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Milady of York

From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XXI

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The second essay of the motherhood project (divided into 3 parts) will be posted shortly :) Thanks to PTP members in general for the many stimulating conversations we've had here which have been instrumental in shaping this piece. Special shout out to Ragnorak and Milady: always thought-provoking, always helpful.


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Sansa the Peacemaker: Maternal Empowerment and the Politics of Peace

In her seminal study Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution, Adrienne Rich speaks of “the potential relationship of any woman to her powers of reproduction and to children; and the institution, which aims at ensuring that potential – and all women – shall remain under male control.” Although this conflict can be glimpsed in the lives of other central female characters, it is in Sansa’s narrative that it achieves its true resonance and development, with Martin employing motherhood as the guiding theme in illustrating how she moves from the position of pawn to player, from longing for a home within the institution to seeking to escape it. But escape itself is not enough. As my essay will go on to argue, Sansa’s player status will be realised through her role as a peacemaker, a vital responsibility that Martin has foreshadowed throughout her chapters. This responsibility is directly predicated upon Sansa’s experiences of mothering, involving what Sara Ruddick refers to as “maternal thinking”, which empowers women and their children, and is ultimately opposed to the dehumanizing destruction of war.

PART I

The Institution of Motherhood

...for most of what we know as the “mainstream” of recorded history,
motherhood as institution has ghettoized and degraded female potentialities.

Adrienne Rich

As outlined by feminist maternal theorists, the institution of motherhood is an oppressive function of the patriarchy, operating to control and influence women’s behaviour and attitudes in the service of a restrictive ideology. This ideology seeks to cement the stereotype of the “good” mother, who is “naturally” loving and caring at all times, and who sacrifices her identity and self-interests on the altar of the family. According to Rich:

Institutional motherhood demands of women maternal “instinct”
rather than intelligence, selflessness rather than self-realization,
relation to others rather than creation of self. Motherhood is ‘sacred’
so long as its offspring are ‘legitimate’ – that is, as long as the child
bears the name of the father who legally controls the mother.

What is generally appreciated as Sansa’s naivete and “blindness” for much of AGOT has everything to do with her investment in the allure of patriarchal motherhood, both in how she views Cersei as the Queen, and her own relationship with Joffrey. For a girl who prided herself in excelling in the courtesies and proper behaviour of her social class, what could be more attractive than fulfilling the most sacred rites of them all – those ordained by the institution of motherhood? When Ned reveals the decision to send her and Arya back to Winterfell, Sansa’s distress is focused not on a desire for power and the pageantry of being a Queen, but in having the honour of being married and a mother to Joff’s children:

Who cares about your stupid dancing master?” Sansa flared. “Father, I only just now remembered, I can’t go away, I’m to marry Prince Joffrey.” She tried to smile bravely for him. “I love him, Father, I truly truly do, I love him as much as Queen Naerys loved Prince Aemon the Dragonknight, as much as Jonquil loved Ser Florian. I want to be his queen and have his babies.”

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

“He is!” Sansa insisted. “I don’t want someone brave and gentle, I want him. We’ll be ever so happy, just like in the songs, you’ll see. I’ll give him a son with golden hair, and one day he’ll be the king of all the realm, the greatest king that ever was, as brave as the wolf and as proud as the lion.”

It’s perfectly in line with the ideology of patriarchal motherhood, right down to providing Joff with little Lannister lions in his own image. The irony of course is that the truth of Joffrey’s parentage undermines the very foundations of the institution that Sansa esteems. Sansa’s longing for a son who will be the “greatest king that ever was” illustrates how institutionalized motherhood continually replenishes patriarchal dominance. She becomes the perfect victim for Cersei’s manipulations after her father is imprisoned, desperate to prove that she can be a loyal wife to Joffrey:

The queen looked at her, troubled, and yet Sansa could see kindness in her clear green eyes. “Child,” she said, “if I could truly believe that you were not like your father, why nothing should please me more than to see you wed to my Joffrey. I know he loves you with all his heart.” She sighed. “And yet, I fear that Lord Varys and the Grand Maester have the right of it. The blood will tell. I have only to remember how your sister set her wolf on my son.”

“I’m not like Arya,” Sansa blurted. “She has the traitor’s blood, not me. I’m good, ask Septa Mordane, she’ll tell you, I only want to be Joffrey’s loyal and loving wife.”

This exchange reinforces Rich’s words above on how patriarchal motherhood encourages “relation to others, rather than creation of self”. Although her concern for Ned is paramount, she believes that being Joff’s wife and securing his love will make him lenient towards her father.

When Joff orders Ned’s death towards the end of AGOT, it not only constitutes Sansa’s awakening to his true nature, but more critically, to her acute powerlessness as his betrothed. Amber E. Kinser explains in Motherhood and Feminism:

For a woman, being able to decide if and when she wants to become
a mother is a critical starting place for her power. To exercise full
agency in this way, a woman must have knowledge about reproductive
processes, sexuality, contraception, adoption, abortion, and other
variables so that she can make informed decisions. She also has to
have the power to say when she would be sexually active and with whom.

As Joffrey takes Sansa to see the spiked heads adorning the castle walls, he wastes no time in touting his control over her: a control that is informed by her utility as a vessel for giving birth:

“I’ll get you with child as soon as you’re able,” Joffrey said as he escorted her across the practice yard. “If the first one is stupid, I’ll chop off your head and find a smarter wife. When do you think you’ll be able to have children?”

Sansa could not look at him, he shamed her so. “Septa Mordane says most … most highborn girls have their flowering at twelve or thirteen.”

Joffrey nodded. “This way.” He led her into the gatehouse, to the base of the steps that led up to the battlements.

The beautiful dream of children with Joffrey has now officially become Sansa’s nightmare. Motherhood in these circumstances means imprisonment, unhappiness and potential death. Engaged to Joffrey and as a captive in KL, Sansa faces the distinct possibility of having her choices negated and her body used as a tool to further the Lannister agenda; it is little wonder then that the experience of her first menarche inspires such terror. Cersei acknowledges the change in Sansa’s desires, but still tries to keep her subservient by telling her that although she no longer loves Joffrey, she will love their children. It’s advice straight out of the patriarchal manual on motherhood, and is the height of hypocrisy for Cersei, who could not bear to have Robert’s offspring herself. The appeal to loving Joff’s children is only to conceal what is really at stake if Sansa were to accept such a “compromise”: her agency and autonomy.

The Rebellion I – Better Husbands

…every mother must deliver her children over within a few
years of birth to the patriarchal system of education, of law,
of religion, of sexual codes; she is, in fact, expected to prepare
them to enter that system without rebelliousness or “maladjustment”
and to perpetuate it in their own adult lives.

Adrienne Rich

Cersei communicates the expectation outlined in the above epigraph when she tells Sansa:

“Joffrey will show you no such devotion, I fear. You could thank your sister for that, if she weren’t dead. He’s never been able to forget that day on the Trident when you saw her shame him, so he shames you in turn. You’re stronger than you seem, though. I expect you’ll survive a bit of humiliation. I did. You may never love the king, but you’ll love his children.”

Knowing that true love is no longer possible between Sansa and her son, Cersei seeks to ensure that Sansa will at least be a compliant wife and mother for the sake of her children. But even before the attempt at trying to burn her bedding revealed an active – if desperate – resistance to such counsel, the conversation that takes place with Joffrey at his name day tourney is revealing:

Tommen got his pony up to a brisk trot, waved his sword vigorously, and struck the knight’s shield a solid blow as he went by. The quintain spun, the padded mace flying around to give the prince a mighty whack in the back of his head. Tommen spilled from the saddle, his new armor rattling like a bag of old pots as he hit the ground. His sword went flying, his pony cantered away across the bailey, and a great gale of derision went up. King Joffrey laughed longest and loudest of all.

“Oh,” Princess Myrcella cried. She scrambled out of the box and ran to her little brother.

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

Joffrey shrugged. “What if he is?”

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

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

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

They were helping Prince Tommen mount his pony. If only Tommen were the elder instead of Joffrey, Sansa thought. I wouldn’t mind marrying Tommen.

Taking place after the dramatic rescue of Dontos and right before Tyrion makes his return to the city, this exchange is often overlooked or viewed as just another example of Joffrey being inconsiderate to his siblings. But looked at in the context of this essay, it is important for a couple of reasons. The first has to do with how it depicts Joffrey as a potential father figure, not simply as a brother. In actively supporting Tommen, Sansa displays a positive maternal attitude to the young boy: wishing him luck and going so far as to chastise Joff for his ungracious behaviour. It’s obvious that she would find any family structure where Joff acts as the head of the home to be untenable. The second reason – and integral to Sansa’s chastisement of the king –is that it’s the first example we have of her courageous mothering or what Rich refers to as “nurturance as resistance”. Here, Sansa is not only championing Tommen’s rights not to bullied or belittled, but is also fighting back against the institutional power that wants to render her powerless and passive in this role. The fact that she is willing to oppose Joffrey again after taking the considerable risk to save Dontos highlights mothering as practice in which Sansa actively chooses to mount an opposition to oppression. In the words of leading maternal scholar Andrea O’Reilly:

The reality of patriarchal motherhood must be distinguished from
from the possibility or potentiality of gynocentric or feminist mothering.
In other words, while motherhood as an institution is a male-defined
site of oppression, women’s own experiences of mothering can
nonetheless be a source of power.

It is difficult to realise that power as a captive with the Lannisters, but the opportunity Sansa is given in ASOS to escape to Highgarden and marry Willas Tyrell reveals just how such power might work. In the second dream of marriage to a more humane husband, Sansa envisions her motherwork as an extension of her identity and her fight against oppression:

She pictured the two of them sitting together in a garden with puppies in their laps, or listening to a singer strum upon a lute while they floated down the Mander on a pleasure barge. If I give him sons, he may come to love me. She would name them Eddard and Brandon and Rickon, and raise them all to be as valiant as Ser Loras. And to hate Lannisters, too. In Sansa’s dreams, her children looked just like the brothers she had lost. Sometimes there was even a girl who looked like Arya.

While she is still cognizant of negotiating with the institutional pressure on mothers – If I give him sons, he may come to love me – the passage represents a radical reimagining for her vision of children within marriage, and positions Sansa to hold an active militancy in shaping her children’s lives. What was once abstract – “as brave as the wolf and as proud as the lion”- has been replaced by the concrete: “as valiant as Ser Loras.” Furthermore, these children are now part of her familial heritage, given the names of her father and brothers, and resembling them in appearance as well. A little girl who looks like her famously nonconformist sister symbolically completes the dream of maternal insurgency.

The Rebellion II: At the Crossroads of Sexuality and Motherhood

…mothers with a feminist conscious move from an
inauthentic obedience to the values of the dominant
culture toward appreciating how many of these dominant
values are unacceptable and, thus can be actively challenged.

Fiona Joy Green

The interplay between Sansa and Cersei during the battle of Blackwater outlines the contrast between their perspectives and behaviour on the critical issues relating to patriarchal authority, female exploitation and inequality, sexuality and power. It also becomes a referendum on their duties, not as Queenly competitors, but as mothers and caretakers. Cersei is capable of feeling only disdain for the women in the castle:

The queen studied the wives, daughters, and mothers who filled the benches. “Of themselves the hens are nothing, but their cocks are important for one reason or another, and some may survive this battle. So it behooves me to give their women my protection. If my wretched dwarf of a brother should somehow manage to prevail, they will return to their husbands and fathers full of tales about how brave I was, how my courage inspired them and lifted their spirits, how I never doubted our victory even for a moment.”

But Cersei goes on to show no such courage as the Queen and representative of the royal household (or royal caretaker) during the crisis. Instead, it’s obvious that her primary preoccupation is about ensuring the safety of her son Joffrey, and only Joffrey, even if it means endangering her family’s interests:

Osney was all smiles as he knelt beside the queen. “The hulks have gone up, Y’Grace. The whole Blackwater’s awash with wildfire. A hundred ships burning, maybe more.”

“And my son?”

“He’s at the Mud Gate with the Hand and the Kingsguard, Y’Grace. He spoke to the archers on the hoardings before, and gave them a few tips on handling a crossbow, he did. All agree, he’s a right brave boy.”

“He’d best remain a right live boy.”

Where’s my son?”

“The castle gatehouse. He wanted to command the crossbowmen. There’s a mob howling outside, half of them gold cloaks who came with him when we left the Mud Gate.”

“Bring him inside Maegor’s now.”

No!” Lancel was so angry he forgot to keep his voice down. Heads turned toward them as he shouted, “We’ll have the Mud Gate all over again. Let him stay where he is, he’s the king—”

“He’s my son.” Cersei Lannister rose to her feet. “You claim to be a Lannister as well, cousin, prove it. Osfryd, why are you standing there? Now means today.”

When she leaves the room in a rush, injuring the already wounded Lancel, panic threatens to set in. But it is Sansa’s quick thinking and reassurance that restores some measure of calm. As noted, she may have filled the void left by the Queen, but the role she performs is distinctly maternal. Martin makes this clear in the description of those most affected by Cersei’s departure:

“Oh, gods,” an old woman wailed. “We’re lost, the battle’s lost, she’s running.” Several children were crying. They can smell the fear. Sansa found herself alone on the dais. Should she stay here, or run after the queen and plead for her life?

Sansa’s decision is to stay and help – a role that is performed despite fears for her own safety, is reminiscent of her support of Tommen at the name day tourney. The important distinction is that this is now a public performance that contributes significantly to the peace within the castle, highlighting that mothering does not have to be confined to the realm of the private to make a difference. Her attentions towards Lancel are those of a caretaker – helping him to his feet and requesting that he be taken to the maester - despite her misgivings about assisting a member of the Lannister family. These maternal actions involve Sansa assuming public duty, but not necessarily the queenly title that many readers believe is foreshadowed in the scene.

Cersei’s earlier lamentations on the restrictions of gender and the different ways she and Jaime are treated – “Jaime’s lot was to be glory and power, while mine was birth and moonblood” - is an important message on how gender norms and societal constructs impinges on female potentiality; but her dismissive and callous attitude towards the women in the castle places Cersei in the realm of patriarchal oppression, not feminist solidarity. Accordingly, her advice to Sansa that women’s tears are not the only weapon reveals a dependence on male authority which does nothing to empower or advance women’s interests. Rich states:

Outside of the mother’s brief power over the child – subject to
male interference – women have experienced “power over” in
two forms, both of them negative. The first is men’s power over
us – whether physical, economic, or institutional – along with the
spectacle of their bloody struggles for power over other men, their
implicit sacrifice of human relationships and emotional values in
the quest of dominance. Like other dominated people, we have
learned to manipulate and seduce, or to internalize men’s will
and make it ours, but it is nothing more than the child’s or courtesan’s
power to wheedle and the dependent’s “power” to disguise her
feelings – even from herself – in order to obtain favours, or literally to survive.

The inappropriateness of Cersei's advice is shown when Sansa returns to her room and finds the battle weary Sandor Clegane. It is neither tears nor the weapon between her legs that is able to soothe Sandor or ensure Sansa’s survival; rather, it is the maternal compassion and concern of the Mother’s Hymn:

Gentle Mother, font of mercy,
save our sons from war, we pray,
stay the swords and stay the arrows,
let them know a better day.
Gentle Mother, strength of women,
help our daughters through this fray,
soothe the wrath and tame the fury,
teach us all a kinder way
.

In effecting positive change via this experience, Sansa is able to counter the cynical values espoused by Cersei and acknowledge a different kind of female strength which the Queen cannot appreciate.

Just as the act of mothering outside of the institutional ideology has valuable bearing as a source of power and strength for Sansa, the refusal to mother is another important rebellious action that safeguards Sansa’s selfhood and protects her from the exploitative measures enacted by oppressive patriarchal figures. It is through the marriage to Tyrion Lannister, and the realisation that her claim turns her into commodity, that we see Sansa’s feminist consciousness coming into full bloom.

I don’t want any Lannister, she wanted to say. I want Willas, I want Highgarden and the puppies and the barge, and sons named Eddard and Bran and Rickon. But then she remembered what Dontos had told her in the godswood. Tyrell or Lannister, it makes no matter, it’s not me they want, only my claim.

Whereas before she was committed to still working within the institutional boundaries of marriage and motherhood with Willas Tyrell, the flagrant power grab and negation of her will by the Lannisters effectively cancels the last vestige of illusions Sansa held about her ability to be fulfilled in such arrangements – even with some measure of maternal agency in Highgarden. As Sara Ruddick attests, feminist consciousness is “a confusing, often painful, but irresistible recognition that the stories they have told themselves about ‘being a woman’ are self-deceptive and do not serve their interests."

Sansa confronts the deceptive nature of these stories when she views her husband’s body and understands how female desire has been discounted in the institution of marriage:

Look at him, Sansa told herself, look at your husband, at all of him, Septa Mordane said all men are beautiful, find his beauty, try. She stared at the stunted legs, the swollen brutish brow, the green eye and the black one, the raw stump of his nose and crooked pink scar, the coarse tangle of black and gold hair that passed for his beard. Even his manhood was ugly, thick and veined, with a bulbous purple head. This is not right, this is not fair, how have I sinned that the gods would do this to me, how?

How does Sansa rebel against the attempts to do violence to her body and her homeland? She does so by refusing to provide the emotional nurturance Tyrion deeply craves. In short, she chooses not to mother him:

And their nights together in the great bed were another source of torment. He could no longer bear to sleep naked, as had been his custom. His wife was too well trained ever to say an unkind word, but the revulsion in her eyes whenever she looked on his body was more than he could bear. Tyrion had commanded Sansa to wear a sleeping shift as well. I want her, he realized. I want Winterfell, yes, but I want her as well, child or woman or whatever she is. I want to comfort her. I want to hear her laugh. I want her to come to me willingly, to bring me her joys and her sorrows and her lust. His mouth twisted in a bitter smile. Yes, and I want to be tall as Jaime and as strong as Ser Gregor the Mountain too, for all the bloody good it does.

….

“Theon Greyjoy.” Tyrion sighed. “Your lady mother once accused me . . . well, I will not burden you with the ugly details. She accused me falsely. I never harmed your brother Bran. And I mean no harm to you.”

What does he want me to say? “That is good to know, my lord.” He wanted something from her, but Sansa did not know what it was. He looks like a starving child, but I have no food to give him. Why won’t he leave me be?

By refusing to perform the fundamental role that the institution demands of all women, Sansa undermines its attempts to control and imprison her. In repudiating the ideology of patriarchal motherhood, she aligns herself with the tradition of mothers that Rich refers to as “outlaws from the institution of motherhood.” Considering the nature of her escape – wanted for the murder of King Joffrey – I think this metaphor is extremely apropos.

Becoming an outlaw does not mean that one has managed to escape the institution of motherhood for good, however, and it’s in taking an oppositional stance that the real fight for agency and self-determination begins. This becomes distressingly clear to Sansa in the very next chapter after she escapes KL, only to encounter another patriarchal enforcer of motherhood in her aunt Lysa. As we saw with Cersei, Lysa has suffered under oppressive stipulations for women: forced to abort her baby and later having to marry a much older man she despised. Yet it makes her no more enlightened to the suffering of other women or interested in not perpetuating this prejudice. The first question she asks Sansa after feigning niceties:

As Sansa stepped back, Lady Lysa caught her wrist. “Now tell me,” she said sharply. “Are you with child? The truth now, I will know if you lie.”

It is not a question asked with the intention of sympathising with Sansa or safeguarding her interests, but rather as Lysa soon discloses, part of determining if her niece will make a suitable wife for Sweetrobin, and not have Robert be made to accept the “dwarf’s leavings.” For Sansa, it is more confirmation of how she’s treated as an object for her claim:

The thought made Sansa weary. All she knew of Robert Arryn was that he was a little boy, and sickly. It is not me she wants her son to marry, it is my claim. No one will ever marry me for love. But lying came easy to her now. “I . . . can scarcely wait to meet him, my lady. But he is still a child, is he not?”

Still a child, and one that Lysa obviously expects Sansa to mother whilst as acting as a wife, putting aside her own feelings and happiness to cater and coddle the little lord:

“Robert has weak eyes, but he loves to be read to,” Lady Lysa confided. “He likes stories about animals the best. Do you know the little song about the chicken who dressed as a fox? I sing him that all the time, he never grows tired of it. And he likes to play hopfrog and spin-the-sword and come-into-my-castle, but you must always let him win. That’s only proper, don’t you think? He is the Lord of the Eyrie, after all, you must never forget that. You are well born, and the Starks of Winterfell were always proud, but Winterfell has fallen and you are really just a beggar now, so put that pride aside. Gratitude will better become you, in your present circumstances. Yes, and obedience. My son will have a grateful and obedient wife.”

It is the expectation of this dynamic that causes Sansa to feel so strongly against the prospect of remaining in the Eyrie, added to the discomfort she feels concerning Marillion and Petyr’s unwanted attentions. She is back in a fundamentally disempowered role, but mounts her resistance upon an assertion of authority in womanhood and Winterfell:

I will tell my aunt that I don’t want to marry Robert. Not even the High Septon himself could declare a woman married if she refused to say the vows. She wasn’t a beggar, no matter what her aunt said. She was thirteen, a woman flowered and wed, the heir to Winterfell. Sansa felt sorry for her little cousin sometimes, but she could not imagine ever wanting to be his wife. I would sooner be married to Tyrion again. If Lady Lysa knew that, surely she’d send her away … away from Robert’s pouts and shakes and runny eyes, away from Marillion’s lingering looks, away from Petyr’s kisses. I will tell her. I will!

The subsequent events that end in Lysa’s death derail Sansa’s hopes of fleeing the Eyrie (and Petyr), but as previously noted, flight doesn’t guarantee relief from the pervasive and intrinsic pressures for women to conform to the demands of patriarchal society. In order to truly escape the institution of motherhood, Sansa must tackle it head-on: a direct engagement that is prefigured by her actions towards Tommen and later on during the Blackwater Battle. In effect, she has to work at achieving a platform of maternal power, one that involves sustained mothering of a child and the potential to shape the politics of peace in war-torn Westeros.

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PART II

The Discipline of Maternal Thinking: Sweetrobin in the Eyrie

In any culture, maternal commitment is far more voluntary
than people like to believe…Both maternal work and the
thinking that is provoked by it are decisively shaped by the
possibility that any mother may refuse to see creatures as
children or to respond to them as complicated, fragile and needy.

Sara Ruddick

As we begin this new section, it’s important to note the core characteristics that shape Sansa’s personality and govern her relations with others, especially those in trouble or torment in some way. This kind of compassionate empathy is readily apparent in the “grand” gestures she makes towards men like Sandor Clegane and Dontos Hollard, but the smaller ones truly clinch the impression of someone with an intrinsic reaction to human suffering and a committed effort to alleviating it somehow. We see it in how she responds to her friends like Jeyne Poole, when the girl is sent to her room during the violence of the coup, and towards acquaintances like Lollys, whose impaired capabilities makes her an even bigger target for exploitation. Coming back from Myrcella’s farewell voyage, it is Sansa that encourages Joffrey to give aid to the peasant with the dead baby, and later she tries to warn Margaery Tyrell about the danger of her marriage to Joffrey.

This is not to make the case that Sansa is a “natural mother”. Such a designation only serves the interests of institutional motherhood, eliding the very real struggles all mothers endure and the fact that not all women – regardless of personality type or inclination – choose to mother. As we will go on to explore, Sansa’s mothering of SR is a task beset by frustrations, fears and worries, as it is with triumphs, transformations and affection. But what Sansa’s compassion speaks to is a response that does not ignore the needs of others, and informs the motherwork she performs. Sara Ruddick, whose work is instrumental to the argumentation of this section, states:

Neither birth nor the actual presence of a vulnerable infant
guarantees care… To be committed to meeting children’s
demand for preservation does not require enthusiasm or even
love; it simply means to see vulnerability and to respond to it
with care rather than abuse, indifference or flight.

Sweetrobin – the sickly Lord of the Eyrie – is the consummate vulnerable child, made even more so by Lysa’s excessive pampering and indulging. We get our first glimpse of him during Cat’s stay in the Eyrie, where she brought Tyrion Lannister on charges of conspiring to kill Bran:

“Mother?” a small voice said. Lysa whirled, her heavy robe swirling around her. Robert Arryn, Lord of the Eyrie, stood in the doorway, clutching a ragged cloth doll and looking at them with large eyes. He was a painfully thin child, small for his age and sickly all his days, and from time to time he trembled. The shaking sickness, the maesters called it. “I heard voices.”

Lysa goes on to refer to him as “baby” a total of five times in the remainder of the conversation and consolidates the image of SR as a helpless infant by breastfeeding him. Such a show of defective parenting stuns her sister:

Catelyn was at a loss for words, Jon Arryn’s son, she thought incredulously. She remembered her own baby, three-year-old Rickon, half the age of this boy and five times as fierce. Small wonder the lords of the Vale were restive. For the first time she understood why the king had tried to take the child away from his mother to foster with the Lannisters …

Lysa’s over-protective parenting style has its roots in her traumatic history of miscarriages and stillbirths, but it doesn’t make the effect on her son any less egregious. What she accomplished is the stunting of SR’s growth – an emotional handicap that manifests in the boy’s wilful behaviour and hysterical outbursts. Not only was Lysa endangering her son’s personal development, but the confidence in his role as Jon Arryn’s successor is slowly eroding as the Blackfish reveals to Cat:

Her uncle’s voice was troubled. “Lord Robert,” he sighed. “Six years old, sickly, and prone to weep if you take his dolls away. Jon Arryn’s trueborn heir, by all the gods, yet there are some who say he is too weak to sit his father’s seat. Nestor Royce has been high steward these past fourteen years, while Lord Jon served in King’s Landing, and many whisper that he should rule until the boy comes of age. Others believe that Lysa must marry again, and soon. Already the suitors gather like crows on a battlefield. The Eyrie is full of them.”

It is into this prickly and tense situation that Sansa enters at the end of ASOS, with her own fears for her safety against Cersei’s accusations and Lysa’s desires to install her as SR’s wife in due time. It is the dreaded relation to SR that fuels Sansa’s anger and frustration at the child, as she can’t imagine having him to tolerate him as a husband. Although LF seems to have more coercive power over Sansa as a result of Lysa’s death, the crucial import of the latter’s passing is that it facilitates the restructuring of Sansa’s relationship with Sweetrobin, and contributes to the development of what Ruddick calls “maternal thinking”. Fiona Joy Green states:

Once women understand that is it the social construction of
women’s reproductive power and the configuration of their
relationships with their family members that are burdensome
and overbearing and not mothering itself, then, ... they can
challenge and transform the oppressive conditions of motherhood,
conscious of alternatives and resistance and cognisant of their
ability to confront and transgress unacceptable dominating values
of patriarchal constructions of motherhood and mothering practices.

Between the time of Lysa’s death and Sansa’s journey down the mountain in her final chapter of AFFC, a vital window of opportunity opens up, enabling Sansa to have primary control as SR’s caretaker and to positively influence the boy’s potential. In her extensive study of mothers and the wider impact they can have on society, Sara Ruddick establishes maternal thought as a discipline - akin to those in the field of science or education - which engages a mother’s work on three central tasks: preservation, emotional and intellectual growth, and social acceptibility or training. Ruddick notes that “in any group of thinkers, some mothers are more reflective than others, either out of temperamental thoughtfulness, moral or political concerns, or most often because they have serious problems with their children.” In considering the case of SR, all of these factors come into play, as Sansa is mothering a sickly child under the volatile conditions of political unrest, intrigue, criminal activities and fears for her own life if she’s found by the Queen’s bounty hunters. It’s a delicate balance that must take into consideration personal and political necessities, and will require active strategizing and risk-taking on Sansa’s part.

Preservation

Preserving a child’s life is, according to Ruddick, “the central constitutive, invariant sum of maternal practice.” It’s essentially a promise of protection that every mother implicitly makes to ensure the life and well-being of the children under their care. The emphasis falls not on what mothers feel exactly, but on what they do, and this “doing” does not permit deliberate acts of violence or negligence. The “official” moment where Sansa assumes the work of preservative love towards SR comes at the end of her first chapter in AFFC:

Sometime during the night she woke, as little Robert climbed up into her bed. I forgot to tell Lothor to lock him in again, she realized. There was nothing to be done for it, so she put her arm around him. “Sweetrobin? You can stay, but try not to squirm around. Just close your eyes and sleep, little one.”

“I will.” He cuddled close and laid his head between her breasts. “Alayne? Are you my mother now?”

“I suppose I am,” she said. If a lie was kindly meant, there was no harm in it.

Readers tend to focus on the part of it being a lie which seems to undermine the possibility of any genuine good arising from Sansa acting as SR’s mother. However, in examining Sansa’s actions in the chapter up to this moment, we see that she has indeed been acting as SR’s de facto mother already, showing concern over the effect of Marillion’s constant singing on the boy, reassuring him that LF truly loved his mother, and making sure that he is presentable to meet with Nestor Royce and the other men coming to the Eyrie. In effect, she’s already enacting the three critical tasks of motherwork, and her wary acquiescence to SR’s question does not negate the relevance of this behaviour. It’s also an interesting example of how LF’s teachings come to mean something entirely different when put in the context of Sansa’s values and experiences. His lies are most definitely not love, just the bare cover he puts on them to make them more appealing and palatable to people. In contrast, SR’s question comes partly out of neediness, but also from an awareness of how Sansa has treated him since his mother’s death. As a game player, it suggests Sansa being a lot more convincing than LF likes to believe he is; and in terms of human to human interaction, under which the mothering of SR falls, it highlights a sincere sensibility in Sansa’s efforts to care for the boy.

There are three features of preservation that Ruddick calls the scrutinizing gaze, maternal cheerfulness and holding. The first is a kind of mental ability which mothers develop to detect dangers and help safeguard their children, even from themselves. The gaze can be witnessed in much of Sansa’s interactions with SR, as she learns to monitor his behaviour for signs of the shaking, and to minimize their severity. However, because the scrutinizing gaze is inherently limited – mothers cannot control their children’s behaviour at all times and/or the circumstances surrounding them, mothers learn to adopt cheerfulness “as a virtue” according to Ruddick. For a child as temperamental and recalcitrant as SR, Sansa’s cheerfulness becomes a necessity:

“I’ll speak to him,” Alayne promised, “but only if you get up out of bed. It’s beautiful outside, Sweetrobin. The sun is shining bright, a perfect day for going down the mountain. The mules are waiting down at Sky with Mya . . .”

“Sweetrobin,” she said gently, “the descent will be ever so jolly, you’ll see. Ser Lothor will be with us, and Mya. Her mules have gone up and down this old mountain a thousand times.”

But Ruddick cautions that there can be a downside to maternal cheerfulness:

…for mothers, cheerfulness threatens to break down into
cheering denial, its degenerative form. Mothers are tempted
to deny their own perception of harsher realities because they so
wish the world were safer for their children.

This “cheering denial” recalls Lysa’s repeated assertions to SR that the Eyrie was impregnable and that no one could hurt him:

“The Eyrie is impregnable,” Lysa Arryn declared calmly. She drew her son close, holding him safe in the circle of her plump white arms. “The Imp is trying to frighten us, sweet baby. The Lannisters are all liars. No one will hurt my sweet boy.”

When Tyrion declares that the Eyrie was “merely inconvenient” we witness just how structurally unstable Lysa’s attempts to reassure her son prove to be; winter eventually comes to the Vale, and the Eyrie is no longer habitable:

Still, it would not serve. On the valley floor autumn still lingered, warm and golden, but winter had closed around the mountain peaks. They had weathered three snowstorms, and an ice storm that transformed the castle into crystal for a fortnight. The Eyrie might be impregnable, but it would soon be inaccessible as well, and the way down grew more hazardous every day. Most of the castle’s servants and soldiers had already made the descent. Only a dozen still lingered up here, to attend Lord Robert.

That Robert would eventually have to leave the Eyrie does not seem to be something Lysa Arryn gave much thought to, but basing his security on remaining there was only setting the boy up for a greater crisis of anxiety in the long run. Holding, the next feature of preservation love, also has a degenerative side which is evident in Lysa’s relationship with SR, where she “holds” him too close: an overprotectiveness that is detrimental to the boy’s growth. Instead, positive holding in Ruddick’s definition consists of “seeing with an eye toward maintaining minimal harmony, material resources and skills necessary for sustaining a child in safety.”

When SR has another seizure on the day that the Lords Declarant are expected at the Eyrie, Sansa makes a very pertinent observation that I believe encapsulates her commitment to SR’s preservation, and has symbolic meaning for the giant prophecy uttered by the GHH. Looking at boy as he is carried off to be leeched:

I could carry him myself, Alayne thought. He is no heavier than a doll.

The doll is widely appreciated as “the giant” that Sansa slays as per the GHH’s prophecy, either as fulfilling the prophecy itself, or as a red herring of the real event to come. Alayne’s observation heavily suggests that the correct answer is with the latter assumption, as what she confirms is the frailty of the boy which is like a doll. In essence, SR is no giant. Sansa’s anger on that day was directed towards the boy and his toy, but it was ultimately misplaced. There is another candidate in the room who provokes SR’s fit:

“Your mother is dead, my lord. Until your sixteenth name day, I rule the Eyrie.” Petyr turned to the stoop-backed serving woman hovering near the kitchen steps. “Mela, fetch his lordship a new spoon. He wants to eat his porridge.”

Just as LF admits that he is the real power behind SR, I think we’re meant to understand that he’s the real giant behind the doll. It is Sansa’s mothering of SR that allows her to see just how helpless the boy truly is, but also opens the possibility of making a critical intervention.

Emotional and Intellectual Growth

As established, SR’s time with his mother contributed greatly to the underdevelopment of his emotional and intellectual capacities. Both Catelyn and Brynden Tully make mention of the cloth-doll he carries, and Cat is shocked to see him still suckling at Lysa’s breast. Most troubling perhaps is the boy’s seeming disconnect from the seriousness of death and the pursuit of justice, as he makes repeated calls to see Tyrion Lannister “fly.” The ways in which Sansa begins to correct these issues vary from the direct to indirect, but her strategies are successful in fostering the child’s growth.

When Sansa “kills” SR’s doll, it symbolically represents the role she will play in his life: removing the central emblem of his “babyhood” and influencing the emergence of a self-reliant child. It is noteworthy that after SR’s doll is destroyed, we never see him carrying another one during AFFC. It doesn’t necessarily mean that he has stopped playing with dolls entirely, or that he never had another one made, but there’s an effective separation between him and an ever present toy, which was seen even in official gatherings:

The wretched boy had started it, looking down on him from a throne of carved weirwood beneath the moon-and-falcon banners of House Arryn. Tyrion Lannister had been looked down on all his life, but seldom by rheumy-eyed six-year-olds who needed to stuff fat cushions under their cheeks to lift them to the height of a man. “Is he the bad man?” the boy had asked, clutching his doll.

The next custom that Sansa ends is SR’s habit of seeking out beds – mostly her own – when he is frightened or missing the comfort he found in his mother’s embrace. In getting Lothor Brune to lock him in at night, Sansa promotes the boy’s emotional growth, as the urge to sleep in her bed and nuzzle her breasts reflected Lysa’s excessive pampering that stunted her child’s normal development. For Lysa, keeping SR as physically and emotionally tied to her was necessary for her own self-worth, but Sansa realises the value and the need to promote SR’s independent sense of self, and relating to his ability to inspire confidence in his bannermen. It’s suggested in ‘Alayne I’ that SR has gotten used to sleeping in his own bed even though he complains of hearing Marillion’s singing:

“But I hear him every night. Even when I close the shutters and put a pillow on my head. Your father should have cut his tongue out. I told him to, but he wouldn’t.”

So far, these “removal” methods have been necessary to jumpstart SR’s maturity, but they do not engage what Ruddick sees as the core of advancing growth: “to nurture a child’s developing spirit – whatever in a child is lively, purposive, and responsive.” Sansa’s strategy for this involves teaching SR a story which she is uniquely suited to appreciate. Recall what Lysa says to her when they are at the Fingers:

“Robert has weak eyes, but he loves to be read to,” Lady Lysa confided. “He likes stories about animals the best. Do you know the little song about the chicken who dressed as a fox? I sing him that all the time, he never grows tired of it…”

When we next see SR in the story however, it’s not the story of the chicken dressed as fox that he requests:

“Lord Nestor Royce has come up from the Gates to see you.” Sansa wiped beneath his nose.

“I don’t want to see him,” he said. “I want a story. A story of the Winged Knight.”

If, as Lysa confides, SR’s favourite stories involved animals, and specifically a favourite song about a chicken and a fox, just how does he come to favour one about a legendary Arryn descendant?

The Winged Knight was Ser Artys Arryn. Legend said that he had driven the First Men from the Vale and flown to the top of the Giant’s Lance on a huge falcon to slay the Griffin King. There were a hundred tales of his adventures. Little Robert knew them all so well he could have recited them from memory, but he liked to have them read to him all the same.

It points to Sansa being the direct influence in SR’s love of this new tale, and it’s a fitting connection given the relevance of knights/knighthood in her arc. The importance for SR’s development in having the Winged Knight as his heroic model cannot be overstated. It is the fabled knight that inspires SR’s bravery on the journey down from the Eyrie, giving him a confidence that is remarkable when compared to what he was like under Lysa’s tutelage:

A hundred feet down, a sudden gust caught hold of them. The bucket swayed sideways, spinning in the air, then bumped hard against the rock face behind them. Shards of ice and snow rained down on them, and the oak creaked and strained. Robert gave a gasp and clung to her, burying his face between her breasts.

“My lord is brave,” Alayne said, when she felt him shaking. “I’m so frightened I can hardly talk, but not you.”

She felt him nod. “The Winged Knight was brave, and so am I,” he boasted to her bodice. “I’m an Arryn.

Alayne took Robert’s gloved hand in her own to stop his shaking. “Sweetrobin,” she said, “I’m scared. Hold my hand, and help me get across. I know you’re not afraid.”

He looked at her, his pupils small dark pinpricks in eyes as big and white as eggs. “I’m not?”

“Not you. You’re my winged knight, Ser Sweetrobin.”

“The Winged Knight could fly,” Robert whispered.

“Higher than the mountains.” She gave his hand a squeeze.

Lady Myranda had joined them by the spire. “He could,” she echoed, when she saw what was happening.

“Ser Sweetrobin,” Lord Robert said, and Alayne knew that she dare not wait for Mya to return. She helped the boy dismount, and hand in hand they walked out onto the bare stone saddle, their cloaks snapping and flapping behind them.

In each of the passages, Sansa acts as SR’s champion, reinforcing the ideal of the Winged Knight, and encouraging SR to see himself as possessing such qualities. Sansa goes one step further and “knights” him on the mountain, calling him “Ser Sweetrobin.”

There’s another layer of meaning in the value of the Winged Knight for Robin’s story, and that has to do with the fascination of seeing people “fly.” Whilst Lysa Arryn nurtured this proclivity in its destructive form, Sansa is able to shift the focus towards a positive sense of purpose for the young boy, and one could easily make the case that SR’s obsession with flying was a defence mechanism of sorts to hide his feelings of insecurity and vulnerable. Therefore, Sansa’s introduction of the Winged Knight tales not only inspires more courageous behaviour on SR’s part, but has lasting effects towards the construction of a stronger self-esteem and identity.

Social Acceptability/Training

The fostering of SR’s growth attended to personal objectives, but the aim of social acceptability extends these goals to the public arena, taking into consideration the child’s adjustment and impression in the wider community. For SR, who is expected to maintain the confidence of his father’s bannermen and be seen as a worthy ruler of the Vale when he comes of age, social acceptability and the training done to secure need to be at the forefront of any conscientious mothering that seeks to protect his interests.

Sansa’s understanding of this and her active responses are constantly underscored by Martin. She cleans him up to be presentable when Nestor Royce comes to visit, tries to reassure him when the Lords Declarant are coming up the mountain, and challenges Maester Coleman’s advice to have SR strapped to his mule on the descent from the Eyrie:

“The Lord of the Eyrie cannot descend from his mountain tied up like a sack of barleycorn.” Of that Alayne was certain. They dare not let the full extent of Robert’s frailty and cowardice become too widely known, her father had warned her. I wish he were here. He would know what to do.

What Sansa does know is how to go about training SR’s nature to become more self-sufficient, noble and confident. She achieves this through the technique of positive reinforcement: challenging SR to aspire to these virtues by reinforcing the social recognition of strength he craves. As Ruddick attests:

Training presumes the trainer’s ability to judge the “natural”
tastes, desires and behaviour… Such natures are educated,
that is, they are “led out of” temptation in to the virtues
“naturally” awaiting them.

It’s important to appreciate that this is a deliberate act of training on Sansa’s part, one that she employs whenever appropriate, and can recognise the need for it in how others relate to the child:

When she turned back, Robert Arryn was propped up against the pillows looking at her. The Lord of the Eyrie and Defender of the Vale. A woolen blanket covered him below the waist. Above it he was naked, a pasty boy with hair as long as any girl’s. Robert had spindly arms and legs, a soft concave chest and little belly, and eyes that were always red and runny. He cannot help the way he is. He was born small and sickly. You look very strong this morning, my lord.” He loved to be told how strong he was.

When he felt the cold wind on his face, Robert quailed, but Terrance and Gyles were behind him, so he could not flee. “My lord,” said Mya, “will you ride down with me?”

Too brusque, Alayne thought. She should have greeted him with a smile, told him how strong and brave he looks.

...

“My lord is brave,” Alayne said, when she felt him shaking. “I’m so frightened I can hardly talk, but not you.”

The most controversial point in this final AFFC chapter is during Sansa’s conversation with Maester Coleman where readers believe that she’s being carelessly negligent with SR’s health, and expressing an alliance with Littlefinger that doesn’t bode well for SR:

Just give him a cup of the sweetmilk before we go, and another at the feast, and there should be no trouble.”

“Very well.” They paused at the foot of the stairs. “But this must be the last. For half a year, or longer.”

“You had best take that up with the Lord Protector.” She pushed through the door and crossed the yard. Colemon only wanted the best for his charge, Alayne knew, but what was best for Robert the boy and what was best for Lord Arryn were not always the same. Petyr had said as much, and it was true. Maester Colemon cares only for the boy, though. Father and I have larger concerns.

It’s obvious that Martin meant for this to raise at least a few eyebrows, and cause some consternation in readers, especially when LF reveals his plans at the end of the chapter. However, when placed in the proper context of Sansa’s acting as a mother to SR, and what that entails, the scene is not so alarming, and doesn’t suggest or foreshadow that Sansa will be complicit in LF’s plans to poison the boy. As we’ve explored, mothering involves three crucial tasks, all of which are balanced in order to achieve the maximum benefit for the child. That Sansa recognizes the imperative to make a favourable impression on the Vale lords when SR descends the mountain does not mean that she has put aside the aims of preservative love or fostering growth. These concerns are all interdependent and constitute the nexus of maternal thinking.

Her advice of administering a little sweetsleep to mitigate the stress of the descent is proved to be correct, because SR does suffer a minor fit after he crosses the land saddle, which may have been considerably worse without the suppressant:

And then they were on the other side, and Mya Stone was laughing and lifting Robert for a hug. “Be careful,” Alayne told her. “He can hurt you, flailing. You wouldn’t think so, but he can.” They found a place for him, a cleft in the rock to keep him out of the cold wind. Alayne tended him until the shaking passed, whilst Mya went back to help the others cross.

Even so, there is no doubt that too much sweetsleep could endanger Robert’s life, and that (perhaps) Maester Coleman and (most definitely) Littlefinger do not have the interest of either “the boy” or “Lord Arryn” at heart. Concerning the maester, Sweetrobin reveals that he had something “vile” put into his milk the night before the descent. When Sansa confronts the maester, he stammers but doesn’t offer an explanation for what it was:

“.... He says you put something vile in his milk.”

“Vile?” Colemon blinked at her, and the apple in his throat moved up and down. “I merely . . . is he bleeding from the nose?”

When Sansa descends the mountain and meets with LF, the task of protecting SR has become a stark question of life and death, peace and war. The maternal agency she was able to explore with the little lord is threatened by LF’s certainty that SR will die, and the news that he has made a marriage pact for her with Harry the Heir to facilitate the retaking of Sansa’s bithright. For what seems like a recurrent nightmare of powerlessness, Sansa faces the prospect of an unfulfilling relationship orchestrated by the will of a patriarchal dictator with the primary concern of her claim to Winterfell.

The very story of how Harry the Heir became the heir reinforces the oppressive conditions of patriarchal motherhood for women who are defined by their ability to produce heirs and die shortly afterwards almost in recognition of having fulfilled their essential purpose. The remaining daughters of Elys and Alys all experience varying degrees of social segregation and victimization:

“… The eldest had been left terribly scarred by the same pox that killed her sisters, so she became a septa. Another was seduced by a sellsword. Ser Elys cast her out, and she joined the silent sisters after her bastard died in infancy. The third wed the Lord of the Paps, but proved barren. The fourth was on her way to the riverlands to marry some Bracken when Burned Men carried her off. That left the youngest, who wed a landed knight sworn to the Waynwoods, gave him a son that she named Harrold, and perished.” He turned her hand over and lightly kissed her wrist. “So tell me, sweetling—why is Harry the Heir?”

It may explain Harry’s lineage, but it also highlights a tradition that Sansa has been fighting against since she was a captive in KL. Critically though, Sansa is no longer the powerless maiden without resources or allies. The Eyrie has been as much a training ground for her as it was for Robert Arryn, and the discipline of maternal thinking leads not to destruction of life and war-mongering that LF presents. Instead, as the final section explores, it will inspire a maternal activism on Sansa’s part that is intimately tied to the politics of peace.

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PART III

THE PURSUIT OF PEACE

I take maternal thinking to be an engaged critical
and visionary perspective that illuminates both the
destructiveness of war and the requirements of peace.

Sara Ruddick

Sansa has always been involved in the politics of peace. As the only Stark who remains trapped in the Red Keep after the execution of her father and disappearance of her sister, she becomes the embodied symbol of the failure of the warring factions to reach peace, even in the form of an exchange of hostages. In her first chapter of the novel she demonstrates a natural affinity towards peacekeeping when she quickly identifies Renly Baratheon to placate Joffrey’s anger, but is then unable to intervene quickly enough to prevent the incident at the Trident from escalating beyond control. The fall out leads to Sansa’s first personal experience of the cost of conflict: the death of Lady.

The next time the theme of peace features centrally in her arc is during the small council meeting following the coup, where Cersei attempts to manipulate her into writing the letters advising her family members not to rebel:

“Your lady mother will no doubt fear for you dreadfully,” the queen said. “You must tell her that you are well and in our care, that we are treating you gently and seeing to your every want. Bid them to come to King’s Landing and pledge their fealty to Joffrey when he takes his throne. If they do that … why, then we shall know that there is no taint in your blood, and when you come into the flower of your womanhood, you shall wed the king in the Great Sept of Baelor, before the eyes of gods and men.”

In the end, she sends four letters to three of the great houses: Stark, Tully and Arryn in the Vale. Despite the manipulation in play, I believe this scene has important foreshadowing potential for Sansa’s eventual peacemaking efforts as a representative of one or more of the central families she’s aligned to in the text. Martin’s handling of Sansa’s peacemaking potential is directly associated with her mothering practices – encompassing both the literal and symbolic experiences- and articulated through the principles of non-violence and anti-war sentiments expressed in song.

The preceding parts of the essay looked at how Sansa moves from the institutional tyranny of motherhood into an empowered and proactive form of mothering, facilitated by the awakening of a feminist consciousness that actively seeks to resist the injustices of patriarchal dominance. Ruddick explains how the aims of mothering are antithetical to those of war:

All women’s work – sheltering, nursing, feeding, kin work, teaching

of the very young, tending the frail elderly – is threatened by violence.
When maternal thinking takes upon itself the critical perspective of a
feminist standpoint, it reveals a contradiction between mothering
and war. Mothering begins in birth and promises of life; military
thinking justifies organized, deliberate deaths.

This is not to suggest that mothers do not support war and don’t make war themselves and both have been amply explored in Martin’s work. Rather, I would argue that the interrogation of war and its effects relates to the larger thematic framework of ASOIAF, and is part of Martin’s critique of institutional practices. The perspective that Sansa gains through her role as a mother positions her as the one to not only challenge this violence, but to provide constructive solutions for it.

These answers can be gleaned in the non-violent approach mothers take to dealing with their children and the struggles of mothering – vital in not compromising the work of training and growth that they have invested for the child’s benefit. It is what Ruddick calls the “non-violence of the powerful”:

I can think of no other situation in which someone subject
to the resentments at her social powerlessness, under enormous
pressure of time and anger, faces a recalcitrant but helpless
combatant with so much restraint.

This immediately brings to mind Sansa’s experiences with Sweetrobin, and in particular that final day in the Eyrie:

“I want a hundred lemon cakes and five tales!”

I’d like to give you a hundred spankings and five slaps. You would not dare behave like this if Petyr were here. The little lord had a good healthy fear of his stepfather. Alayne forced a smile. “As my lord desires. But nothing till you’re washed and dressed and on your way. Come, before the morning’s gone.” She took him firmly by the hand, and drew him out of bed.

The ideals of renunciation and reconciliation that govern peacemaking non-violence are exemplified in Sansa’s behaviour and interaction with those who could be classified as enemies:

“Help him,” Sansa commanded two of the serving men. One just looked at her and ran, flagon and all. Other servants were leaving the hall as well, but she could not help that. Together, Sansa and the serving man got the wounded knight back on his feet. “Take him to Maester Frenken.” Lancel was one of them, yet somehow she still could not bring herself to wish him dead. I am soft and weak and stupid, just as Joffrey says. I should be killing him, not helping him.

When she meets Tyrion in the courtyard prior to the battle and tells him she’s going to the sept to pray, the Imp is pessimistic:

“I won’t ask for whom.” His mouth twisted oddly; if that was a smile, it was the queerest she had ever seen.

Yet, as soon revealed, Sansa does indeed include Tyrion Lannister in her prayers:

… and finally, toward the end, she even sang for Tyrion the Imp and for the Hound.

Although there are many other examples throughout the text that illustrate Sansa’s non-violent practices, I have chosen to focus on her POV chapters during the Blackwater battle. It is Sansa’s first encounter with organized warfare and her perspective during this time offers a concentrated and symbolically rich critique of war as it is happening. It is also the first time we see her assuming publicly the role of maternal peacemaker in response to Cersei’s abandonment of responsibility and surrender to war’s despair. If we think back to the other time Sansa performed a public service relating to peacekeeping for Cersei, it makes for a potent contrast.

Songs and singing – so central to Sansa’s character and development - are the chosen metaphoric vehicles through which we see her grappling with the human cost of war and expressing a vision of change. Her first POV during the battle affirms the fundamental incompatibility between what war represents and what “The Mother” reveres:

They had been singing in the sept all morning, since the first report of enemy sails had reached the castle. The sound of their voices mingled with the whicker of horses, the clank of steel, and the groaning hinges of the great bronze gates to make a strange and fearful music. In the sept they sing for the Mother’s mercy but on the walls it’s the Warrior they pray to, and all in silence. She remembered how Septa Mordane used to tell them that the Warrior and the Mother were only two faces of the same great god. But if there is only one, whose prayers will be heard?

Sansa’s question has deeper philosophical value, but the meaning for her character is immediately recognizable when she enters the sept and joins the gathering in prayers. The language choice indicates an irresistible compulsion:

Through the quiet, the singing pulled at her. Sansa turned toward the sept. Two stableboys followed, and one of the guards whose watch was ended*. Others fell in behind them.

(*highlighted for potential foreshadowing of Jon and Sansa working together to achieve peace; something that Jon was already instrumental in creating between the wildlings and the Watch.)

Sansa lights candles at all the altars of the Seven, but it is the maternal symbolism that is most apparent. She sits between “a wizened old washerwoman and a boy no older than Rickon, dressed in the fine linen tunic of a knight’s son” and then joins in the singing of the mother’s hymn, which she remembers having been taught by her mother, not Septa Mordane. Her prayers encompass everyone in the Stark family and household, extending to all those who will be affected by the war; right at the end she makes a direct appeal for the Hound’s salvation:

He is no true knight but he saved me all the same, she told the Mother. Save him if you can, and gentle the rage inside him.

Sandor Clegane holds special significance on this issue of the essential conflict of military thinking vs. maternal thinking. As Milady of York noted in her essay, the Hound has been a soldier for half his life, carrying out the commands of the Lannisters in Casterly Rock and KL:


On the Hound’s job

*snip*

In sum, all those textual examples do serve to highlight that the Hound is not just a traditional royal bodyguard, that he has a baggage of experience and knowledge from being both a low-ranking fighter following orders and as a commander planning battle strategies, leading men into battle, etc., and is likely been doing that for a long time:

“I killed my first man at twelve. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve killed since then. High lords with old names, fat rich men dressed in velvet, knights puffed up like bladders with their honors, yes, and women and children too—they’re all meat, and I’m the butcher. Let them have their lands and their gods and their gold. Let them have their sers.”

These words of his to Sansa on the rooftop of Maegor’s Holdfast definitely do speak of a life that sounds more like that of a soldier than that of a sworn shield since boyhood.

As a hardened and battled-tested soldier, Sandor would appear to legitimise what Ruddick calls “war’s murderous mutilation and death.” Not quite fitting either stereotypes of the beastly male or the just warrior of Ruddick’s definitions, he is nonetheless expected to die heroically like the latter, “instantiating an ideology of death and sacrifice that masks crude injury”:

Sandor Clegane wrenched off his helm with both hands and let it fall to the ground. The steel was scorched and dented, the left ear of the snarling hound sheared off. A gash above one eye had sent a wash of blood down across the Hound’s old burn scars, masking half his face.

Sandor’s refusal to carry on fighting ( due in large part to the resurfacing of his childhood trauma due to Tyrion’s primary weapon of warfare) undermines the ideology of war from the inside out. That a man, or rather a soldier, like Sandor, can break/away from war and seek out genuine emotional care and contact provides a valuable alternative from which to rethink men’s participation in organized violence. Ruddick states:

It is an ongoing task of militarists to create a fiction of
death to satisfy the emotional demands of ordinary soldiers
and anyone who mourns their “sacrifice.” In the fragility of
military ideologies of death lies a peacemaker’s hope. It is
thus a peacemaker’s task not only to deconstruct that fiction
but to provide an alternative account of bodily death.

When Sansa leaves the sept we read:

A few guards paced along on the gatehouse battlements, but otherwise the castle seemed empty. Sansa stopped and listened. Away off, she could hear the sounds of battle. The singing almost drowned them out, but the sounds were there if you had the ears to hear: the deep moan of warhorns, the creak and thud of catapults flinging stones, the splashes and splinterings, the crackle of burning pitch and thrum of scorpions loosing their yard-long iron-headed shafts . . . and beneath it all, the cries of dying men. It was another sort of song, a terrible song. Sansa pulled the hood of her cloak up over her ears, and hurried toward Maegor’s Holdfast, the castle-within-a-castle where the queen had promised they would all be safe.

We know of course that Maegor’s turns out to offer no true safety with the presence of Ilyn Payne, and the queen has no sincere support to give. Sansa may pull the cloak over her ears, but the sound song of war is not so easily silenced. It does not only exist in the weapons, but in the cries of dying men, frightened children, innocent maidens and merciful mothers. Sandor’s presence in her room continues the challenge to Sansa to resist slipping into the despair and sense of futility that violence can elicit:

I’ll go to sleep, she told herself, and when I wake it will be a new day, and the sky will be blue again. The fighting will be done and someone will tell me whether I’m to live or die. “Lady,” she whimpered softly, wondering if she would meet her wolf again when she was dead.

Then something stirred behind her, and a hand reached out of the dark and grabbed her wrist.

The mother’s hymn provides relief to the soldier and hope to men and women, but it also offers a challenge to the peacemaker, to be actively involved in creating “a better day” and teaching “a kinder way”. And just because Martin may have worried readers had forgotten that a maternal practice of peace would be Sansa’s central task going forward, he offers us another song; in addition to the hymn, it is the only one out of all the songs that are named in Sansa’s chapters that we are given the lyrics to:

After “Alysanne” the singer stopped again, long enough for Sansa to snatch an hour’s rest. But as the first light of dawn was prying at her shutters, she heard the soft strains of “On a Misty Morn” drifting up from below, and woke at once. That was more properly a woman’s song, a lament sung by a mother on the dawn after some terrible battle, as she searches amongst the dead for the body of her only son. The mother sings her grief for her dead son, Sansa thought, but Marillion grieves for his fingers, for his eyes. The words rose like arrows and pierced her in the darkness.

Oh, have you seen my boy, good ser?

His hair is chestnut brown

He promised he’d come back to me

Our home’s in Wendish Town.

LOOKING AHEAD TO TWOW:

  • Westeros will receive but it doesn’t need any more kings and queens fighting for power and a throne. While there’s no doubt that Sansa would make a competent Queen who would employ love, and not fear, to inspire her subjects’ devotion, the evidence in her arc highlights that her power will not reside in traditional Queenship, but expressed through the aims of peacemaking. As we saw with Jon, Westeros needs peacemakers: people who can resist violence and reconcile differences.
  • Littlefinger: The man who said that life is not a song is set up for a rude awakening. If Sansa’s arc will be realised in the achievement of peace and stability for Westeros, then we don’t have to look to a prophecy to authenticate the belief that she has to “slay” the one responsible for much of the chaos, specifically effected through the victimization and betrayal of mothers.
  • To the above point, whilst I have noted the non-violent ideals of a maternal peace politics, it does not mean that Sansa herself is incapable of doing violence or does not wish harm on others. As Sara Ruddick points out, “although she will never celebrate violence, a peacemaker may herself act violently in careful, conscientious knowledge of the hurt she inflicts and its cost to her as well as her victim.”
  • Sandor’s role: If the Elder Brother is already in the Vale as we suspect, it opens up the possibility of a quicker reunion between Sansa and Sandor, and offers Sansa another avenue to make love, not war. That the EB - a man of peace - has picked back up the sword points to his recognition that the war is not over, and Sandor’s symbolic value for Sansa’s peacemaking efforts have already been noted, added to him relinquishing the violent Hound persona that defined his life as a soldier. As Milady of York’s essay indicated, Sandor has experience in tactical strategizing and commanding men, skills which I believe can also be useful outside of the battlefield.
  • The Vale’s army: Could be deployed as a sort of peacekeeping force; I don’t see a scenario where they trek North to reclaim Sansa’s birthright as LF foretold. Doing so would mean going to war, starting with the death of SR. It's fundamentally incompatible in light of Sansa's personal and political mothering efforts.

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Milady and brash, what a wonderful set of essays. You never fail to impress. :cheers:



Regarding the Hound's job, while I've always assumed he was more than just a glorified bodyguard, I never considered the sparing of Jeyne's life.






It’s obvious that Martin meant for this to raise at least a few eyebrows, and cause some consternation in readers, especially when LF reveals his plans at the end of the chapter. However, when placed in the proper context of Sansa’s acting as a mother to SR, and what that entails, the scene is not so alarming, and doesn’t suggest or foreshadow that Sansa will be complicit in LF’s plans to poison the boy. As we’ve explored, mothering involves three crucial tasks, all of which are balanced in order to achieve the maximum benefit for the child. That Sansa recognizes the imperative to make a favourable impression on the Vale lords when SR descends the mountain does not mean that she has put aside the aims of preservative love or fostering growth. These concerns are all interdependent and constitute the nexus of maternal thinking.



Her advice of administering a little sweetsleep to mitigate the stress of the descent is proved to be correct, because SR does suffer a minor fit after he crosses the land saddle, which may have been considerably worse without the suppressant:




I never interpreted Sansa's administering of sweetsleep as malevolent or foreshadowing of Sansa knowingly and intentionally poisoning SR. I actually think it illustrates her Starkness and the influence and teachings of her father. From Bran's POVs:



"He had taken off Father's face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell."



"'Any man of the Night's Watch is welcome here at Winterfell for as long as he wishes to stay.' Robb was saying with the voice of Robb the Lord."



Sansa indeed understands the importance of appearances and impressions.

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On the Hound’s job

When thinking about Sandor Clegane’s job, the first thing brought forth to mind is “sworn shield.” And true enough, that’s what he is introduced as since the first mention of his name in AGOT: beside Prince Joffrey as his protector, a position he retains when the crown prince becomes the king and he is raised to the rank of Kingsguard, which he retains until he deserts. Even before Joffrey, all we know of the work he did is also related to being a bodyguard, to Queen Cersei, in which he also stays until he’s needed for the royal heir.

Because of that, it seems like he’s been a sworn shield for approximately half his life, practically since short after he learnt to fight with all sorts of weaponry and built a reputation for himself as a fighter. Given for whom he’s been working, the eldest daughter and biggest political asset of Lord Tywin Lannister, the richest man in Westeros, and Queen of the Realm, and for the heir to the throne, being a simple royal bodyguard is in itself an enviable job: prestigious and coveted, with moderate danger in peacetime, not overly exhausting even if physically demanding, and that confers unto him a social status respectable enough to enable a landless and non-titled minor nobleman to rub shoulders with the powerful and filthy rich, competing in tournaments with men of higher birth, and living in the decadent luxury of the court and its various entertainments and feasts others don’t have access to, etc. And best of all, it’s well-paid in gold in the the form of a regular salary, and one can wonder if there could’ve been generous bonuses for certain activities demanded by his liege (which, knowing the lions, is likely) or on special occasions, plus there are tourney winnings to be had. There are also other small details in his clothing that point to Sandor being a well-off man as a result of the steady income throughout the years in the service of the Lannisters and the royal house which merit a closer look because his appearance can be deceptive: he’s far from being a dandy or showy a la Jaime or Loras, but he does use jewelled brooches for his cloak sometimes, and his best outfits seem to be in bright colours, red for example, which is a colour that used to be hard to obtain and very costly in the real Middle Ages and therefore amongst those reserved for the nobility; so if he dresses in clothes that are described in dark colours and of roughspun and woollen fabric it’s not for lack of resources but rather something that speaks of practicality, and above all of soldierly habits. It’s impractical to fight in velvets and silks and luxurious furs, fabrics that get ripped, dirtied and ruined too easily and are unfit for someone who trains on a daily basis and who’s used to going on military campaigns where men often have to sleep on the bare ground or on bedrolls; so sturdy fabrics of wool, linen and leather are usually preferred.

But there are some frequently overlooked details which reveal that Sandor Clegane is more than an overpaid and glorified bodyguard, and that allow an argument to be made that he’s an army commander for House Lannister in addition to being a sworn shield. The main salient point is that Queen Cersei has her own household troops in King’s Landing, knights and men-at-arms wearing the colours of House Lannister who get their orders from her, troops which Lord Eddard was the first to call “the queen’s men,” and whose commander’s identity we’re not told at first until Osfryd Kettleblack is named captain of a detachment of the crimson cloaks guarding the queen one year later. In this little piece, my contention is going to be that their commander was none other than the Hound himself.

When the Hound appears in the first chapters of Arya and Tyrion during the royal visit to Winterfell, there are “squires in the livery of Lannister and Baratheon” as well as knights described as “Lannister men” following him and Joffrey everywhere, who obviously are a small detachment from Cersei’s troops left at the capital, and the first hint indicating that Clegane commands them is when he rides out to search for Mycah and takes these soldiers with him, as we read in AGOT Eddard III:

...

That adds another layer to the killing of Mycah, as it not only confirms further that the order was to have the boy dead but also clarifies how Cersei was able to give that order bypassing Robert’s authority: as queen consort she couldn’t overrule Robert by telling Jaime, a Kingsguard whose orders come first and foremost from the king, to kill or maim Arya (she asked him as sister-lover to brother-lover), but as both their liege lady and queen she could order the Lannister men to kill Mycah as these were her own soldiers and obeyed her directly.

Right before that, we’d learnt that it was also Cersei who appointed Clegane as sworn shield to her son, not her husband as it’d have been expected in normal circumstances:

Joffrey laughed. “He’s my mother’s dog, in truth. She has set him to guard me, and so he does.”

Yet he the Hound’s behaviour doesn’t follow the expectations for the average sworn shield; any bodyguard of the crown prince and heir to the Seven Kingdoms should have King Robert as direct superior and he’d have been the one to give the orders to him, he should report to the sovereign about his heir’s activities, etc. Robert could give him orders if he wished, for he’s above any liege lord, and so he did occasionally, for example during the fight with Gregor at the Hand’s tourney, and the Hound obeyed as a subject, but as vassal and subordinate, his allegiance was to Cersei. It’s the Queen whom the Hound obeys, her to whom he reports, her whom he informs about what the crown prince is doing and her who he goes to every time he returns to the castle after an excursion outside . . . That he’s efficient is certainly valued, yet it seems like loyalty was the weightier factor in his appointment, as she needed someone she could trust would follow her commands unflinchingly and answer only to her, a very necessary requisite for anyone guarding her son and commanding her soldiers given the rivalry and animosity towards her husband.

At first, the name that comes to mind when considering who’s in charge of those soldiers is Jaime’s. But Kingsguard have forsaken everything that comes with lands and titles besides Ser, and that includes being at the head of armies that aren’t the king’s own soldiers or other troops that the king himself has put under their command for determined tasks, such as happened with Arthur Dayne and Lewyn Martell to name some, which excludes Jaime from being the one captaining the Lannister troops in the city. However, in his position as nobleman of the House Lannister, he can order those men round when he’s in “civilian” errands, i.e. personal business, such as when he ambushed The Ned with more or less twenty soldiers wearing the crimson livery, but apparently those were his own men and not from the Westerlands household army, as he refers to the one leading them, a certain Tregar, as “his captain” and later Cersei herself tells that those were his men.

Thus, Jaime excluded, there’s the Hound left as main suspect for position holder. This passage from a conversation between Eddard and Littlefinger merits attention:

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

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

*snip*

I agree. The Hound always seemed like one of the more important Lannister bannermen.

The Lannisters being what they are, the hierarchy clearly has Lannisters in charge, with Tywin at the top, in terms of who can command.

After that, I expect Tywin's children follow - Jaime, Cersei, and Tyrion (likely in that order). Then would come Kevan, Stafford, Genna, etc. in the political hierarchy.

Obviously Cersei is not a military commander, nor is Tyrion really one unless he gets pressed into acting as one by circumstances (such as in Kings landing prior to Stannis' assault).

The military order of precedence would probably be: Tywin, Jaime, Kevan, then maybe Tyrion or Stafford.

So where does Sandor fit in? The known Lannister under-houses are those such as Crakehall, Swyft, Brax, Marbrand, Lorch, Payne, etc. - and of course, House Clegane. There are some sturdy warriors among them, but I would say that in terms of being close to House Lannister as military assets, House Clegane is likely the closest.

The reasons why are simple - most of those houses are led by lords in their own right, though a few are just landed knights. The ones with landed knights are must more likely to depend on their military prowess rather than incomes from trade or agriculture, etc. - and military prowess is measured by the deadliness of its leading swords.

House Clegane would be one of these, and based on its founding & history, it is totally dependent on the patronage of House Lannister and serves them directly rather than through an intermediary.

Knowing this, arranging this, Tywin would trust them more than others to never act against the interests of House Lannister.

House Clegane is basically just two men - Ser Gregor and Sandor - and both of them are monstrously dangerous in battle and therefore highly prized. They don't seem to know a damn thing about more scholarly or practical subjects, but when it comes to being warriors, they would seem to be the finest weapons in Tywin's arsenal aside from Jaime. Tywin loves his monsters, loves brute force and the threat of it, and these two huge & fearsome killers are great assets for projecting power. (And let's face it, being non-Lannisters, they are also expendable assets.)

At the end of Robert's Rebellion, Tywin used the Mountain to kill off Rhaegar's family. Sandor was not likely more than a squire of sorts by that age.

Cersei married Robert, and thus would be protected by the Kingsguard as queen (so would her children). Jaime of course was one, so she would be protected, but even with that, Tywin would want more security for his own blood. Jaime was his heir, and I think Tywin always hoped one day Robert or Joffrey would remove Jaime's white cloak. In the meantime, Tywin would not want Jaime having to sacrifice himself to save Cersei or Joffrey.

Worse for Tywin, the Kingsguard were loyal to the King, so aside from Jaime, he could not count on them to protect house Lannister first. Indeed if the Lannisters went against the throne for some reason, Ser Barristan and perhaps Robert himself might actually be capable of killing Jaime (especially in the early years of Robert's reign). All of this speaks to the need to have some more capable swords around as insurance - "queen's men" who could answer to Jaime and Cersei directly - Loyal Lannister troops led by a very capable and fearsome warrior. The son of another western lord would not really do, since they would have larger concerns, be politically active, and perhaps could be bought off. But House Clegane owed everything to House Lannister.

Of the two Clegane sons, Gregor was the elder and probably more dangerous. But The Mountain is not the right man to protect anyone; he's not very smart, too easily angered, good only for leading the vanguard in battle, and generally robbing raping and slaughtering. If given to Cersei as a bodyguard, he'd have to be paraded around King's Landing, constantly attracting the wrath of anyone wanting to avenge the infamous crimes against Elia, Rhaenys, and Aegon. Tywin knew Gregor's nature, and knew it was better if he was left in Clegane keep doing gods-know-what to the local peasantry, until the next war.

So, Sandor was the better choice. He seems to be smarter and more aware, plus being a second son, even more financially dependent on doing his soldierly duties. Sandor could easily have been knighted too, if he had not been opposed to it. He may not be a knight officially, but we see in the text how he can boss them around, because few men would dare protest the affront to privilege by baring steel against him.

It is stated in the text that Sandor was Cersei's dog, but I imagine the appointment would be made by Tywin himself. Cersei could command him as needed, but I think Jaime or Tywin would be able to override her orders if needed. As Joffrey grew, and the situation with King Robert turned more in the Lannsiters' favour, he would become Prince Joffrey's personal protector / thug. He's not going to play politics, but in an actual fight, he'd lead troops into battle if needed.

So, it definitely makes sense that the Hound had a fairly high position in the Lannisters' chain of command, at least within the detachment of troops in King's Landing.

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Sansa the Peacemaker: Maternal Empowerment and the Politics of Peace

*snip*

It's good to see something exploring this side of Sansa. I'm not sure I am in agreement with all of the scholars' ideas, but it is worth considering at least.

Sansa's political future may go along way to showing that she is her mother's daughter.

Catelyn is the template of womanhood and motherhood Sansa was raised to follow, and Sansa demonstrates early on that she has a natural talent for it. It is not simply good training, but a conscious willingness to emulate and achieve the role her mother has as a wife and mother. Sansa is a daughter of Winterfell too, but it seems to be the southron style of womanhood that she takes to with full eagerness. Training comes from her mother and from Septa Mordane (who in my opinion acts as an agent of Catelyn), but Sansa excels at it.

We should also consider that with Sansa being eldest girl in the Stark household, she probably did have a hand in helping with some of the child-rearing for her younger siblings already. Nothing major, but it's typical for parents to pass off some of the workload to the young, in order to teach them. The Starks are highborn and have servants, but they do not seem aloof from their own children, and they seem to teach the "big" lessons to their children themselves; there is no evidence of indifference or neglect (save for Catelyn re: Jon). In the story we see that Bran is just as often guided by Robb and Jon as Eddard, and though we do not see it, it would only be natural that Sansa spent some time minding Rickon or Arya, or observing as her mother did.

What would the end result of Sansa's upbringing in Winterfell be ? Well, Sansa excels at all the courtly courtesies, and the peripheral skills needed to be a courtly lady (dancing, singing, playing certain instruments, sewing, reciting prayers to the Seven, etc.). The skills are useful, but I think the true objective of Catelyn was always that Sansa should be able to become what she was and more - a secure and confident woman, a wife prepared to live within a marriage, and a mother able to love and care for her children. Of course this was in the context of being highborn, and having a match worthy of the common highborn ambitions, but the deeper objective was that of family (first of the Tully words, after all). I think had the story not come along to intervene, Sansa's upbringing would have soon included the more pertinent aspects of going from little girl to mother - the sexual education, the practical aspects of dealing with the wider world and other highborn families, the importance of being able to tell a good potential mate (or friend) from a bad one. In short, the very introduction to adulthood which got cut off by the betrothal to Joffrey, journey to King's Landing, and the rest of the events. Sansa was 11, and probably needed her mother the most, she was cut off from her and never saw her again. Despite this, I think the worth of her mother's example was ultimately realized and affirmed.

Sansa is also exposed to another sort of mother example - Cersei. I think Cersei brings the contrast between what your essay showed was a sort of negative patriarchy-focused womanhood and the more positive example coming from her mother. Cersei's example (motherhood mainly as a means to power) is one which seems glamourous to Sansa - "power a paegeantry" - offering the sort of ambitious outcome Sansa finds quite alluring: the people will adore her in her glory, the children will be superior to others, and her rivals (such as Arya) will have the STFU and obey. It's a sort "false" ideal, where her mother's is a sort of "true" one, where both are what you could call "socially acceptable", but the "true" one has something the other does not - warmth. When Petyr tells Sansa that he always thought Winterfell a cold place Sansa relies that it was always warm in her memories. This passage is symbolic - Catelyn's life (as a highborn wife and mother in an arranged marriage) was imagined to be emotionally "cold", but in fact, Catelyn's family life was emotionally "warm" and fulfilling. She was not filled with the sort of bitterness and regret that plagued Lysa, nor was she so wrapped up in the cold-blooded pursuit of power and indulgence that her children ended up neglected or emotionally warped (as Cersei did). Sansa learns (the hard way) about the difference and I think comes to appreciate the sort of person her mother was, and this may lead to her becoming much like her mother in the end.

So, what would that mean, if she is her mother's daughter, as a "player" in the political and social arena?

Catelyn was a fairly courageous woman, willing to do take some risks and speak her mind. "A woman's courage", as Brienne called it. Sansa has shown some flashes of this at least, though she's not the outright firecracker Arya is. As Alayne, Sansa has also rediscovered her commanding voice, to the extent her role allows.

Catelyn's has shown Sansa how a mother acts towards a child, and with Sweetrobin, we see "Alayne" acting more like Catelyn than like Cersei or Lysa.

Catelyn, angry as she was over the injustices done against her family, was someone who still made the argument for peace - to Robb and his lords, to Stannis and Renly. It could be said that she took her nurturing side to heart (and it really took a beating), but it could be said that her priorities were motivated by her self-identification as a mother.

Just the same, Catelyn's role as a wife and mother sees her take on the political side of life as well. It's not just matchmaking and so on, but she does not act like it is out of her element. Sometimes this means she has to speak bluntly - truth to power - even if those she speaks to do not listen.

In the end, she is not just acting as mother for certain people, but from a mother's perspective generally. The prayer she says to the Mother in the sept, prior to Renly's death was for peace and mercy for all those involved. It is perhaps foreshadowing to Sansa's own Mother prayer, during the Battle of the Blackwater. Sansa too is kinder than she needs to be, even sparing a thought of mercy for some of her foes.

So, it would not be out of character for Sansa to do much the same if she followed in her mother's footsteps - she would be expected to play the the game, as advisor, negotiator, peacemaker, envoy, and more. However, like her mother, the game is not an end in itself, but just a means to express and defend her actual core values.

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So, it would not be out of character for Sansa to do much the same if she followed in her mother's footsteps - she would be expected to play the the game, as advisor, negotiator, peacemaker, envoy, and more. However, like her mother, the game is not an end in itself, but just a means to express and defend her actual core values.

Thank you for the thoughtful comment, Pod. Catelyn was very much on my mind as I wrote the essay and you've outlined nicely the value of her maternal legacy in considering Sansa's progress in similar efforts. There's a lot to unpack there: both similarities and differences.

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That's extremely unlikely. Her function in the story is completely different. Lavinia is a character whose purpose is to be "fridged" in order to move the plot and affect the more important male character, her father. Sansa is a main character who has been through a lot already and there would be no point to just pile more suffering on her for no reason but to show how awful the world is - we already see how awful her world is and have plenty of examples of girls/women suffering in it; she is not going to be "fridged" because she's not a supporting character in a more important male character's story. Her father and elder brother, who would have been protagonists/heroes of the entire story if it was a classic narrative, are both dead. If anything, Ned was "fridged" in order to produce an effect on the other characters, mostly his children and his wife - and Sansa is a character whose development was perhaps more affected by Ned's death than anyone else, it's the turning point in her story. Sansa's sufferings and troubles aren't supposed to produce a development in a main male character; they're supposed to produce a development in herself, as a main character.

My comment was meant to be amusing, not taken seriously. . .

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Just spent the better part of the last 24 hours in this thread. I feel so vindicated. So many people I've talked to hate Sansa and in extreme cases outright skip her chapters, but I've always known she would have a major role to play. She's the perfect anti-LF. All these fantastic essays just highlight her incredible character growth.



The Arbor Gold revelation is brilliant. I began a re-read a few months ago but I might start over sooner than later with that in mind.


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Sansa the Peacemaker: Maternal Empowerment and the Politics of Peace

The Rebellion I – Better Husbands

Knowing that true love is no longer possible between Sansa and her son, Cersei seeks to ensure that Sansa will at least be a compliant wife and mother for the sake of her children. But even before the attempt at trying to burn her bedding revealed an active – if desperate – resistance to such counsel, the conversation that takes place with Joffrey at his name day tourney is revealing:

Tommen got his pony up to a brisk trot, waved his sword vigorously, and struck the knight’s shield a solid blow as he went by. The quintain spun, the padded mace flying around to give the prince a mighty whack in the back of his head. Tommen spilled from the saddle, his new armor rattling like a bag of old pots as he hit the ground. His sword went flying, his pony cantered away across the bailey, and a great gale of derision went up. King Joffrey laughed longest and loudest of all.

“Oh,” Princess Myrcella cried. She scrambled out of the box and ran to her little brother.

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

Joffrey shrugged. “What if he is?”

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

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

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

They were helping Prince Tommen mount his pony. If only Tommen were the elder instead of Joffrey, Sansa thought. I wouldn’t mind marrying Tommen.

Taking place after the dramatic rescue of Dontos and right before Tyrion makes his return to the city, this exchange is often overlooked or viewed as just another example of Joffrey being inconsiderate to his siblings. But looked at in the context of this essay, it is important for a couple of reasons. The first has to do with how it depicts Joffrey as a potential father figure, not simply as a brother. In actively supporting Tommen, Sansa displays a positive maternal attitude to the young boy: wishing him luck and going so far as to chastise Joff for his ungracious behaviour. It’s obvious that she would find any family structure where Joff acts as the head of the home to be untenable. The second reason – and integral to Sansa’s chastisement of the king –is that it’s the first example we have of her courageous mothering or what Rich refers to as “nurturance as resistance”. Here, Sansa is not only championing Tommen’s rights not to bullied or belittled, but is also fighting back against the institutional power that wants to render her powerless and passive in this role. The fact that she is willing to oppose Joffrey again after taking the considerable risk to save Dontos highlights mothering as practice in which Sansa actively chooses to mount an opposition to oppression. In the words of leading maternal scholar Andrea O’Reilly:

The reality of patriarchal motherhood must be distinguished from

from the possibility or potentiality of gynocentric or feminist mothering.

In other words, while motherhood as an institution is a male-defined

site of oppression, women’s own experiences of mothering can

nonetheless be a source of power.

It is difficult to realise that power as a captive with the Lannisters, but the opportunity Sansa is given in ASOS to escape to Highgarden and marry Willas Tyrell reveals just how such power might work. In the second dream of marriage to a more humane husband, Sansa envisions her motherwork as an extension of her identity and her fight against oppression:

She pictured the two of them sitting together in a garden with puppies in their laps, or listening to a singer strum upon a lute while they floated down the Mander on a pleasure barge. If I give him sons, he may come to love me. She would name them Eddard and Brandon and Rickon, and raise them all to be as valiant as Ser Loras. And to hate Lannisters, too. In Sansa’s dreams, her children looked just like the brothers she had lost. Sometimes there was even a girl who looked like Arya.

While she is still cognizant of negotiating with the institutional pressure on mothers – If I give him sons, he may come to love me – the passage represents a radical reimagining for her vision of children within marriage, and positions Sansa to hold an active militancy in shaping her children’s lives. What was once abstract – “as brave as the wolf and as proud as the lion”- has been replaced by the concrete: “as valiant as Ser Loras.” Furthermore, these children are now part of her familial heritage, given the names of her father and brothers, and resembling them in appearance as well. A little girl who looks like her famously nonconformist sister symbolically completes the dream of maternal insurgency.

The inappropriateness of Cersei's advice is shown when Sansa returns to her room and finds the battle weary Sandor Clegane. It is neither tears nor the weapon between her legs that is able to soothe Sandor or ensure Sansa’s survival; rather, it is the maternal compassion and concern of the Mother’s Hymn:

Gentle Mother, font of mercy,

save our sons from war, we pray,

stay the swords and stay the arrows,

let them know a better day.

Gentle Mother, strength of women,

help our daughters through this fray,

soothe the wrath and tame the fury,

teach us all a kinder way.

In effecting positive change via this experience, Sansa is able to counter the cynical values espoused by Cersei and acknowledge a different kind of female strength which the Queen cannot appreciate.

Just as the act of mothering outside of the institutional ideology has valuable bearing as a source of power and strength for Sansa, the refusal to mother is another important rebellious action that safeguards Sansa’s selfhood and protects her from the exploitative measures enacted by oppressive patriarchal figures. It is through the marriage to Tyrion Lannister, and the realisation that her claim turns her into commodity, that we see Sansa’s feminist consciousness coming into full bloom.

Thanks for these essays Brashcandy! They are really informative and express so well the reasons why I find Sansa's story to be relevant and fascinating. I especially wanted to highlight the parts I bolded above because they focus on another aspect of Sansa's character that I have often seen dismissed by many on here - that of her courage. Sansa is waging her own kind of warfare and has become adept at using "internal" weapons, that of her courtesy and maternal instincts. I find these actions to be very brave given her captivity. Her actions in taking control of whom she will take care of on an emotional and maternal level are no less brave and active than someone who fights back physically and I hope more and more people will start to see it that way.

I also wanted to let you all know that the final part of my Jane Eyre essay is done and I'll be posting it soon. :-)

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Part III, Jane's New Life -


a. Jane's rebirth on the Moors.



Jane gets in a coach and travels for two days until she gets dropped off at a place called Whitcross. This is as far as she can go for the sum she has given, which is all the money she had. After the coach is gone she realizes that she left her small bundle of possessions and bread in the coach so now she has nothing but the clothes on her back to her name. Whitcross is nothing more than a crossroads and the nearest town is ten miles away. Having no where to go and no one to turn to, she turns to mother nature and she finds a hollow in the moors to rest for the night. The next day she wanders to a town and tries to find someone who will give her food and tell her of where she might find a job, but she is not successful. She goes to the local church to see if she can get some help from the local clergyman but he is not there at present. Towards the end of the day she passes a farmhouse and sees a farmer eating some cheese and bread and begs for a piece of the bread which he does give her. That night she tries to find a place to sleep in the local woods but it is not comfortable as the ground is wet and the night is colder and people come nearby causing her to have to change locations more than once.



The next day is wet and rainy and again she wanders around trying to find food and employment. She only finds food one time when passing by a cottage where she sees a girl who is about to throw some cold porridge into the pig trough and she asks her for it. She has now wandered far from the village and is near the moors again and is cold, wet, starving and weak. Night falls and she tries to find a place on the moors to rest when she sees a light in the distance. It's been raining again so she goes towards the light and comes to a modest but neat house. Jane looks in the window and and sees two young, graceful looking women wearing black mourning dresses and an older woman who looked to be the housekeeper. Jane can hear them talking and hears that their father has recently died. The girls appear to be intelligent and thoughtful and Jane is fascinated by them. Hoping that they might help her, Jane knocks on the door but it is opened by the housekeeper. Jane asks if she can speak to the mistresses but the housekeeper doesn't trust the look of her and thinking her a vagrant won't admit her or let her speak to the young ladies. Now dejected because she has been turned away, Jane feels as if she is going to die. She says aloud that she can die but she believes in God and she will await His will in silence. In response to this a voice nearby responds, “'All men must die, . . . but all are not condemned to meet a lingering and premature doom, such as yours would be if you perished her of want.'” There is a man standing nearby in the darkness and he comes to the door and has the housekeeper admit Jane.



Once inside Jane learns the names of the girls are Diana and Mary and the young man who found Jane is their brother St. John. They give her some food and ask her name. She says she is Jane Elliott as she wants to avoid discovery. She is cryptic in her responses to their questions of her background but they let Jane stay and after giving her food and milk, they bring her up to a room and a bed for her to stay in and take away her wet clothes. Jane thanks God for giving her a warm, dry bed and exhausted falls asleep.



[This whole section reminds me a lot of Arya and how she wandered the Riverlands trying to find food and mingling with the small folk which is what Jane does here too. And of course the Valar Morghulis - All men must die quote really caught my attention. I thought this was one of those cool lines that GRRM made up but it turns out that this term came from Jane Eyre. It was reading this that has me convinced now that Jane Eyre must have been a source of inspiration for GRRM. Especially when you add to this that Jane takes an alias to hide her true identity and you have Arya's story. (Also, we'll learn a little later that these three siblings, Diana, Mary and St. John, whose home she has wandered into have the surname of Rivers!) Anyway, this is where Jane loses everything of her former life as the rain not only symbolizes a washing away or washing clean of her former self but also a baptism into a new person and identity. There are also similarities to Sansa here too, as we have discussed before how when Sansa goes out to see the snow in the Vale, just before she builds snow Winterfell, she ingests some of the snow herself, and that too could be viewed as a baptism of sorts. Also, Sansa has taken on an alias at this point. As for Jane, after being saved by Divine providence which has put her in the hands of St. John Rivers, Jane now needs to remake her life anew.]



Jane lies in a stupor for days though she is aware that the young ladies check in on her and seem compassionate towards her and St. John also checks up on her once. Finally she gets strong enough to leave the bed and learns of where she is. The house is called Marsh End or Moore House and the gentleman staying there, St. John, is the parson at the local village of Morton. This was the house of the siblings' father, Mr. Rivers, and he died three weeks ago. Their mother died years ago. Marsh End has belonged to the Rivers family for generations, since it was built, and the Rivers' are an old and respected family in the area though not wealthy as their father lost a lot of money in a poor speculation he had made. All three children have been educated and the young ladies have been trained as governesses. Jane takes a liking to the girls immediately, especially Diana who is very open and forthright. St. John is more reserved however and she finds it harder to get to know him. Jane describes him as young, perhaps 28 to 30 years old, and handsome, with a face like a classic Greek that “riveted the eye,” large blue eyes and fair hair. Jane tells the three of them some of her history, as much as she feels comfortable giving, and that she has been trained as a governess. But she will not give them details of where she was living or why she had to leave so quickly and with such secrecy. She is indebted to them for saving her life and she only wishes to ask them for help in finding her a job of anything honest she can do no matter how trivial, so long as she gets some money to support herself so that she may be independent. Diana and Mary insist on having Jane stay with them until such time as she finds a job.



During this time Jane goes to hear St. John give a sermon at his church and learns what a keen, sharp mind he has. But he is reserved and restless, unlike his sisters. He is devoted to his work though, traveling to visit with parishioners even in bad weather, but he does not seem content. After a month with them, St. John tells Jane he has found her a position as a school teacher for poor, farm girls from the local village. St. John thinks that this will be a poor outlet for Jane's accomplishments and that she will not be content with this but Jane accepts at once.



Another thing that happens during Jane's stay with them is that the Rivers siblings learn that an uncle of theirs has died. He was their mother's brother but they never knew him because he had a falling out with their father years ago. They were hoping to be left some money from him as he had amassed a large fortune, and as he had been the one to advise their father in the speculation in which he had lost much money, it would atone for that. But it appears that they will not get any of this fortune as it is going to another distant relative whom they don't know. So Diana and Mary must leave to go back to their governess positions and St. John must must return to his parish at Morton.



Jane takes up the teaching position at the school house for the girls where she also lives. St. John visits with her more frequently and Jane finally has the chance to get to know him better. St. John can see that at times Jane seems melancholy and he tells how he too was feeling weary and unhappy until he realized that he should become a missionary and so be able to travel the world doing God's work. Jane also realizes that St. John is in love with a beautiful young woman named Rosamund who is the local rich girl and who helped St. John start the school. What's more, Rosamund clearly loves St. John too, but St. John will not give in to his feelings for Rosamund and keeps himself very stoic when she is around and deliberately tries to avoid her. He is very self-restrained. One night he comes to visit Jane and Jane shows him a sketch she has made of Rosamund to draw him out about his feelings because she doesn't understand why he would deny them. Furthermore, if he were to marry Rosamund, he would have money available to him to do good work where they lived just as much as of he went to some foreign land. Jane tells him that he should marry Rosamund and St. John replies that he does love her wildly, but at the same time he knows that she cannot make him a good wife and that she is not suited to him because she could never be a missionary's wife. When Jane responds that he need not be a missionary, he says that he cannot relinquish it, that it is his great work and dearer than the blood in his veins and it is what he lives for. As for his feelings towards Rosamund, he hates them as a weakness that he must conquer. He then tells Jane that she must know him for what he is, “'a cold, hard, man.'” Jane is incredulous at his description of himself which he then expands on:



I am simply, in my original state - . . . a cold, hard, ambitious man. Natural affection only, of all the sentiments, has permanent power over me. Reason, and not Feeling, is my guide; my ambition is unlimited; my desire to rise higher, to do more than others, insatiable.”


[i think this description sounds a lot like Littlefinger (and a lot like Francis Davey from Jamaica Inn) though in St. John's case he is working for good whereas the other two are working for evil. Also, in this he is the exact opposite of Rochester. He refuses to lead on Rosamund because he knows he won't marry her, whereas Rochester falsely courts Blanche Ingram. St. John is governed by reason and maintains an impressive self control whereas Rochester is ruled by his passion.]



As St. John is about to leave after this exchange, he notices something on a sheet of paper amongst Jane's drawing materials that catches his interest and it seems to surprise him He looks at Jane strangely, but Jane does not know what it is that he could have noticed. He tears off a piece from the paper and leaves and Jane is bewildered by the whole thing.



The next evening St. John comes to visit with Jane again during a snow storm. Jane figures he must have something important he wishes to discuss to venture out in such weather. He reveals that he has discovered her true identity as Jane Eyre, and he gives her details of her history, including who her parents were, her childhood at her Aunt Reed's house, her time at Lowood School, and he also knows that she came from Thornfield Hall where she worked for Mr. Rochester as a governess. He also has heard of Rochester's thwarted marriage plans and how the young governess then disappeared. He shows her the slip of paper he tore from her drawing materials the day before in which Jane had absentmindedly signed her real name, Jane Eyre, and of course he realizes that she is Jane Eyre. St. John has letters from Mr. Briggs, a solicitor in London (the same man who had appeared with Richard Mason at the church on Jane's wedding day), who is urgently seeking the whereabouts of Jane Eyre. When Jane asks him what Briggs wants with her, he tells her that Briggs wanted to inform her that her uncle, John Eyre of Madeira, has died and left her all his wealth and she is now not only rich, but quite the heiress. When she asks how much she is worth she is astounded to learn that she has been left 20,000 pounds!



After recovering her shock, it occurs to Jane that it is strange that Mr. Briggs should write to St. John to inquire about Jane Eyre as that seems quite random. She asks St. John about this. Jane then gets a another big surprise as St. John tells her that his full name is St. John Eyre Rivers and that his mother's name was Eyre and she had two brothers. One brother was a clergyman who ran off with Jane's mother, Jane Reed of Gateshead. The other brother was John Eyre of Madeira, the very Uncle who just died and left Jane all his money. So, Jane is first cousins with St. John, Mary and Diana Rivers! It was this Uncle whom they were hoping to receive money from upon his death and had been informed that he was leaving it to his clergyman brother's orphan daughter. Jane is absolutely overjoyed to learn that she has living family, and St. John notes that she seems even happier about this fact than about the fact that she has just inherited a large amount of money:



Glorious discovery to a lonely wretch! This was wealth indeed! - wealth to the heart! - a mine of pure, genial affections. This was a blessing, bright, vivid, and exhilarating; - not like the ponderous gift of gold: rich and welcome enough in its own way, but sobering from it's weight. I now clapped my hands in sudden joy-my pulse bounded, my veins thrilled.

'Oh, I am glad! - I am glad!' I exclaimed.



So, it seems as if fate brought Jane to these people who not only saved her life on the night she almost died, but turned out to be her cousins and whom she now thinks of as a brother and sisters. After all this new information sinks in, Jane is determined to split her inheritance with St. John, Diana and Mary equally and to have Diana and Mary come home to Moor House so they may all live there together as a family. St. John tells her that she should take some time to think about this but she is adamant. She wants a home and connections, five thousand pounds is more than enough for her and twenty thousand would be oppressive to her. She explains how she craves for fraternal and sisterly love, that she never had a home, and she will have them now. When St. John says that she may yet have the home and family she craves by means of marriage one day she then exclaims that that is nonsense and she does not want to marry. “'I know what I feel, and how averse are my inclinations to the bare thought of marriage. No one would take me for love; and I will not be regarded in the light of a mere money-speculation.'” [This sounds exactly like Sansa lamenting about how she wants to be loved for herself and not for her claim. Sansa is also no longer interested in marrying for marriage sake, at least at this point in her story, and is now mostly interested in simply finding a home and family to which she can belong.]


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c. Jane finds the balance she has been searching for.

The next morning after hearing her name being called, Jane goes to look for Rochester to find out if he is okay. In reading this again I found it interesting that Jane has not decided at this point that she will definitely go back to Rochester, which is how this has been portrayed in every movie version I have seen. Jane just wants to be sure Rochester is okay before she leaves England forever. She is anxious to get to Thornfield but also excited to return. However, when she reaches Thornfield and views it for the first time in almost a year she gets a huge shock. It has been destroyed with most of it a ruin and it is desolate and abandoned, just as she saw it once in her dream before the wedding. The stones look black and she realizes that a fire destroyed the house. Now Jane is seriously concerned about the people who were living there and if there was any loss of life. She goes to the nearby Inn to ask about it. The Innkeeper knows Thornfield and he tells her that it burned down in Autumn, just before the harvest, and the fire started in the middle of the night. When Jane asks him if it was known how the fire started, the host tells her the story, that Mr. Rochester had a lunatic wife that he kept there and one night she got out of her room and started the fire. Mr. Rochester had sent away Mrs. Fairfax and Adele but he remained at Thornfield, having shut himself in like a hermit after Jane left. Rochester was there when the fire broke out and he managed to get the remaining servants out of the house as the fire spread, and then he went back to get his mad wife from her cell. She had gone up to the roof however, and when he went up there to get her and bring her down as he approached her she jumped off the roof to her death. Then as Rochester tried to go back down to get out of the house the roof crashed in on him and he was badly hurt and is now blind and has lost one hand. Jane asks him where she can find Mr. Rochester and he tells her that he is at another manor house he owns called Ferndean in a very desolate spot. Jane hires the Innkeep's coach and goes there right away.

When Jane arrives at Ferndean she has trouble locating the house as it is indeed desolate and located deep within a wood. At last she finds her way to the front of the house and notices that it looks as if no one is living there. But then the front door opens and she sees Rochester step outside. She can see that he is blind and notes his damaged arm as well but she does not approach him yet. He goes back inside and then Jane approaches the house and is admitted by Mary who along with her husband John are the only servants with Rochester and the only other people living there with him. Jane goes to the parlor where Rochester is sitting, with his dog Pilot by his side, waiting for a glass of water and there Jane finally reveals herself to him. He can't believe it at first that she is there and wonders if it is a dream but she goes to him so he can touch her and feel her and she kisses him on his eyes and she then pledges that she will never leave him again.

Over the next few days they spend time together and talk and Jane tells him of her experiences over the past year, where she was, that she has found relations and has been living with them, and that she is now an independent woman with money to support herself. Rochester asks Jane a lot of questions about St. John and she tells him about St. John's proposal and that he wants her to go to India with him. Rochester gives her leave to go with St. John but she says she will not because St. John doesn't love her truly and she wants to stay with Rochester. He is feeling all insecure about his injuries and that he is helpless but Jane assures him that she loves him. Rochester now asks Jane to marry him again and she says she will. Again he focuses on his infirmity asking her if it would be too much of a sacrifice to bear with them and she assures him that: “'I love you better now, when I can really be useful to you, than I did in your state of proud independence, when you disdained every part but that of the giver and protector.'”

Mr. Rochester's response shows how truly changed he is now as he thanks God for how his circumstances have worked out and he is truly repentant:

' . . . my heart swells with gratitude to the beneficent God of this earth just now. He sees not as man sees, but far clearer: judges not as man judges, but far more wisely. I did wrong: I would have sullied my innocent flower – breathed guilt on its purity: the Omnipotent snatched it from me. . . . Divine justice pursued its course; disasters came thick on me: I was forced to pass through the valley of the shadow of death.

His chastisements are mighty; and one smote me which has humbled me for ever. I was proud of my strength: but what is it now, when I must give it over to foreign guidance, as a child does its weakness? Of late, Jane – only of late – I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my doom. I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray: very brief prayers the were, but very sincere.'

It was during one of these times at prayer late one evening a few nights ago that, overcome with remorse, he called out “Jane! Jane! Jane!” and he heard Jane's reply in her exact words “'I am coming: wait for me,'” and then “'where are you?'” Once again, he thanks God for showing mercy in returning Jane to him and he prays for the strength to lead a purer life from now on.

The story ends with Jane marrying Rochester and everyone Jane cares about living happily ever after. Jane makes sure Adele is placed in a school that she likes and sees to her comforts and is located nearby so she can visit often. Jane also has regular visits from Diana and Mary who both are happily married, and she even maintains a steady, though not frequent correspondence with St. John who has gone off to do his work as a faithful and steady servant. They have a son and eventually Rochester recovers enough of his vision to be able to see him. Jane describes her life henceforth as being blessed: “I hold myself supremely blest—blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine.

[so, then, Jane Eyre ends on a happy note, with the romantic sentiment that we have seen expressed in both Martin's writing and even on the show of “I am yours and you are mine.” But this can only happen when all the obstacles and problems that hinder their relationship have been removed and resolved. Of course, the biggest obstacle has been removed, that of Rochester's first wife Bertha Mason. Then the problem of Jane being dependent on Rochester, not only financially, but for familial support as she has no one else to turn to, have been removed. These all certainly help, but to me it's the fact that Rochester himself has fundamentally changed (going back to a fundamental element of the Beauty and the Beast theme) that seems to be the biggest reason for Jane's ultimate choice. The edition of the book I used has an afterward by Arthur Zeiger which explains that Rochester's change is the most marked as he goes from violent and egotistical to a man of conscience who has been humbled by his suffering. Not only does Rochester change internally, but his external change, the handicap he now suffers from, are important to Jane as well. Jane is happy to marry him because she can be the one to help him now as he must depend on her for help.

The afterword also notes that Jane too goes through change. She was impulsive and unforgiving as a child “someone who might have borne always the scars of her deprived childhood”, but “she matures and deepens, bravely accepts the conditions life imposes. . . .” According to Zeiger, this is the essence of the story that makes it a timeless favorite, as people “sense its value as an account of development and self-realization.

From the Gothic perspective, Jane Eyre hits all the marks:

a coming of age story featuring a lonely maiden with no family or little connections, a/k/a a damsel in distress; a Byronic**male; a dark, foreboding setting that seems haunted or mysterious; maiden threatened by a patriarchal or tyrannical male figure; supernatural elements and/or unexplainable events; portents or dreams; and overwrought emotion or melodrama.

From the Romantic perspective, Jane Eyre also hits all the marks (see link to Gothic above) with the requirement that the lovers be parted for some time a necessary element. I think this is often where the change or metamorphosis occurs, especially for the Beastly or Byronic hero, as happens with Rochester in Jane Eyre. Jane's and Rochester's time apart from each other is a time of hibernation and metamorphosis for both of them. Assuming that Sandor is the Gravedigger on the Quiet Isle, a place where he can do nothing else but reflect on his life and is forced to set aside his violent ways, this suggests Sandor is going through a metamorphosis right now. (This is one of the reasons I don't see Sandor going back to battle UnGregor in Cersei's trial by combat. He has to move past that now.)

**Rochester is labeled by Zeiger in the afterward of my edition as Byronic,and I think its very fitting not only of Rochester but the Hound. The Byronic male/hero sounds a lot like the Beast too. Take a look at the stanza from Lord Byron's "The Corsair" describing the hero Conrad, (from the wikipedia page on Byronic Hero):

He knew himself a villain—but he deem'd
The rest no better than the thing he seem'd;
And scorn'd the best as hypocrites who hid
Those deeds the bolder spirit plainly did.
He knew himself detested, but he knew
The hearts that loath'd him, crouch'd and dreaded too.
Lone, wild, and strange, he stood alike exempt
From all affection and from all contempt: (I, XII)
]

THE END

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I love the Mother analysis, brashcandy. I think the aspect of peacemaker Mother to Sansa is why I don't see her joining Dany when she lands in the Vale. Sansa is for peace whereas Dany brings war. I think when Sansa leaves the Vale, the Mother of Peace will be replaced by Dany, called Mother, or rather Mother of dragons, to bring war.


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I love the Mother analysis, brashcandy. I think the aspect of peacemaker Mother to Sansa is why I don't see her joining Dany when she lands in the Vale. Sansa is for peace whereas Dany brings war. I think when Sansa leaves the Vale, the Mother of Peace will be replaced by Dany, called Mother, or rather Mother of dragons, to bring war.

Thanks FE :) Ragnorak's presentation for the motherhood project will contrast Daenerys and Sansa's roles, so you can look out for that.

Thanks for these essays Brashcandy! They are really informative and express so well the reasons why I find Sansa's story to be relevant and fascinating. I especially wanted to highlight the parts I bolded above because they focus on another aspect of Sansa's character that I have often seen dismissed by many on here - that of her courage. Sansa is waging her own kind of warfare and has become adept at using "internal" weapons, that of her courtesy and maternal instincts. I find these actions to be very brave given her captivity. Her actions in taking control of whom she will take care of on an emotional and maternal level are no less brave and active than someone who fights back physically and I hope more and more people will start to see it that way.

I also wanted to let you all know that the final part of my Jane Eyre essay is done and I'll be posting it soon. :-)

Glad you enjoyed them Elba. It seems that some people simply cannot conceptualize of behaviour that does not involve outright violence or physical action as courageous or a mode of resistance.

[i think this description sounds a lot like Littlefinger (and a lot like Francis Davey from Jamaica Inn) though in St. John's case he is working for good whereas the other two are working for evil. Also, in this he is the exact opposite of Rochester. He refuses to lead on Rosamund because he knows he won't marry her, whereas Rochester falsely courts Blanche Ingram. St. John is governed by reason and maintains an impressive self control whereas Rochester is ruled by his passion.]

Good points. LF wants to shape Sansa into his vision of her, but that involves the corruption/denial of central facets of her character. The temptation can be alluring: Littlefinger is seemingly offering Sansa everything she ever wanted, and more so the satisfaction of being a game player instead of a piece. But as Jane Eyre shows, that kind of agency is illusory. It's built on another kind of service and inequality that offers "fulfillment" in the guise of having power, or in Jane's case, serving a higher power. True independence and happiness comes not only from having material resources, but in resisting the self-negating schemes of others.

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For this first calling, I will focus on the Motherhood essay written by brash. Dear, as always, you never seize to amaze us with astuteness and obvious brilliance in your analyses of Sansa.



When it comes to Sansa, she embodies not one, but actually two female deities of ASOIAF - Mother and Maiden. The maiden symbolism is widely known and analyzed, but the motherhood motif is being carefully incorporated, never confronting and contradicting the maiden motif. Sansa as the mother is something that is difficult to comprehend due to her being a virgin, but at the same time, compassionate nature, protectiveness and gentleness in Sansa gives her storyline another dimension. As brashcandy wonderfully pointed out, it didn't just start in the Vale, but was bit by bit incorporated in her story from the beginning. For, after all, Sansa has been raised to become a mother one day, just as all the girls in Westeros.



But, the way I would look at Sansa's motherhood is embodied in the Capitoline wolf. Milady of York, Mahaut and myself have been analyzing the motif in different occasions. The statue is strikingly dual in its interpretations, and so is Sansa's motherhood. On one side there is her compassionate nature towards the "cripples, bastards and broken things", and on another there is that fierceness that oozes from her from time to time, whether we discuss the moment she contemplates throwing Joffrey off that wall in KL, her innate decision not to kneel to Tyrion, and lastly strictness in handling Robert Arryn. As never before, through motherhood motif, we see Sansa as the she-wolf in ASOIAF.



Without possible contradiction, GRRM incorporated in Sansa's story both maidenhood and motherhood. When we speak about it in terms of her becoming the player, we should always have in mind where she is at the moment.




In the history of the Vale of Arryn, two very important roles had women. The first one was the Queen Regent of the Vale, Sharra Arryn, who ruled at the time of the Aegon's Conquest. Sharra was the most beautiful woman in Westeros, and she ruled in place of her underage son. Visenya Targaryen conquered Vale without spilling a blood by granting the wish of young King to ride a dragon. the second figure is the Maid of the Vale, who ruled at the time of Dance of Dragons. The Maid supported Rhaenyra Targaryen in the civil war that destroyed Westeros. Now, given the fact that Sansa has basically mothered SR, one can conclude that Sansa will seize power by becoming the Lady Protector of the Vale.




So, motherhood and maidenhood is not just, IMO, qualifications of a woman. They are also powerful motifs that can figure (and actually have figured in our history in Elizabeth I) in creating a capable ruler. Since I doubt that Sansa/Harry marriage would actually happen, Sansa being able to manipulate SR could give her advantage in taking control of the Vale. As for Sansa's politics, we should always have in mind "I would have given them bread" line which I think is the way of Sansa mothering the nation. And, with possible war, Sansa might be the one to feed, keep safe and protect all those that need it. And from pawn whose kind nature entrapped her, Sansa very well might become the player whose kind nature will be the weapon that might win the Game.


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Excellent work Milady, Brashcandy and Elba :thumbsup:





On Jane Eyre and Sansa’s storyline:




"Do you never laugh, Miss Eyre? Don't trouble yourself to answer--I see, you laugh rarely; but you can laugh very merrily: believe me, you are not naturally austere, any more than I am naturally vicious. The Lowood constraint still clings to you somewhat; controlling your features, muffing your voice, and restricting your limbs; . . . in time, I think you will learn to be natural with me, as I find it impossible to be conventional with you; and then your looks and movements will have more vivacity and variety than they dare offer now."





I think this quote from Rochester to Jane fits Sansa’s and Sandor’s relationship extremely well. Like Rochester, Sandor has been turned into a vicious creature (The Hound) because of past mistreatments. And in Sandor’s case, his viciousness has prevented further physical abuses. But like Rochester, his rage and viciousness are not natural character traits. And just like Rochester, Sandor seems to find hard to be “conventional” with Sansa. And Sansa, like Jane, is learning to be “natural” with Sandor.


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I love reading these Sansa threads and I think she's going to have a big role to play in the next 2 books. And I definitely think she's going to reunite with Sandor :smile:.

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Thanks Mladen and Mahaut :)






I love reading these Sansa threads and I think she's going to have a big role to play in the next 2 books. And I definitely think she's going to reunite with Sandor :smile:.





Welcome :cheers:



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There's an interesting detail on the subject of knighthood with respect to Sansa's actions that I wanted to note. We learn in ASOIAF that any knight can make a knight, and the process can vary from the informal to the ceremonial. A few snippets tell us what the formal function would look like; in Tyrion's POV:



This time he dreamed he was at a feast, a victory feast in some great hall. He had a high seat on the dais, and men were lifting their goblets and hailing him as hero. Marillion was there, the singer who’d journeyed with them through the Mountains of the Moon. He played his woodharp and sang of the Imp’s daring deeds. Even his father was smiling with approval. When the song was over, Jaime rose from his place, commanded Tyrion to kneel, and touched him first on one shoulder and then on the other with his golden sword, and he rose up a knight.



And from Sandor:



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



This latter quote connects to the first potentially symbolic gesture Sansa makes with respect to the performance of knighting. As Sandor tells her the story, he is kneeling before her, and in her show of compassion, she proceeds to touch him on the shoulder:



The silence went on and on, so long that she began to grow afraid once more, but she was afraid for him now, not for herself. She found his massive shoulder with her hand. “He was no true knight,” she whispered to him.



The next incident happens with Dontos in the godswood, the first night he makes contact with the offer to help her escape. Sansa is very reluctant to trust him, stating that he's no knight anymore, just a fool. Dontos pleads that when he was a knight he took it for granted, but now he feels he can be a knight again because of Sansa's grace and courage. He invokes the legendary Florian in order to convince her:



“Florian,” Sansa whispered. A shiver went through her.


“Sweet lady, I would be your Florian,” Dontos said humbly, falling to his knees before her.


Slowly, Sansa lowered the knife. Her head seemed terribly light, as if she were floating. This is madness, to trust myself to this drunkard, but if I turn away will the chance ever come again? “How . . . how would you do it? Get me away?”


Ser Dontos raised his face to her. “Taking you from the castle, that will be the hardest. Once you’re out, there are ships that would take you home. I’d need to find the coin and make the arrangements, that’s all.”


“Could we go now?” she asked, hardly daring to hope.


“This very night? No, my lady, I fear not. First I must find a sure way to get you from the castle when the hour is ripe. It will not be easy, nor quick. They watch me as well.” He licked his lips nervously. “Will you put away your blade?”


Sansa slipped the knife beneath her cloak. “Rise, ser.”



Again, Dontos is kneeling before Sansa, but in this scene it's her language that's important. She not only puts away the blade, but gives him a very formal command, similar to the one Sandor mentions between Rhaegar and his brother. Together with the gesture to Sandor, these could be considered as two symbolically resonant examples of Sansa performing an active role in making her own knights.



Whether or not these details are merely coincidental or irrelevant, I think Sansa's overall constructive approach to the men provides a useful contrast to LF's methods of buying or bribing knights into his service like the Kettleblacks and the three hedge knights in AFFC. That the Mad Mouse, and possibly the EB have their own agendas highlights how risky this business can be, and whilst LF strives on chaos and unexpected twists, he only really achieves short-term benefits from these alliances. Compare this to Sansa, whose impact on Sandor Clegane deeply affected the man himself, and could be the inspiration behind the Elder Brother's presence in the Vale. Of course, there's one man who has been steadily working for LF up to this point: the freerider turned knight, Lothor Brune. So far, Brune has lasted the longest in LF's employ (with the exception of the servants at his homestead on the Fingers) and he's had direct and close contact with the mockingbird. It may therefore be important that Brune is one of those pinpointed during the mass knighting ceremony that Sansa witnesses after the battle is over in KL:



Next came four of lesser birth who had distinguished themselves in the fighting: the one-eyed knight Ser Philip Foote, who had slain Lord Bryce Caron in single combat; the freerider Lothor Brune, who’d cut his way through half a hundred Fossoway men-at-arms to capture Ser Jon of the green apple and kill Ser Bryan and Ser Edwyd of the red, thereby winning himself the name Lothor Apple-Eater; Willit, a grizzled man-at-arms in the service of Ser Harys Swyft, who’d pulled his master from beneath his dying horse and defended him against a dozen attackers; and a downy-cheeked squire named Josmyn Peckledon, who had killed two knights, wounded a third, and captured two more, though he could not have been more than fourteen. Willit was borne in on a litter, so grievous were his wounds.



Bronn is also knighted during this ceremony, but we don't hear about it until Tyrion's POV in ASOS:



“No. Them of us as survived the fight at the winch towers got ourselves dabbed by the High Septon and dubbed by the Kingsguard. Took half the bloody day, with only three of the White Swords left to do the honors.”



This marks a turning point in Tyrion's and Bronn's relationship, one that doesn't escape the former's attention:



Bronn grinned. “My knightly sigil. A flaming chain, green, on a smoke-grey field. By your lord father’s command, I’m Ser Bronn of the Blackwater now, Imp. See you don’t forget it.”


Tyrion put his hands on the featherbed and squirmed back a few inches, against the pillows. “I was the one who promised you knighthood, remember?” He had liked that “by your lord father’s command” not at all. Lord Tywin had wasted little time. Moving his son from the Tower of the Hand to claim it for himself was a message anyone could read, and this was another. “I lose half my nose and you gain a knighthood. The gods have a deal to answer for.” His voice was sour. “Did my father dub you himself?”



Bronn and Lothor may have both become knights on that day, but that's where the similarities between the two seem to end. Bronn is flashy and dangerously ambitious, whilst Sansa has to remind herself that Lothor was even knighted:



The ladder to the forecastle was steep and splintery, so Sansa accepted a hand up from Lothor Brune. Ser Lothor, she had to remind herself; the man had been knighted for his valor in the Battle of the Blackwater. Though no proper knight would wear those patched brown breeches and scuffed boots, nor that cracked and water-stained leather jerkin.



It matches the first description we get of Brune in the novel, during the Hand's tourney in AGOT when he jousts against Jory Cassel:



In his third match, he rode three passes at a freerider named Lothor Brune whose armor was as drab as his own. Neither man lost his seat, but Brune’s lance was steadier and his blows better placed, and the king gave him the victory.



Sansa recognizes his genuine affection for Mya Stone, and learns that his family's treatment affected him deeply:



Alayne wondered what Mya made of Ser Lothor. With his squashed nose, square jaw, and nap of woolly grey hair, Brune could not be called comely, but he was not ugly either. It is a common face but an honest one. Though he had risen to knighthood, Ser Lothor’s birth had been very low. One night he had told her that he was kin to the Brunes of Brownhollow, an old knightly family from Crackclaw Point. “I went to them when my father died,” he confessed, “but they shat on me, and said I was no blood of theirs.” He would not speak of what happened after that, except to say that he had learned all he knew of arms the hard way.



These revelations depict Brune as already receptive to Sansa's ability to connect with people, and it's significant that although he does LF's dirty work as part of his job, his personal inclinations reveal he's capable of genuine affection and sensitivity. With LF slowly buying up the loyalty of the Lords Declarant and the hostility of Bronze Yohn apparently neutralised for now, Sansa's hopes may rest on her ability to foster sincere relationships with men in LF's employ, undermining Baelish where he would least expect it. She already has a head start with Brune, and the same would apply to the Elder Brother. Ultimately, if we strip away Tyrion's dream of becoming a knight to what he was really seeking – approval, love, recognition – it shows just how transformative Sansa’s “knighting” can be.


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Nice catch Brashcandy!



I think it highlights well Sansa’s ability to bring the best out of people who are usually shunned by Westerosi society. She manages to make “knights” out of these unlikely heroes. It’s quite similar to what happens in the Night’s watch: criminals and destitutes get the opportunity to redeem themselves and gain honour in protecting the realm. So this is another point in common with her bastard brother, Jon.



Also, it’s hard to miss the similarities between Lothor Brune’s and Sandor Clegane’s circumstances: low birth, painful familial history, “social promotion” through own merit, and despicable work for despicable master. Yet Sansa considers him good enough for the bastard girl, Mya Stone. Interestingly enough, Lothor’s and Mya’s relationship mirrors Sansa’s and Sandor’s as, at that point, Sansa is a bastard too. In promoting this relationship, Sansa could also be projecting her own personal fantasy and desire.


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