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Milady of York

From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XXI

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I don't know if she goes insane, but I think it's possible there will be something akin to post-traumatic stress. Because I'm a history geek, and Martin is a student of history, I tend to view everything through historical parallels and traditions. I've gone back and forth with Sansa, but I do like her and root for her, so I see her as somewhat of a historical parallel to Elizabeth Tudor.

Like Elizabeth, Sansa goes through harrowing experiences that threatens her safety and sense of personal security. First she is to be Queen, then she becomes a traitors daughter, beaten, discredited and humiliated.

She is then put through another series of abuses by LF, and the gods only know how far he'll take his behaviors in the next book, which would not be too dissimilar to a young Elizabeths experiences at the hands of Catherine Parrs second husband.

When Elizabeth says to Dudley, "I will have but one Mistress here, and no Master," I think speaks volumes about Elizabeth's psyche. There are many today who speculate one of the driving factors behind Elizabeths decision to never marry may have actually been her fear of putting her person, (security and safety), at the mercy of a husband thus making herself vulnerable again.

I think by books end, that may be what we see of Sansa, and like Lady, she sacrifices of herself, if not herself, for the greater good.

Just my humble opinion.

There's certainly a lot in common between LF and Thomas Seymour, who was Elizabeth's guardian, who was endlessly groping her, and wished to be her lover.

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There's certainly a lot in common between LF and Thomas Seymour, who was Elizabeth's guardian, who was endlessly groping her, and wished to be her lover.

And Seymour was executed by his own brother, because a) he married Elizabeth's step-mother, Katherine Parr, whom he had claimed to love before Henry VIII met her and b) because he wanted to marry Elizabeth soon after Katherine died during childbirth.

I'm going out on a limb here--suppose Lyn Corbray guesses that Petyr is up to no good? Petyr knows Lyn has a weakness for boys and gold, but what if Lyn knows what Petyr's weaknesses are? Petyr has not exactly been as silent as the grave re: his feelings for the Tully girls. And the Lords of the Vale would have frequented Robert's court--the bachelors among them would have heard Petyr boasting of having taken the maidenhoods of both Tully girls. What if Lyn recognizes the Tully look in Alayne--Sansa is supposed to look like her mother, who had visited the Vale not too long ago, accompanied by Tyrion Lannister as a prisoner. Suppose he makes a pass at Luthor Brune as a sign to the lords accompanying him. What if his pulling out of a sword, soon after Bronze Yohn Royce notices Sansa is to get the others away to develop a strategy to lull Petyr into a sense of security so that he permits Sansa and Sweetrobin to get to the Gates of the Moon before winter comes to the Vale? Which is why the rest of the lords fall in line with Petyr's policy and give him what he wants--they decide to wait till Riverrun falls. What if they've managed to send a message to the Blackfish or the Blackfish has contacted them via some of the peasants who were told to leave Riverrun before Jaime broke the siege? The proposal of Harry for Alayne comes almost pat on time. And I suspect Myranda is on the secret--she appears to be flighty and flirtatious, but she does get one piece of info out of Sansa--the name of Lord Eddard's bastard. How would a girl brought up in a Gulltown sept get this information?

Either the Blackfish or the Lords of the Vale will help Sansa get rid of Littlefinger.

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Thanks so much for reposting the essay here Lord Martin, and for including the additional insights and analysis :) I liked the point on the knights/castle thematic divisions of ACOK/ASOS and how she's being "armed" to ultimately mount her own defence. As much as Sansa is entrapped within castles throughout her arc, she does learn how to navigate these spaces to find relief, and Martin draws those deliberate contrasts with her parents' experiences which reveal a more capable approach and understanding of her surroundings. The positive relationships she's able to form with the non-knights also plays a crucial part in this navigation and her personal growth. If we accept that Martin is exploring a central theme of institutional breakdown and corruption, then Sansa is one of the reformers poised to construct better "castles" in the future, and this is right in line with her father's legacy.

About the upcoming controversial chapter in TWOW, Ran qualified his statements by saying that it might be controversial in some quarters, and this would strongly appear to rule out rape which would be controversial across the entire fandom. There are other reasons why I don't think Martin would plot such an event for Sansa, and it must said that although there are men like LF around who clearly have a predatory sexual interest in her, Martin has been gradually exploring her sexual awakening and agency.

There's also another scene, this time in Ned's POV, which further suggests precisely what you've noted here, and that Sansa's "guardianship" of Sweetrobin directly aligns her with the interests of her father and may be instrumental in bringing justice to his enemies:

Ned would sooner entrust a child to a pit viper than to Lord Tywin, but he left his doubts unspoken. Some old wounds never truly heal, and bleed again at the slightest word. “The wife has lost the husband,” he said carefully. “Perhaps the mother feared to lose the son. The boy is very young.”

“Six, and sickly, and Lord of the Eyrie, gods have mercy,” the king swore. “Lord Tywin had never taken a ward before. Lysa ought to have been honored. The Lannisters are a great and noble House. She refused to even hear of it. Then she left in the dead of night, without so much as a by-your-leave. Cersei was furious.”

He sighed deeply. “The boy is my namesake, did you know that? Robert Arryn. I am sworn to protect him. How can I do that if his mother steals him away?”

“I will take him as ward, if you wish,” Ned said. “Lysa should consent to that. She and Catelyn were close as girls, and she would be welcome here as well.”

“A generous offer, my friend,” the king said, “but too late. Lord Tywin has already given his consent. Fostering the boy elsewhere would be a grievous affront to him.”

“I have more concern for my nephew’s welfare than I do for Lannister pride,” Ned declared.

Thanks again for the kind words.

That makes me feel better about Sansa not getting raped. While a scene like that would not surprise me, I certainly wouldn't enjoy it. I do think Sansa will lose her virginity and it will be a significant event in both her story arc and personal development.

Along those lines and the "arming" of Sansa, wouldn't it be a nice twist if she seduced LF in order to bring about his downfall? Poison is not a woman's only weapon.

I also like your point about the non-knights, I'll have to look at that as I continue my re-read. I suppose you mean servants, maesters, other lords, bastards, the small folk etc... non-warriors of all rank and station?

I don't love the way she treats Maester Colemon, but nor do I love Colemon. But her order at the end of AFFC that he use sweet sleep bothered me. I wonder if her "controversial" scene will be related to that rather than anything sexual?

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There's certainly a lot in common between LF and Thomas Seymour, who was Elizabeth's guardian, who was endlessly groping her, and wished to be her lover.

And Seymour was executed by his own brother, because a) he married Elizabeth's step-mother, Katherine Parr, whom he had claimed to love before Henry VIII met her and B) because he wanted to marry Elizabeth soon after Katherine died during childbirth.

I'm going out on a limb here--suppose Lyn Corbray guesses that Petyr is up to no good? Petyr knows Lyn has a weakness for boys and gold, but what if Lyn knows what Petyr's weaknesses are? Petyr has not exactly been as silent as the grave re: his feelings for the Tully girls. And the Lords of the Vale would have frequented Robert's court--the bachelors among them would have heard Petyr boasting of having taken the maidenhoods of both Tully girls. What if Lyn recognizes the Tully look in Alayne--Sansa is supposed to look like her mother, who had visited the Vale not too long ago, accompanied by Tyrion Lannister as a prisoner. Suppose he makes a pass at Luthor Brune as a sign to the lords accompanying him. What if his pulling out of a sword, soon after Bronze Yohn Royce notices Sansa is to get the others away to develop a strategy to lull Petyr into a sense of security so that he permits Sansa and Sweetrobin to get to the Gates of the Moon before winter comes to the Vale? Which is why the rest of the lords fall in line with Petyr's policy and give him what he wants--they decide to wait till Riverrun falls. What if they've managed to send a message to the Blackfish or the Blackfish has contacted them via some of the peasants who were told to leave Riverrun before Jaime broke the siege? The proposal of Harry for Alayne comes almost pat on time. And I suspect Myranda is on the secret--she appears to be flighty and flirtatious, but she does get one piece of info out of Sansa--the name of Lord Eddard's bastard. How would a girl brought up in a Gulltown sept get this information?

Either the Blackfish or the Lords of the Vale will help Sansa get rid of Littlefinger.

Good points!

And you see a certain animosity from Lysa towards Sansa, which is very different from the reported acceptance, and even assistance to Seymour from Parr in his pursuit of Elizabeth, which takes Elizabeths experience to another level of sick.

I think people don't realize just how harrowing Elizabeths youth was, and were it not for her stepmothers like Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, and later Katherine Parr, actually both girls were left on their own.

Sansa is different because her place as Neds daughter was never in dispute, and she lived as a "Princess" at Winterfell, (keeping in mind that all of Neds children had the blood of the Kings of Winter in their veins, therefore a Princess also by blood). But, her time at Court and later at LF hands, would see her dependent upon many for her well being even as like Elizabeth, Sansa successfully navigates treacherous waters and avoids danger.

And in terms of Joffreys death, Sansa is implicated in that as well, but like the rumors of Elizabeths involvement of treason against her sister, it isn't proven.

"Much suspected by me,

Nothing proved can be."

(Reputedly carved onto a window at Woodstock Manor, Oxfordshire)

Certainly the life of Elizabeth was of pawn to "player," and the journey that Martin maps out for Sansa will be just as fascinating.

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Thanks again for the kind words.

That makes me feel better about Sansa not getting raped. While a scene like that would not surprise me, I certainly wouldn't enjoy it. I do think Sansa will lose her virginity and it will be a significant event in both her story arc and personal development.

Along those lines and the "arming" of Sansa, wouldn't it be a nice twist if she seduced LF in order to bring about his downfall? Poison is not a woman's only weapon.

I also like your point about the non-knights, I'll have to look at that as I continue my re-read. I suppose you mean servants, maesters, other lords, bastards, the small folk etc... non-warriors of all rank and station?

I don't love the way she treats Maester Colemon, but nor do I love Colemon. But her order at the end of AFFC that he use sweet sleep bothered me. I wonder if her "controversial" scene will be related to that rather than anything sexual?

I agree that Sansa's sexuality is a core element of her personal development in the narrative, and whether she loses her virginity in the story or not, we've already seen her recognition of the legitimacy of female desire (which the patriarchy tries to outright discredit/ignore) and the need for reciprocal, respectful relationships. With that in mind, I can't see a scenario where she attempts to seduce LF, and the advice of women like Cersei represents more of a cautionary tale than anything else. However, I do believe Sansa possesses an erotic arsenal, which consists of natural charm, beauty, liveliness etc, and can be deployed to her benefit in the Vale, working in tandem with other shrewd power plays.

On the non-knights, I was speaking about men like Sandor, Dontos and Lothor Brune, but I like your extension to those other stations as well. Sweetrobin himself can be categorised as a non-knight via his love of the winged knight stories and the fact that like those other three, he possesses some kind of an aspirational drive towards knighthood, that is blocked or challenged for whatever reason, and through which Sansa is able to enact a fulfilment of sorts.

I personally think the Maester Coleman scene needs to be properly contextualised in terms of the larger issues in play and the role she has taken in SR's life. The words might appear to be callous, but the intent is not, and this makes all the difference between Sansa and LF. Of course she needs to be both aware and wary of how she negotiates with such delicate matters in the future.

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I was kindly asked to re-post this here after posting it in another thread asking if Sansa and Arya had lost their “Stark ways.” This is part of the post Brashcandy and Milady spoke so kindly about.

I had to break it into parts:

IMO, Sansa does one of the best jobs of exemplifying how her father believed a person should live. I know there are debates about whether Ned was a “true Stark.” But I view Sansa as informed by her father’s morality and reverence.

In am going to add a second layer of analysis to my post that was not in the original because it was off topic. I also find Sansa’s arc to be a fascinating twist on the traditional princess/knight/monster fairy tale. In the traditional tale, the knight goes on a quest to obtain whatever items he needs to rescue the princess from the monster. The knight collects his armor, weapons, information and goes on his quest. If it’s a happy ending tale, the knight rescues the princess, slays the monster, they wed and live happily ever after as Queen and her prince.

The subversion of that story in Sansa’s arc is worth writing a book on. I think in many ways Sansa is being armed like a knight to defend herself from monsters, learning along the way. I will highlight where I think the traditional trope is being twisted or subverted. I don’t plan on being all encompassing, some of the points are fairly obvious, but others are more subtle. But its fascinating that she is betrothed to a monster (Joffrey), her greatest knight is no knight at all, he’s the opposite of a knight (The Hound) and a princess cannot rely on knights and princes, she must learn to defend herself.

The seed for this post came on my 6th re-read or so, I was listening to the audio book and came to Sansa’s first chapter after her father’s death, so I’ll start there.

A GAME OF THRONES

Sansa’s first chapter in AGOT after Ned is executed:

Sometimes her sleep was leaden and dreamless, and she woke from it more tired than when she had closed her eyes. Yet those were the best times, for when she dreamed, she dreamed of Father. Waking or sleeping, she saw him, saw the gold cloaks fling him down, saw Ser Ilyn striding forward, unsheathing Ice from the scabbard on his back, saw the moment . . . the moment when . . . she had wanted to look away, she had wanted to, her legs had gone out from under her and she had fallen to her knees, yet somehow she could not turn her head, and all the people were screaming and shouting, and her prince had smiled at her, he'd smiled and she'd felt safe, but only for a heartbeat, until he said those words, and her father's legs . . . that was what she remembered, his legs, the way they'd jerked when Ser Ilyn . . . when the sword . .

This is the first chapter after Ned’s death. It comes right after the eerie chapter when Bran and Rickon have the same dream about Ned being in the crypts. The Sansa chapter starts with her dreams, and she dreams of her father’s death just like her brothers in Winterfell did, although her dreams were different because she saw the beheading in KL.

I thought it was very interesting that she watched the entire beheading. I don’t know why I never noticed before, but this time it reminded me of Bran’s first chapter in AGOT ...

Sansa is very “Ned-like” in this regard. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she didn’t look away and that Bran watch was a big deal in his introductory scene. Its also interesting to compare Sansa’s view of the execution with Arya’s, Arya looked away despite the fact that she will go on to see and experience more death than her sister Sansa.

Well, in reponse to this, I have to import a response from that thread as well...

Arya didn't see the execution because Yoren stood in front of her and purposefully blocked her view. He made her look at him and forced her not to move to try to save Ned. No one was blocking Sansa so she was able to see. It wasn't a case of one was able to handle it and not the other.

Ned had the boys watch the execution because one day they would have to do their own killings. He wanted them to experience it so they would not become one of those LF clean hands type of men.

To which I said:

Absolutely. She never flinched - she was forced to look away.

I think life has already killed the little girl inside Arya, and the wolf has already been born.

The bottom line here is, I think Sansa was helped in that she did not look away, although I put this down more to the shock of her father's execution happening at all: one moment she thinks she has done well and made a bargain for his life, the next he is being forced to the block and then decapitated. She screams, her legs give out, but she just keeps staring at it.

Leaving aside how "northern" or not that is, I think a predictor of it is when she watches the jousts and see Ser Hugh die. She has a sort of practised (unflinching) calm as a highborn girl should, but also she watches Ser Hugh get killed and her reaction is one of emotional detachment or delayed effect. It is sad, but she thinks to herself it would be very different if it was someone she knew who died right in frint of her (heavy foreshadowing here). Still, she takes in the full horror of the scene, yet later upon recalling it, she remembers almost everything except the point of impact, the moment of death.

Still, watching someone be killed is not the same as killing

Arya is already her father's daughter in that she does not flinch from death. She has taken on killings personally, via her commands (through naming people for Jaqen), but also with her own hands. The Arya threads discuss this at great length, but my position has been that she is following that "the one who passes sentence must swing the sword" rule, in that she does not forget what death is, nor turn away from her own responsibility for the deaths she causes. Case in point: the execution of Dareon the deserter from the Watch. She gave him his chance, and from his own mouth his clear guilt sprang; she carried out the sentence herself, and when asked questioned by the Kindly Man, she owned up to it.

So as it relates to Sansa, the standard for Stark behavior seems to be this: They do not turn away from death (more metaphorically than in actual physical staring). When they kill someone or cause them to be killed, they take responsibility for it.

Sansa has thus far been culpable in one death - Marillion. (I do not count Joffrey; she had no idea she was helping someone kill him.) Sansa spoke the lie that helped condemn him to death; had she spoken the truth to the Lords Declarant, it would have been Petyr who would have gotten the old "Eyrie flying lessons". The internal justification for her with that situation is that Marillion tried to rape her, but also that he was helping Lysa to very nearly kill her. But truthfully, she knows this is not why Littlefinger arranged Marillion be condemned - Marillion was condemned for the thing he didn't do. She helped condemn him, so in a sense, even if her deserved death, inside her own psyche, she is not really acknowledging that she is his killer. It is a more Alayne Stone sort of act, rather than what a Stark of Winterfell would do. Her hands are clean, but has she faced up to it, truly ? The issue is not so much how she faces up to it to others, but primarily to herself. Starks must "own" the blood they shed.

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WRT Marillion, Sansa's life was on the line as much as LF's. Had she told the truth, she'd have been sent back to Cersei to face torture and execution.

Marillion is such a nasty piece of work that it's very hard for me to feel much sympathy for his end, or much concern over Sansa's part in it. But, I wonder what Sansa would have done if, say, Marillion had tried to stop Lysa from carrying out her attempt to murder Sansa, and LF had still framed him.

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<snip>

Sansa has thus far been culpable in one death - Marillion. (I do not count Joffrey; she had no idea she was helping someone kill him.) Sansa spoke the lie that helped condemn him to death; had she spoken the truth to the Lords Declarant, it would have been Petyr who would have gotten the old "Eyrie flying lessons". The internal justification for her with that situation is that Marillion tried to rape her, but also that he was helping Lysa to very nearly kill her. But truthfully, she knows this is not why Littlefinger arranged Marillion be condemned - Marillion was condemned for the thing he didn't do. She helped condemn him, so in a sense, even if her deserved death, inside her own psyche, she is not really acknowledging that she is his killer. It is a more Alayne Stone sort of act, rather than what a Stark of Winterfell would do. Her hands are clean, but has she faced up to it, truly ? The issue is not so much how she faces up to it to others, but primarily to herself. Starks must "own" the blood they shed.

I see the strawman argument has migrated to this thread. This is not an Arya vs. Sansa issue, or to debate who could better handle or cope with the scene; it's to underscore the fact that Sansa is capable of following her father's teachings. This argument is not contingent on whether Arya could bear to watch the execution or not, and undoubtedly both girls would have found it essentially unbearable. However, the point remains that Sansa is the one to witness her father's beheading and that, coupled with the parallels and similarities between the two, suggests a deliberate connection by Martin that has relevance for discussion of Sansa's characterization and how her arc develops.

I have to challenge the idea that if Sansa had told the truth to Nestor Royce and co. it would have been LF going through the Moon Door. We don't know for sure how the Lords would have reacted, but we can be certain it would not be as clear-cut as LF being arrested and executed. For one, it would be his word against Sansa's, and she's a wanted criminal back in KL. They would also be curious about why Lysa wanted to kill Sansa and if she reveals the forced kiss by LF it's still her word against his, and her reputation is now at stake. Try to bring up Lysa's ramblings, and that's precisely what they sound like to a listener with no clue of the extent of LF's depravity: ramblings. The appropriate metaphor does not relate to clean hands, but when one's hands are tied.

The use of torture is another important fact to note, and it distils the question of Sansa's culpability in Marillion's death. The singer is tortured to confess before she has even said a word, and in the sequence of events following the incident in ASOS, LF's responsibility for Marillion's demise is evident:

1. Lysa tries to make Sansa fly

2. LF intervenes and pushes Lysa out the Moon Door.

3. Accuses Marillion BEFORE the whole Eyrie guard.

4. LF orders Mord to torture Marillion so he will confess.

5. LF summons the Lords and tells them what Marillion did.

6. Sansa lies

Sansa's testimony is only valuable to support what LF has claimed, but the singer was already a dead man due to the mockingbird's actions. Now if we're talking about moral responsibility in the death of singers you might be able to build a stronger case with Arya and Dareon, but of course that would be off topic.

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On the way down there is another interesting scene. Sansa crosses the gorge that her mother could not on her ascent:

...

Its not surprising to see Sansa succeed where her mother failed. I also suspect the sound of a wolf is meant to imply that Sansa succeeded because she is part wolf whereas her mother was not.

I look at this scene in a different way: Through difference, a similarity could be highlighted. Sansa did cross, because she had a task. She had to see that SweetRobin descends the Eyrie, saving face of some dignity. Sansa rises to the situation, defeats her inner fears and weaknesses and discovers her own strength and bravery, like her mother has done again and again and again throughout her arc. Catelyn did not have to put on a brave face while ascending. It was an intermediate stop in a long journey that started when she stoped a valyrian blade with her bare hands. Sansa, like Catelyn, can be brave when it matters. Each of them draws strength from different things - for Sansa it's her Stark roots.

Sansa has taken more from her mother than barely her good looks, and that's good for her because Catelyn is an astonishingly strong, brave and intelligent character. I expect to see more of her mother in Sansa as she grows up.

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I look at this scene in a different way: Through difference, a similarity could be highlighted. Sansa did cross, because she had a task. She had to see that SweetRobin descends the Eyrie, saving face of some dignity. Sansa rises to the situation, defeats her inner fears and weaknesses and discovers her own strength and bravery, like her mother has done again and again and again throughout her arc. Catelyn did not have to put on a brave face while ascending. It was an intermediate stop in a long journey that started when she stoped a valyrian blade with her bare hands. Sansa, like Catelyn, can be brave when it matters. Each of them draws strength from different things - for Sansa it's her Stark roots.

Sansa has taken more from her mother than barely her good looks, and that's good for her because Catelyn is an astonishingly strong, brave and intelligent character. I expect to see more of her mother in Sansa as she grows up.

Totally agree with you.

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Well, in reponse to this, I have to import a response from that thread as well...

To which I said:

Absolutely. She never flinched - she was forced to look away.

I think life has already killed the little girl inside Arya, and the wolf has already been born.

The bottom line here is, I think Sansa was helped in that she did not look away, although I put this down more to the shock of her father's execution happening at all: one moment she thinks she has done well and made a bargain for his life, the next he is being forced to the block and then decapitated. She screams, her legs give out, but she just keeps staring at it.

Leaving aside how "northern" or not that is, I think a predictor of it is when she watches the jousts and see Ser Hugh die. She has a sort of practised (unflinching) calm as a highborn girl should, but also she watches Ser Hugh get killed and her reaction is one of emotional detachment or delayed effect. It is sad, but she thinks to herself it would be very different if it was someone she knew who died right in frint of her (heavy foreshadowing here). Still, she takes in the full horror of the scene, yet later upon recalling it, she remembers almost everything except the point of impact, the moment of death.

Still, watching someone be killed is not the same as killing

Arya is already her father's daughter in that she does not flinch from death. She has taken on killings personally, via her commands (through naming people for Jaqen), but also with her own hands. The Arya threads discuss this at great length, but my position has been that she is following that "the one who passes sentence must swing the sword" rule, in that she does not forget what death is, nor turn away from her own responsibility for the deaths she causes. Case in point: the execution of Dareon the deserter from the Watch. She gave him his chance, and from his own mouth his clear guilt sprang; she carried out the sentence herself, and when asked questioned by the Kindly Man, she owned up to it.

So as it relates to Sansa, the standard for Stark behavior seems to be this: They do not turn away from death (more metaphorically than in actual physical staring). When they kill someone or cause them to be killed, they take responsibility for it.

Sansa has thus far been culpable in one death - Marillion. (I do not count Joffrey; she had no idea she was helping someone kill him.) Sansa spoke the lie that helped condemn him to death; had she spoken the truth to the Lords Declarant, it would have been Petyr who would have gotten the old "Eyrie flying lessons". The internal justification for her with that situation is that Marillion tried to rape her, but also that he was helping Lysa to very nearly kill her. But truthfully, she knows this is not why Littlefinger arranged Marillion be condemned - Marillion was condemned for the thing he didn't do. She helped condemn him, so in a sense, even if her deserved death, inside her own psyche, she is not really acknowledging that she is his killer. It is a more Alayne Stone sort of act, rather than what a Stark of Winterfell would do. Her hands are clean, but has she faced up to it, truly ? The issue is not so much how she faces up to it to others, but primarily to herself. Starks must "own" the blood they shed.

I replied there to avoid hijacking this thread....

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As no fan’s résumé would be complete without a tasty crackpot theory, not in this fandom at least, here comes a crackpot cooked up by yours truly and Brash.



If true, it makes Sansa’s Vale storyline even crazier and more unpredictable than we ever imagined. It’d mean more trouble for a Baelish that might end up finding lemoncakes aren’t so digestible after all, a sort of ironic payback for getting rid of Dontos, and a potential quicker meeting of Sansa and Sandor. If not true, we can always blame it on a good bottle of Dornish Spanish red, dark as blood, all two inspired fans need. Or re-reading!


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A crackpot on Ser Morgarth the Merry from Brash and Milady:



When Sansa leaves the Eyrie in her final chapter of AFFC, she is sent to Littlefinger’s solar at the Gates of the Moon and there encounters three knights, all of whom display pleasure at meeting the Lord Protector’s beautiful daughter. After the men depart, Littlefinger explains his reason for hiring these “hungry knights”:



“... I thought it best that we have a few more swords about us. The times grow ever more interesting, my sweet, and when the times are interesting you can never have too many swords. The Merling King’s returned to Gulltown, and old Oswell had some tales to tell.”



For a man with no martial ability and currently overseeing contentious factions in the Vale, hiring more swords is a smart move, and Littlefinger is certainly correct in his assertion that these are interesting times. The news of a dragon queen in the East would have made its way to his ears via the port in Gulltown, and probably informs his later talk of the three queens. But the men he contracts are also quite interesting, as one is Ser Shadrich, the Mad Mouse, who is searching for Sansa in order to gain the ransom offered by Varys:



Ser Shadrich laughed. “Oh, I doubt that, but it may be that you and I share a quest. A little lost sister, is it? With blue eyes and auburn hair?” He laughed again. “You are not the only hunter in the woods.


I seek for Sansa Stark as well.”


Brienne kept her face a mask, to hide her dismay. “Who is this Sansa Stark, and why do you seek her?”


“For love, why else?”


She furrowed her brow. “Love?”


“Aye, love of gold. Unlike your good Ser Creighton, I did fight upon the Blackwater, but on the losing side. My ransom ruined me. You know who Varys is, I trust? The eunuch has offered a plump bag of gold for this girl you’ve never heard of. I am not a greedy man. If some oversized wench would help me find this naughty child, I would split the Spider’s coin with her.”



So we know that Shadrich has succeeded where Brienne has not, and managed to find himself in the same location of Sansa Stark, even though there’s no indication that he has recognised Alayne Stone as the missing girl he seeks at this point in time. For readers, the Mad Mouse is meant to stand out for the risk he presents to Sansa’s security and Littlefinger’s carefully laid plans. But has Martin pulled one over on us? Has he secreted another interloper in this group who’s also interested in finding Sansa Stark? This is the crux of our crackpot. Let’s look again at the descriptions of the men:



She hugged him dutifully and kissed him on the cheek. “I am sorry to intrude, Father. No one told me you had company.”


“You are never an intrusion, sweetling. I was just now telling these good knights what a dutiful daughter I had.”


“Dutiful and beautiful,” said an elegant young knight whose thick blond mane cascaded down well past his shoulders.


“Aye,” said the second knight, a burly fellow with a thick salt-and-pepper beard, a red nose bulbous with broken veins, and gnarled hands as large as hams. “You left out that part, m’lord.”


“I would do the same if she were my daughter,” said the last knight, a short, wiry man with a wry smile, pointed nose, and bristly orange hair. “Particularly around louts like us.”


Alayne laughed. “Are you louts?” she said, teasing. “Why, I took the three of you for gallant knights.”



The first knight is young and handsome, and is the one who kisses Alayne’s hands before leaving the room. Of the three hedge knights, the second one going by the name of Ser Morgarth passes virtually unnoticed. His description, however, is curious, not only because of the “thick beard” that could indicate someone trying to conceal their identity, but particularly the “red nose bulbous with broken veins.” The description first recalls Ser Dontos, who happens to be the man that is rumoured to have helped Sansa escape and believed to be still in her company. The Mad Mouse tells Brienne:



“A certain fool vanished from King’s Landing the night King Joffrey died, a stout fellow with a nose full of broken veins, one Ser Dontos the Red, formerly of Duskendale. I pray your sister and her drunken fool are not mistaken for the Stark girl and Ser Dontos. That could be most unfortunate.”



But unless Dontos has risen from the dead, and both Alayne and Littlefinger are suffering from acute memory loss, we know that Ser Morgarth is not the former knight turned court jester. There is someone else who matches the description, though. Someone who knows of Sansa Stark and that she’s missing:



The Elder Brother was not what Brienne had expected. He could hardly be called elder, for a start; whereas the brothers weeding in the garden had had the stooped shoulders and bent backs of old men, he stood straight and tall, and moved with the vigor of a man in the prime of his years. Nor did he have the gentle, kindly face she expected of a healer. His head was large and square, his eyes shrewd, his nose veined and red. Though he wore a tonsure, his scalp was as stubbly as his heavy jaw.


He looks more like a man made to break bones than to heal one, thought the Maid of Tarth, as the Elder Brother strode across the room to embrace Septon Meribald and pat Dog.



There are a few coincidences to highlight:



  • Like Ser Morgarth, the Elder Brother has a veiny red nose.
  • Brienne notes that the Elder Brother looks as though he would break bones, not heal them, which could accord with the "hands as large as hams" of Morgarth.
  • The Elder Brother may be an older man, but he’s a former knight and still fit and capable enough to impress Brienne—a warrior herself. He would have no problem convincing Littlefinger to hire him for protection, and Morgarth is described as “burly.”
  • At the time of Brienne’s visit, the Elder Brother’s jaw has stubble on it. Is this the beginning of the thick beard we see later on?


During their conversation, the Elder Brother reveals knowledge of Sansa once Brienne tells him the standard description she’s been repeating along her quest. His quick confirmation would indicate prior familiarity with Sansa’s appearance, which we can assume came from Sandor Clegane, who is being sheltered on the island, unbeknownst to Brienne. He tells her that the Hound died on the banks of the Trident, a tortured man who gave and received no love, but only lived to kill his brother. His advice for the Maid of Tarth is to go home and reunite with her father. But Brienne stubbornly insists that she cannot do so, she has sworn an oath and must keep it:



“I have to find her,” she finished. “There are others looking, all wanting to capture her and sell her to the queen. I have to find her first. I promised Jaime. Oathkeeper, he named the sword. I have to try to save her . . . or die in the attempt.”



This is apparently the last we see of the Elder Brother, and Brienne moves on to the Crossroads Inn, to kill “the Hound,” and her eventual meeting with Lady Stoneheart. But just why would the Elder Brother leave the peaceful enclave of the QI and travel to the Vale? Resuming his old occupation is no problem as Brienne tells him “you look more like a knight than you do a holy man,” yet that life was aimless and unfulfilling, fighting on Rhaegar's side of the war only by chance, and so desperate to regain a horse that he kept on fighting even whilst injured. All of this changes when he washes up on the QI, born again into the Faith of the Seven. It doesn’t sound like a man who would willingly get back into the political arena, but this appears to be his intention:



“The riverlands are still too dangerous. Vargo Hoat’s scum remain abroad, and Beric Dondarrion has been hanging Freys. Is it true that Sandor Clegane has joined him?”


How does he know that? “Some say. Reports are confused.” The bird had come last night, from a septry on an island hard by the mouth of the Trident. The nearby town of Saltpans had been savagely raided by a band of outlaws, and some of the survivors claimed a roaring brute in a hound’s head helm was amongst the raiders. Supposedly he’d killed a dozen men and raped a girl of twelve."



Why would the Elder Brother choose to send a report to the Crown of all people about the events of Saltpans, and which mentions a roaring brute in a hound's helm? This is like a papal Nuncio reporting to the Pentagon instead of the Vatican, so why did the Elder Brother not report to his superiors instead, to the High Sparrow? Why to Cersei, the former boss of the Hound? This is strange, as the Elder Brother knows that the Crown wants Sandor’s head, and sending this information is basically an official attempt to “clear his name.” These words to Brienne after he talks about Saltpans and before he discloses that he “buried the Hound” are also telling about the purpose of writing to the Crown:



“Wolves are nobler than that . . . and so are dogs, I think.”


“I see.” Brienne did not know why he was telling her all of this, or what else she ought to say.



Whatever the Elder Brother is involved in or planning, it likely has to do with Sandor Clegane as well. It may explain why he tries so hard to convince Brienne that the Hound is dead and to give up her quest. We have not overlooked the possibility that the Elder Brother could be invested in finding Sansa Stark, and Brienne’s final words are a poignant outpouring of emotion in support of finding the girl and protecting her from the captors in the capital. However, we think his efforts have more to do with clearing Sandor’s name because he needs him for his still undisclosed plans and infiltrating the Vale’s political workings as Littlefinger is the Lord Paramount of the Riverlands. That he was already prepared for this mission before Brienne’s arrival can be surmised by the growth of hair on his head and jaw despite wearing a tonsure. And he might have made Brother Narbert privy to some of these plans, as the proctor has given at least two indications that he may know the true identity of the Gravedigger:



“Lady Brienne is a warrior maid,” confided Septon Meribald, “hunting for the Hound.”


“Aye?” Narbert seemed taken aback. “To what end?”


Brienne touched Oathkeeper’s hilt. “His,” she said.


The proctor studied her. “You are . . . brawny for a woman, it is true, but . . . mayhaps I should take you up to Elder Brother. He will have seen you crossing the mud. Come.”



He is “taken aback” when Meribald tells him she’s looking for the Hound, and when she tells him she wants to kill him, he assesses her critically, as if he’d seen the Hound face to face and knew his size and his prowess not just by reputation. Then, talking of Saltpans, he describes the (real) Hound as “brutal,” which he might know by fame only, but then he closes his speech with “some wounds do not show.” This would hint that Narbert helped Elder Brother with Sandor, because no matter how strong the latter is, Sandor is extremely big and heavy, and he’d have needed some assistance whilst nursing him back to health, but due to the perils of hiding a wanted fugitive, he could only trust, to an extent at least, his proctor. That line fits so well with Sandor that makes one wonder if the Proctor knows some of the things he confessed to the Elder Brother.



The Timeline also fits, as according to two timeline sources, there’s an average of approximately 3 weeks to one month between the time of Brienne’s arrival at the Quiet Isle and Sansa’s meeting with the knights. Plus, based on the close proximity of the QI to the Vale, this would have been enough time for the Elder Brother to reach the Gates of the Moon.



Finally, the statements by the knights upon seeing Sansa may also hold clues for analysis. Ser Byron is the first to respond, and his words indicate an immediate attraction to Sansa, based on her looks. He later kisses her hand, making his affection clear. But it’s the two with hidden agendas whose statements are most provocative:



“Aye,” said the second knight, a burly fellow with a thick salt-and-pepper beard, a red nose bulbous with broken veins,


and gnarled hands as large as hams. “You left out that part, m’lord.”


“I would do the same if she were my daughter,” said the last knight, a short, wiry man with a wry smile, pointed nose,


and bristly orange hair. “Particularly around louts like us.”



Ser Morgarth’s words are an implicit challenge almost, a sly suggestion that Littlefinger has not been upfront about the true nature of this beautiful daughter. The Mad Mouse on the other hand pretends to support such an evasion, citing their loutish behaviour as the reason. It’s all meant to be light-hearted and good-natured teasing, but everyone in the room is playing a game and a part. Have Ser Morgarth’s suspicions been raised? If he truly is the Elder Brother then he knows the exact appearance of Sansa Stark, and more significantly, if he’s been privy to remembrances by Sandor Clegane, he also knows more personal qualities that Sansa might not think to conceal. Has Littlefinger only succeeded in hiring daggers instead of swords?




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WRT Marillion, Sansa's life was on the line as much as LF's. Had she told the truth, she'd have been sent back to Cersei to face torture and execution.

Granted, the danger of such an outcome was there. Sansa is the most wanted woman in Westeros. Cersei would pay only slightly less for her head than Tyrion's. Sansa has every right to be afraid of getting caught, especially after the only other person who knew who she was - her supposed protector Lysa - tried to kill her.

However the outcome depends on who she would tell the truth to. Lysa's death was a murder, pure and simple. Not her doing at all, but Lysa was her aunt, no matter how nuts, and Littlefinger did not have to kill Lysa at that point.

The question is not simply one of self-preservation. When raising the issue of her being like her father, the question of taking on the dishonour of a lie or risking one's own life is at issue. Her father was not 100% truthful himself, but where you see him lie, or accept an untruth, it is done to save the life of someone else.

Sansa's dilemna in the story is of course that she is becoming part of a big lie, about Lysa's demise and Marillion's imminent death, but whose life would she be saving aside from her own, by choosing to go along? Littlefinger ?

If Marillion was a nice man, and not what he was, then of course she would be compelled to do right by him. If she had no part in supporting the lie, then she could also be assured that the world around her was bad but she was unblemished.

GRRM does not give Sansa any easy choice - he gives her something right on the edge: Littlefinger makes her part of his lies and his reasons, and the slippery slope is that she is having to buy into his logic to get through the situation, and view his survival as essential to her own. It is a clever bit of writing, showing how Littlefinger nudges Sansa a little bit more towards his world, as "Alayne Stone".

I see the strawman argument has migrated to this thread. This is not an Arya vs. Sansa issue, or to debate who could better handle or cope with the scene; it's to underscore the fact that Sansa is capable of following her father's teachings. This argument is not contingent on whether Arya could bear to watch the execution or not, and undoubtedly both girls would have found it essentially unbearable. However, the point remains that Sansa is the one to witness her father's beheading and that, coupled with the parallels and similarities between the two, suggests a deliberate connection by Martin that has relevance for discussion of Sansa's characterization and how her arc develops.

I have to challenge the idea that if Sansa had told the truth to Nestor Royce and co. it would have been LF going through the Moon Door. We don't know for sure how the Lords would have reacted, but we can be certain it would not be as clear-cut as LF being arrested and executed. For one, it would be his word against Sansa's, and she's a wanted criminal back in KL. They would also be curious about why Lysa wanted to kill Sansa and if she reveals the forced kiss by LF it's still her word against his, and her reputation is now at stake. Try to bring up Lysa's ramblings, and that's precisely what they sound like to a listener with no clue of the extent of LF's depravity: ramblings. The appropriate metaphor does not relate to clean hands, but when one's hands are tied.

The use of torture is another important fact to note, and it distils the question of Sansa's culpability in Marillion's death. The singer is tortured to confess before she has even said a word, and in the sequence of events following the incident in ASOS, LF's responsibility for Marillion's demise is evident.

Sansa's testimony is only valuable to support what LF has claimed, but the singer was already a dead man due to the mockingbird's actions. Now if we're talking about moral responsibility in the death of singers you might be able to build a stronger case with Arya and Dareon, but of course that would be off topic.

True, I think Sansa is capable of following her father's teachings, but as long as she's around Littlefinger, Eddard's influence is being actively suppressed. In King's landing she had to stifle being a Stark for a long time, but of course was always recognized as one by others. Now she is "free" in the sense that she is not surrounded by constant condemnation, but still not able to be the Stark she is.

As for her culpability re: Marillion, I think his demise was a sort of threshold moment for her, and the issue was not his dying as much as the test of ethics involving what she would or would not lie for.

As I said before, her father only lied to spare others, and in this sort of lie, Sansa has had practice already (such as saving Dontos). The kind though where she lies to save her own skin has come harder to her, even though in King's landing it was constantly demanded of her - to say her father and family were traitors, that she has traitor's blood, etc. Once in the Vale, she gets more preparation by living as the fictional persona "Alayne". Yet up until Marillion, nobody ever died because she lied when telling the truth might have saved them (unless you count Mycah and Lady, and the interpretation of that situation is debatable). Strictly speaking, this lie is not "kindly meant".

The issue is not that Marillion will die, but rather that Sansa knows he will die for a thing he did not actually do. We see Sansa's thoughts, and know that it was not out of revenge for Marillion having tried to rape her that she accepts his being killed. Sansa is still conflicted, still searching for justifications on why Marillion deserves his end, but at the same time, his sorrow (which she hears in his songs) haunts her. This may be a good sign, that she takes some responsibility for it - if she did not care at all, or tell herself she had no part in it, she would not be troubled.

Alayne would feel no guilt, but Sansa may be troubled by the undercurrent of dishonour in the situation that Littlefinger made her part of. That is what Littlefinger does, though, even to such honourable and well-meaning people as her father - dragging them down into his schemes, until it backfires and destroys them. Sansa may be learning that this is Littlefinger's modus operandi, but what she does with that knowledge is an open question at this point.

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A crackpot on Ser Morgarth the Merry from Brash and Milady:

*snip

Brash and Milady, this is a very interesting "crackpot"!

Are you operating under the theory that EB went downriver to Gulltown? It seems like the fastest and easiest way for him to enter the Vale. Do you recall if there was mention of a boat on the QI? Not that there had to be, but if GRRM mentioned it you can bet it would be significant.

Also, do you think Ser Shadrich could be under the impression that Morgarth is Ser Dontos? (If we noticed that the descriptions are similar, perhaps he might have also) Has he joined forces with Morgarth because he thinks he will lead him to Sansa Stark? I worry that if the Mad Mouse has indeed made the connection with Dontos, his mistake may lead to complications in Morgarth's plans.

All in all, a strong possibility that will bear watching :)

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Thanks LG - we're pretty excited by the possibilities :)



When Septon Meribald and the others arrive at the isle, Brother Narbert asks if they'll require the ferry in the morning, so there is transport that could have taken the EB to Gulltown.



I'm working from the assumption that the Mad Mouse is not connected to the other two knights, although it's certainly a possibility we can't rule out, given that he offered to team up with Brienne in order to find Sansa and split the ransom. If both the Mad Mouse and Morgarth are keeping secrets, does this mean something similar might be up with the handsome Ser Byron? Is he in league with Morgarth or Shadrich or out for his own glory?

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Hi everyone! I haven't had much time to comment here of late but I wanted to say how much I have enjoyed all these essays. Lady Gwynhyfvar your essay on the Arthurian influences was fascinating. I don't know much about that stuff, just the general story of King Arthur, so it was enlightening to me.



Lord Martin I really liked what you had to say too, and I believe that Sansa is getting closer and closer to her Stark roots as time goes on. One of my favorite Sansa scenes is when she has to cross that land saddle in her last chapter of Feast and how she hears the wind howling and thinks it sounds like a wolf (she thinks this as Sansa not Alayne) and that gives her the stength and courage to cross with Sweetrobin. Your take on how she was the only Stark to see Ned's execution and how that is a form of Ned's justice which sets her on the path to her Stark roots again is a really great observation. I also liked what you said about Dontos. I did the essay on Dontos for the male influences project and I do remember thinking how when Sansa prayed in the godswood for a friend, the next instant she meets Dontos (though I have also seen compelling evidence that it was the Hound who is the friend she prayed for as she runs into him just after leaving the godswood. I think it could be both). I also think it's significant that his situation at court was the same as what Sansa's became once her father was arrested and her family declared traitors. Dontos too was from a family that had been deemed traitors to their king and was basically an outcast at court. I have always felt that Dontos gets overlooked as relevant because it turns out he was taking money to get Sansa out of King's Landing, but I think his efforts were real. I think he wanted to be a true knight for her or else he wouldn't have worn his house colors and been crying as he led her out of King's Landing and the money was merely an added incentive.



Brash and Milady, love the crackpot theory! I never picked up on the bulbous nose description. What I great catch! I think we have all learned by now that every detail, no matter how small it seems, can be significant. Now I too am wondering if Ser Shadrich might have teamed up with him on purpose. Another thought, what if somehow Sandor accompanied the EB in some sort of disguise so that he could verify for the EB that Alayne is Sansa?


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Brash and Milady, love the crackpot theory! I never picked up on the bulbous nose description. What I great catch! I think we have all learned by now that every detail, no matter how small it seems, can be significant. Now I too am wondering if Ser Shadrich might have teamed up with him on purpose. Another thought, what if somehow Sandor accompanied the EB in some sort of disguise so that he could verify for the EB that Alayne is Sansa?

I know! It's so Martinesque to make us all concentrate on Shadrich and completely overlook the details for the other knights. It means that Sansa has another potential ally, one who is now close enough to Ser Shadrich to learn what he's really after in the Vale and upset his plans or warn Sansa somehow. Anyways, there's so much to unpack here. I don't believe Sandor is travelling with the EB, for the simple fact that when we last saw him he hasn't fully recovered and still has the lurching gait that would draw attention to him, if the ridiculously tall monk who never removes his hood didn't do the trick :) And the roads are still dangerous. Perhaps the EB is on a strict fact finding mission, and there's the likelihood that it has nothing to do with Sansa, although it's hard to imagine that she won't be involved now.

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