she tells her she’s to be betrothed to Harry the Heir, and she is first about to object that she doesn’t want to, but switches to “cannot marry” because he will not listen otherwise:

Petyr put a finger to her lips to silence her. “
The dwarf wed Ned Stark’s daughter, not mine.
Be that as it may. This is only a betrothal. The marriage must needs wait until Cersei is done and Sansa’s safely widowed. And you must meet the boy and win his approval. Lady Waynwood will not make him marry against his will, she was quite firm on that.”

Littlefinger again “forgets” who the real father is, and as his modus operandi is buying people’s cooperation by giving them what they want, he is confident that he’s giving her what she wants:

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

But he’s underestimating that he’s dealing with not just any Stark, which merits repetition: it’s the child of Lord Eddard Stark of Winterfell who is the more similar in personality, values and innocence to him and who has assets her father didn’t have. This means there are certain holes in his scheming he apparently is not counting on, which make the success of his plans not as sure as he believes. Let’s examine only the critical ones now:

1. He ignores that the Sansa he has in his clutches isn’t the same eleven-year old Sansa he met, so he bases his belief about what her greatest wishes are on the static idea about her personality he’s got from her first months in King’s Landing.
This Sansa doesn’t want her claim to Winterfell; she doesn’t want the Eyrie nor the Vale, which isn’t her home, and she definitely no longer falls for gallant and handsome knights as he’s trying to present Harrold Hardyng, whose reputation she already knows through Randa,

2. Sansa isn’t as isolated from people as he would believe.
She can bond with inconspicuous people that could be of help long-term in one way or another, Lothor Brune for one, as well as Mya Stone. In other words, she’s started her own little network comprised of the “humblest pieces” and “sheep” behind his back. He’d told the Lannisters during a meeting in ACOK: “I’ve never been frightened of shepherds. It’s the sheep who trouble me;” and one of his lessons to Sansa was that “even the humblest pieces can have wills of their own. Sometimes they refuse to make the moves you’ve planned for them,” but he’s underestimating the threat that these people could be for his aims in the near future.

3. Unlike Eddard, Sansa knows very delicate and damning information about Baelish
, and that could prove useful in the future.

4. Robb’s will disinheriting Sansa could pose an obstacle, and the survival of Bran and Rickon definitely are serious obstacles.
That makes three Stark heirs still around. Baelish can scheme against Jon or Rickon, but Bran is beyond his reach, and it’s difficult that he could do much, if anything, to prevent a godlike being from reaching his sister, or doing something in favour of House Stark if he wished to. Which brings us to…

5. … Sansa is a warg.
Does Baelish know this? It doesn’t seem so, and it’s unlikely that she’d confide in him if/when this ability is awakened. How is he going to prevent Bran (or even Jon) from signaling to her, communicating with her, or keeping an eye on her via trees and animals? There’s the possibility that he could already have done/is doing that, considering that he is now able to warg birds, and Sansa noticed falcons circling above her head at least twice at the Vale, and there’s also the scene of the wind sounding like a wolf, and the fact that there’s a godswood at the Gates of the Moon. Even without these external elements, there are dreams like those Bloodraven planted on Bran’s mind himself.

This is one of the biggest problems for Baelish’s success, that this is not just non-warg and politically naïve Eddard Stark anymore. The current Starks have magical powers, including Sansa, and if/when she starts warging, then she’ll use it to her advantage without him having much of a say in it, as she doesn’t trust him.

6. Grooming her as a potential lover doesn’t look like it’s going smoothly either,
not less because she has already focused her sexual and romantic fantasies on Sandor Clegane—which in itself is an emotional shield, and of which Baelish isn’t aware—but because now there will be less opportunity and the required time alone with her at the Gates of the Moon, as there are more people around that don’t answer to him, and she will be spending more time with Randa Royce and Mya Stone, one that Baelish doesn’t trust and another whom he doesn’t seem to care about; and likely also people coming to and going out of the Vale, passers by, etc. All of this makes the necessary emotional isolation impracticable at the new location.

7. Alayne has understood the usefulness of the “false compliance” defence grooming victims, kidnapping victims and abuse victims use to shield themselves from further advances from the groomer/abuser
, which is basically at the core of her employing the “lies and Arbor gold” on Littlefinger: she knows what he wants to hear from her and how he wants her to act like.

8. In the Gates of the Moon, there’s more danger of recognition
by people living there, and newly arrived persons like Ser Shadrich, who’s looking for Sansa Stark and is one of the most likely to discover the truth, and more that might arrive in the near future. Also, servants gossip, so the Royce household is bound to find out about certain things from the visiting Arryn household; and people leaving the Gates might spread the tale that Baelish has a beautiful bastard daughter, which might pique some
curiosities enough to investigate further.

9. The danger of Sweetrobin’s untimely death.
Although it’s not the most likely of outcomes, little Robert Arryn’s frail health means there’s a realistic possibility that he could die prematurely, be it of natural causes, during one of his attacks or of health complications that might arise due to the crude winter, or due to the side effects of the drugs he’s given to control them, accidentally or on purpose (the least probable case), which would screw with Littlefinger’s plans, paralleling how his scheming to have Lord Eddard die prematurely screwed with the plans of the Stark and Lannister families, as well as an ironic shot in the foot because the poisoning of an Arryn was what made it possible for his plans to begin to bear fruit and the poisoning or natural death of another Arryn would potentially ruin said plans.

10. And last the arguably biggest problem,

“Who is overlord of the Riverlands? (Since the Freys have Riverrun yet Littlefinger was named Lord Paramount). George says that Littlefinger is the Lord of the Riverlands but that he is going to run into trouble. I commented that Littlefinger is really powerful now that he has the Riverlands and supposed control of the Eyrie. GRRM laughed and said that I need to remember that for all his power Littlefinger has no army. (I thought that was interesting). GRRM also commented that (I forget which Frey, Emmon?) the Frey given Riverrun really wants to be Lord of the Riverlands and has dreams of having his father be his vassal. (I thought that was interesting also).”

Following the adage that “a king without an army is just a man in a funny hat,”
the author has stressed that despite the fact that the Mockingbird has a title of Lord Protector and is on the surface very powerful, he lacks an army like The Ned did
(which proved to be fatal for him): he only has about thirty men from the garrison of the Eyrie and some untrustworthy hedge knights he recently hired, definitely no match for the Lords of the Vale. He may have bribed most of them, but as a conversation with Tyrion in ACOK demonstrates, he knows that even if “bribes might sway some of the lesser lords,” there are always incorruptible lords, Bronze Yohn for one, and even the supposedly bribed Vale lords, such as Nestor Royce or Anya Waynwood, still are the ones that have the support and the swords, not him; and those who have the swords can solve inconveniences and surmount irksome obstacles with steel, if not through
accidents, that is, they can oust him from his position or retake control over their liege lord, Sweetrobin Arryn by force.

Thus, we have plenty of reasons and foreshadowing to believe that it will be Sansa the one to bring her captor down into the mud. In accordance with GRRM’s tendency to subvert plotlines, her arc seems to be already following the reverse pattern of what Baelish did to Lord Eddard; the snowball has been rolling down slowly for a time now, and at this moment he’s in the same position Stark was: a Lord Protector without an army and with who he believes to be his ally in the ideal position to put the dagger to his throat, literally or figuratively.

There were four people directly responsible for the beheading of Lord Stark, and Baelish was the mastermind that manipulated the others: he convinced Joffrey to go against the advice of his Councilmen and his mother, he bought Slynt, and even if Ilyn Payne was just doing his job as royal executioner, he’s not free from a connection to Baelish, who sold one of the offices under the headsman. Of these, two are already deceased, in a violent manner it must be added, and in their deaths a Stark was involved: the poison that killed Joffrey was carried by an unknowing Stark; Janos Slynt met the justice of the First Men at the hands of a baseborn Stark… And now, again a Stark is in the ideal place to do the same to the major culprit, a threat Baelish “forgets,” that is, underestimates. Even if Sansa doesn’t personally slit his throat, beheads him, poisons him, etc., if his downfall comes as a direct consequence of her actions, then Littlefinger would arguably have met a sort of First Men justice at the hands of a Stark, and the circle would be poetically completed with the protagonists back in the end to a situation so alike to the beginning, but with their roles inverted.

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I doubt that Baelish has the foggiest inkling that the Stark children are wargs, nor that Bran and Rickon are still alive, nor about their special abilities, the latter being matters of Northern lore the which he would hardly be interested in learning about. As a resolutely practical man, such things would seem to him mere moonshine

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So, back to knights and song. The following strikes me as the sort of song Rhaegar might have sung, viz. "La Belle Dame Sans Merci", poem by John Keats as set by Sir Charles Stanford.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

Alone and palely loitering?

The sedge has wither'd from the lake,

And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms!

So haggard and so woe-begone?

The squirrel's granary is full,

And the harvest's done.

I see a lily on thy brow

With anguish moist and fever dew,

And on thy cheeks a fading rose

Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,

Full beautiful -- a faery's child,

Her hair was long, her foot was light,

And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,

And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;

She look'd at me as she did love,

And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,

And nothing else saw all day long,

For sidelong would she bend, and sing

A faery's song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,

And honey wild, and manna dew,

And sure in language strange she said --

"I love thee true."

She took me to her elfin grot,

And there she wept, and sigh'd full sore,

And there I shut her wild wild eyes

With kisses four.

And there she lull'd me asleep,

And there I dream'd -- Ah! woe betide!

The latest dream I ever dream'd

On the cold hill's side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,

Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;

They cried -- "La Belle Dame sans Merci

Hath thee in thrall!"

I saw their starved lips in the gloom,

With horrid warning gaping wide,

And I awoke and found me here,

On the cold hill's side.

And this is why I sojourn here,

Alone and palely loitering,

Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,

And no birds sing.

Ian Bostridge, tenor:


There are also some songs on this text in a folk style to be found on You Tube: I will listen again, and if one appeals (to me of course :) I will add the link.

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Thus, we have plenty of reasons and foreshadowing to believe that it will be Sansa the one to bring her captor down into the mud. In accordance with GRRM’s tendency to subvert plotlines, her arc seems to be already following the reverse pattern of what Baelish did to Lord Eddard; the snowball has been rolling down slowly for a time now, and at this moment he’s in the same position Stark was: a Lord Protector without an army and with who he believes to be his ally in the ideal position to put the dagger to his throat, literally or figuratively.

I love this exploration of just why LF is up for an almighty fall, Milady :) As the discussions on this thread have reinforced over and again: Sansa's resistance to LF may be subtle, and difficult at times to discern, but it's present nonetheless, and you did an excellent job of detailing how that resistance is concentrated around her identity as Sansa Stark - "the blood of Winterfell" - an affiliation that LF cannot erode no matter how hard he tries. A few points that stood out to me as I read your essay:

  • LF has a habit of putting his fingers to Sansa's lips when she's about to say something he doesn't want to hear, and in the two examples we have it concerns the truth of Sansa's identity - that she's not Alayne as he would like it, but the daughter of Eddard Stark. Now, the reason why I think this is important is because the first time it happens is when he requests that Sansa be Alayne Stone in her heart, and she decides to pretend to go along with what he wants: lies and arbor gold. The second time is in her final AFFC chapter, and she has just tried to remind him that she's still married to the Imp. Once again, he tries to silence her and then goes on to expand on his grand designs for Alayne - a betrothal to Harry the Heir and revelation of Sansa Stark on the wedding day. We don't know of Sansa's reactions to these plans, but if the earlier scene is meant to act as a deliberate comparison, then LF is about to be fooled once again.

  • LF claims that Lothor Brune is "close-mouthed by nature", and perhaps he is, but close-mouthed individuals (see the Hound) have a tendency of being quite chatty around the little-bird, and revealing secrets. Brune has already shared some of his family history, and if there's anyone Sansa has a chance of poaching from LF's service, it'll be him, I wager.

  • I really liked the section on Catelyn and the inverse parallels of their experiences in the Vale. As you highlighted, while both women are "Stones" now, Sansa took her nourishment at Snow, whilst Catelyn fed at Stone. Interestingly, Catelyn's meal is only described as "charred meat" whilst Sansa specifically has "stewed goat". There is mythological symbolism connecting LF to satyrs (see spelling of Petyr), in particular the lecherous god, Pan. Might be some tasty foreshadowing, huh? There is similar difference in the wind as wolf observations they make, with Sansa's sound being characterized as a "ghost wolf." Whatever the specific relevance of this, it does have personal meaning for Sansa with respect to her connection to her family. We also had some discussion a while back on the "snow over stone" references in these chapters, and in terms of the Eyrie castles - Snow is above Stone, or for our purposes, "covers" it. It is also on the way to Snow that Sansa proves most courageous and independent, and by the time they are leaving the Stone waycastle, snow is falling heavily and covering everything.

  • Your observation of Petyr's similar predicament to Eddard in AGOT was brilliant. I'm also reminded of that conversation between Ned and Robert in the crypts of Winterfell, where Sweetrobin is a hot topic between the two. At that time, Ned is adamant that the boy's welfare must come first, and that he doesn't care for Lannister pride. Does Sansa have a chance now to fulfil her father's wishes - the first example that Ned was not a man to compromise his principles and play with the lives of children? Of course, Sansa's choices have never been so black and white. Despite not having anything to do with LF's crimes, he's made sure her hands are dirtied - her share of the blood orange. Ned underestimated the depths of Lannister pride to his ruin, but Sansa cannot afford to make such an error with LF. To follow in her parents' footsteps will necessitate the taking of vital shortcuts and risks.


I think I've mentioned this before, but when Mya is asserting to Sansa that she never falls after nearly having done so on the dangerous ledge to the Snow castle, we have this description of the girl's hair:

Mya's hair had tumbled across one cheek, hiding one eye.

Very Bloodravenesque, no? Is he keeping watch on Mya too, and does it mean the bastard girl will play a role in helping Sansa?

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Come to think of it, most of Bran's existence since the beginning of the novel has been defined by the brother/sister relationship - for bad or good. Cersei's and Jaime's escapades led to his defenestration, and Theon's need to prove himself as Balon's true heir over Asha resulted in the tragic series of events at Winterfell. It's then up to Meera and Jojen Reed to teach him about his powers and guide him beyond the Wall to the three-eyed crow. That he and Sansa were the two most "Southern" of the Stark children already links them in the wider thematic structure of the novels, and if they can find a way to work together it would be appropriate in light of the events that propelled them back to their Northern roots.

"if they can find a way to work together"... I would imagine that this is the reason that Martin chose to put a Weirwood Throne at the Eyrie... We have already seen a dead Weirwood stump have a significant influence over Jamie Lannister's life. It has been suggested that the faces carved into the backs of Weirwood chairs in the House of Black & White are an extension of the Weir-Net. I would imagine that Sansa's Weirwood throne will link her to the Bran and the Old Gods in a similar way.

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