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From Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XXI

Milady of York

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1. Favourite topics to discuss in the PTP

The doom of Littlefinger! <cackles maniacally>

I'm quite easy to please actually, but if had to pick I would go with character arc comparisons.

2. PTP analyses you really enjoyed reading

Tze's Sansa/Jon post definitely stands out though the whole male and female influences were all well done and enjoyable. I've been extraordinarily impressed with every essay Milady has done. There are some really amazing posts early on that weren't really "projects" like the official essays that evolved later. A lot of Queen of Winter's are linked in the resources, but there were others that popped up spontaneously. One that stands out was KittyKatKnits who had a delightful post about why she liked Sandor.

3. Favourite Sansa chapter or scene

Easily Snow Winterfell.

4. Favourite PTP crackpot (see resources for the three options)

They're all excellent. If you twisted my arm I'd probably go with the cloak.

5. Favourite Sansa literary parallel

I can't think of a specific novel I've read that offers a decent comparison, though I love the various mythological parallels and have a childlike soft spot for the Snow White allusions.

6. Your head canon Sansa looks like...

Hmm.. My ASCII graphics skills are rusty.

7. Favourite Sansa statement or phrase

Favorite spoken line would be “Maybe my brother will give me your head.” Much of that is timing. It was a very early bit of defiance under very bleak circumstances designed to break the very spirit she demonstrates.

8. Most interesting Sansa foreshadowing in your opinion

Snow Winterfell, but the Ned/Littlefinger dagger exchange where Littlefinger forgets he's dealing with a Stark is a close second.

9. When and/or why did you come to love Sansa

I always liked Sansa's character, but on my first read it was the Snow Winterfell chapter that was a bit of an epiphany. That was the point I realized she was going to "rescue" herself and it caused me to look back and reflect on her arc. I'm not sure if it is my favorite chapter in the series, but I do think it is by far the most beautifully written one. I also found it to be incredibly moving in terms of showing an indomitable human spirit.

10. Favourite Sansa interaction (with another character) in the novels

That would have to be Sandor. As I reflect on this I think he's almost the only person she interacts with post-captivity where she can honestly be herself.

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congrats on 2 years! It's such an extraordinary body work that's been produced in here. And more, it's just had such an important impact.

In keeping with the lighthearted tone of the day, I've now been reduced to the role of Butterbumps! (the jester, not Lemoncakes!) and here I bring the Q&A I came up with Brashcandy's complicity...

lol. it's probably better to associate with that guy and not my egregious delinquency.

1. Favourite topics to discuss in the PTP
I guess I mostly actively discuss Sansa outside of this particular thread (more of a lurker than a poster here), but back in some of the early iterations, there were some great collaborative discussions piecing out the Vale crisis I remember. And I love discussions about Sansa's skill at the game.

2. PTP analyses you really enjoyed reading
There's been so many excellent ones, but Brash's piece on Little Red Riding Hood struck a chord during the B+B project. It's been mentioned already, but I think Tze's Jon essay has been really inspirational.

3. Favourite Sansa chapter or scene
Snow Castle-- architect Sansa ftw! As a second, I love her chapter in the Fingers when Lord Pissant remarks on the nature of pawns and players.

4. Favourite PTP crackpot (see resources for the three options)
Morgarth I think.

5. Favourite Sansa literary parallel
perhaps oddly, Sansa makes me think of Ariadne and Persephone, though not in total, of course.

6. Your head canon Sansa looks like...
There isn't really an actress I can think of that matches my headcanon on this.

7. Favourite Sansa statement or phrase
"If I am ever a queen, I'll make them love me" (that was probably obvious)

8. Most interesting Sansa foreshadowing in your opinion
Lies and Arbor Gold; Snow Castle; “In the game of thrones, even the humblest pieces can have wills of their own."

9. When and/or why did you come to love Sansa
"Maybe my brother will give me your head”; Blackwater

10. Favourite Sansa interaction (with another character) in the novels

With the Hound discussing gods and true knights; her interior monologue at Blackwater in response to Cersei

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Of the topic. I was reading through the Sandor Clegane threads from a few years back. Really enjoyed them. They ended at v. 19. Was it just a natural ending or was it stopped? Just curious.

Congratulations on the 2nd anniversary of the PtP threads. It's my absolute favourite and the only one I subscrbe too.

It was abruptly stopped because the mods thought the discussions were getting too close to fan fiction. A pity. I participated in the last two or three and they were great.

Do you have a link for the threads? Search function hates me..

Happy Nameday PtP :) I enjoy your essays, your crackpots (love the cloak! :D) , and simply - everything.

I can't find them anymore either. I think as the forum has been updated the older threads get archived.

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Happy nameday! I'm still a relative newcomer to this forum, having joined it a few months ago, but these threads were what brought me here in the first place: I found them googling potential interesting topic about Sansa.

1. Favourite topics to discuss in the PTP

Pretty much everything! I love the discussions about symbolism and foreshadowing in her arc, the literary and historical paralleles, about her sexuality and the importance of sexual agency in her arc, her Stark identity, her relationship with Sandor, her dynamic with Littefinger and the ways she is able to resist his grooming and brainwashing, her hidden strengths and development as a future player as well as speculation on her future role.

2. PTP analyses you really enjoyed reading

There are too many of them, but the ones that come to mind are:

- the Motherhood project, in particular the analysis of her Snow White/Evil Queen dynamic with Cersei

- Tze's Jon/Sansa comparison

- the significance of Sandor's cloak

- the Beauty and the Beast project

- the essay on female sexuality and empowerment

3. Favourite Sansa chapter or scene

I cannot pick just one, but if I were to choose her most important and strongest chapters so far, I would go with: her last chapter in AGOT; the Blackwater chapter in ACOK; the wedding chapter in ASOS. The chapters I am particularly fond of because of the insights into Sansa's mind and the foreshadowing/symbolism are the chapter in ASOS when she's at the Fingers, and the last Alayne chapter in AFFC.

Favorite scenes:

- the scene with Sandor, when he tells her his story. "He was no true knight". The first time we really see Sansa's compassion and strength

- when Joffrey makes her look at her father's and septa's heads, when she defies Joffrey and even wants to kill him

- the Blackwater scene with Sandor

- the 'bedding' scene with Tyrion: it's incredibly uncomfortable and unpleasant and more than a little traumatic, but it's a crucial and very strong moment for Sansa, when she states that she may never want to sleep with the husband her captors have forced on her.

I also really like the scene where she saves Dontos, and every other scene in which she's trolling Joffrey.

4. Favourite PTP crackpot

Ser Morgarth is Elder Brother.

5. Favourite Sansa literary parallel

Jane Eyre and Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

And while it's not a literary but a historical parallel, I love the comparison to Queen Elizabeth (which doesn't mean that I expect Sansa to necessarily become a queen; I just mean it in the sense of being aware of the precarious and weak position of women in her society, taking control of her destiny and not allowing men to reduce her to a pawn anymore).

6. Your head canon Sansa looks like...

Sophie Turner, although obviously a couple of years younger in the books. I read the books first, but I did know what the actors looked like, so I was somewhat influenced; however, I think Sophie is one of the not-so-many actors on the show who perfectly fit the character (other than the above mentioned age discrepancy).

7. Favourite Sansa statement or phrase

While it wasn't originally her statement, but Septa Mordane's, I love Sansa's catchphrase "Courtesy is a lady's armor" and the way it goes from a seemingly naive and conventional idea of a highborn woman's role, to something very meaningful and the description of Sansa's resistance and even defiance of her captors and abusers through politeness (or apparent politeness) and passive aggressive fake submissiveness. This was especially obvious in the 'bedding' scene, where she throws those words at Tyrion, in reply to his accusation that she's distant and cold and armored herself with polite words, thereby confirming that he and the other Lannisters cannot hope to get through to her heart and soul, whatever else they may do to her.

8. Most interesting Sansa foreshadowing in your opinion

The maid slaying the giant in the castle built of snow is an obvious one. And I quite like Littlefinger's words to her that knowing what a man wants is what allows you to manipulate him. :)

But my favorite may be Cersei's line "she will be singing to the Stranger, begging for his kiss". My jaw dropped when I read that, and I laughed out loud, thinking of the discrepancy between the ominous meaning that Cersei intended, and the completely different meaning that this line has for us, the readers. :)

9. When and/or why did you come to love Sansa

The first scene that made me really interested in Sansa and started to develop my love for her was the scene with Sandor in which he tells her the story of his burns. The way she reacts to his story and goes from being afraid of him, to being concerned for him, the way she instinctively starts comforting him (not to mention the fact that she later roots for him in the tournament), made me realize that there was a lot more to this girl than met the eye.

I can't say that I already loved her at that point, though; I really started to love her since her last chapter in AGOT, which shows her rude awakening after her father's death. She became one of my favorite characters and moved higher on the list over the course of ACOK and ASOS.

10. Favourite Sansa interaction (with another character) in the novels

I'm afraid I'm not going to say the same as most of the other posters - her interactions with Sandor are the most interesting, and they are among the most interesting character dynamics in the books in general.

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Do you have a link for the threads? Search function hates me..

Happy Nameday PtP :) I enjoy your essays, your crackpots (love the cloak! :D) , and simply - everything.

Sorry. Clueless how to do a link. I just typed in Sandor Clegane forums. Try forumshttp://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/59308-sandor-clegane-v8-his-awesomeness-cant-be-contained-in-7-threads/
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21 threads later, it is hard to keep it all from blurring together !

1. Favourite topics to discuss in the PTP

I liked Mahaut's Courtly Love topic, as I recall.

2. PTP analyses you really enjoyed reading

Milady of York: The Maiden Fair and the Wicked Stepmother: Relationship dynamics between Sansa and Cersei

3. Favourite Sansa chapter or scene

The Snow Castle chapter is packed full of so much. From snow castle's and Winterfell, to Sweetrobin's giant, to LF's kiss, to Lysa's jealousy and revelations, to "Only Cat". I have to give it props as one of the best chapters in the series, since it puts a whole new spin on so many things.

Also, Sansa escaping after the Purple Wedding, fleeing the scene and (for once) laughing maniacally, with the bystander thinking she's actually mourning Joffrey.

4. Favourite PTP crackpot

Sansa being fated to become some kind of saintly figure. Or that the Mad Mouse is Howland Reed.

6. Your head canon Sansa looks like

Sophie Turner is pretty much the default for me. I picture someone very close to that look anyway.

7. Favourite Sansa statement or phrase

I think my favourite statement was done basically without words: She tears the head off Sweetrobin's doll, and places it on the walls of Winterfell.

Sansa's statement about Robb bringing her Joff's head was a nice bit of open defiance. Her subtle mockery of Joffrey was also quite enjoyable.

8. Most interesting Sansa foreshadowing in your opinion

The hair net / maid with purple serpents in her hair.

9. When and/or why did you come to love Sansa

I'm not a Sansa uber-fan (my allegiance is to Arya first and foremost), but I came to appreciate her when she's able to summon enough courage to tell the Tyrells what Joffrey's really like. Although her desperate moment of wanting to knock Joffrey off the Red Keep walls was a good moment, I think when she finally broke her submissive-traitor act to actually say something harsh enough to be treasonous was a threshold she needed to cross. (As well, by saying it to them, she unwittingly green-lighted Joffrey's assassination.)

10. Favourite Sansa interaction (with another character) in the novels

The stuff with the Hound is interesting, but I find her interactions with Tyrion to be more intriguing. There is a lot of very warped emotion in it - things that are so contradictory about how they treat each other. Tyrion is supposed to be the agent of her downfall, yet protects her; he wants her in a basic way, but loves someone else and is glad to have an out (and yet is humiliated that he needs an out). Sansa is supposed to despise him, yet she can see he's kind, and yet does not take any solace in his being there. They get accused of conspiring together against Joffrey, and by all rights should have, but never actually did. And so on.

As well, I like the whole Sansa / Littlefinger conundrum. It is still so open-ended, and at the last look in AFFC, we see a cliffhanger where the tension comes not from the spectre of death but from the moral and sexual ambiguity that's left hanging there.

(I have to say, doing that Sansa / LF analysis actually also gave me a much greater appreciation of Littlefinger as a complex character.)

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On thematic patterns in Sansa’s clothing

When taking a look at Sansa’s clothes, the first things that leap out are the richness of the fabrics and how careful and critical she appears to be in choosing a dress suited for the occasion, which has resulted in certain colours to be specifically associated with a determined person in her world and certain relevant themes in her arc, such as identity, negation of agency, etc., two categories of thematic patterns that appear so consistently throughout her narrative as to be able to kindle our curiosity with regard to whether these could be deliberate or coincidental on the author’s part.

The colour of the dress Sansa is wearing at a specific occasion is described a total of sixteen times in four books, not taking into account items of clothing such as cloaks and nightshifts, which don’t seem to follow any overarching pattern but be more restricted in their symbolical value to the surrounding circumstances. In sorting out these colours in two sets of patterns, the symbolical meaning of each colour is of no particular relevance, as it is always complex as well as unreliable because it depends on context and the meaning of a colour varies across cultures and epochs. Instead, recurrence of a theme in conjunction with the colour and repetition of colours for the same characters are the pertinent criteria for this categorisation; and following them the following patterns are found:


Dress colours associated with characters

In Sansa’s storyline, there are four colours that are indelibly imprinted in her relationship with four important characters, and with determined actions of theirs that have had a significant impact on her character development, the first of them being her betrothed, Prince Joffrey.

The blue dress I: Joffrey, crime and punishment

The first instance of Sansa wearing the same colours as a man she’s interested in is her selection of a blue silk dress at the Trident, when she was expected to meet Queen Cersei for tea and hoped her son would be present too. When Joffrey appears to “save” her as she fancies it, he’s wearing blue as well, and thus both dressed in blue they go for a ride that will conclude in the first major trouble in her relationship with the crown prince, the fight with her sister, which she’ll be still paying for a year later since Joffrey never forgave her for witnessing his weakness:


Sansa already looked her best. She had brushed out her long auburn hair until it shone, and picked her nicest blue silks. She had been looking forward to today for more than a week. It was a great honor to ride with the queen, and besides, Prince Joffrey might be there. Her betrothed. Just thinking it made her feel a strange fluttering inside, even though they were not to marry for years and years. Sansa did not really know Joffrey yet, but she was already in love with him. He was all she ever dreamt her prince should be, tall and handsome and strong, with hair like gold. She treasured every chance to spend time with him, few as they were.

It had been Arya who’d had hit him in the fight, but it’s innocent Sansa who bears the brunt of his wrath, so this inaugurates the “tradition” of punishing Sansa for the deeds of others that Joffrey will follow thenceforward. Next time we see her wearing the same colour, now a dress of velvet, it is during the hearing before the king that led to her losing her direwolf due in good measure to Joffrey as well, since his mother asked for innocent Lady’s pelt instead of guilty Nymeria’s because of him:


His eldest daughter stepped forward hesitantly. She was dressed in blue velvets trimmed with white, a silver chain around her neck. Her thick auburn hair had been brushed until it shone. She blinked at her sister, then at the young prince. “I don’t know,” she said tearfully, looking as though she wanted to bolt. “I don’t remember. Everything happened so fast, I didn’t see . . . ”

And months later, she’ll once more be wearing a blue silk dress at the trial of her father, confidently believing Joffrey would be true to his word and be merciful to Lord Eddard, only to hear the king order his decapitation; this would add the motif of deception to those associated with the colour blue:


And there in their midst was Sansa, dressed in sky-blue silk, with her long auburn hair washed and curled and silver bracelets on her wrists. Arya scowled, wondering what her sister was doing here, why she looked so happy.

The last time she wears a blue dress in ACOK is when Joffrey has her punished for Robb’s victories, not before threatening to kill her with a crossbow first, thus sealing the association of the blue dress with the cruelty of her betrothed and her punishment at his hands for her relatives’ actions :


Frowning, he lowered the crossbow. “I’d shoot you too, but if I do Mother says they’d kill my uncle Jaime. Instead you’ll just be punished and we’ll send word to your brother about what will happen to you if he doesn’t yield. Dog, hit her.”

“Let me beat her!” Ser Dontos shoved forward, tin armor clattering. He was armed with a “morningstar” whose head was a melon. My Florian. She could have kissed him, blotchy skin and broken veins and all. He trotted his broomstick around her, shouting “Traitor, traitor” and whacking her over the head with the melon. Sansa covered herself with her hands, staggering every time the fruit pounded her, her hair sticky by the second blow. People were laughing. The melon flew to pieces. Laugh, Joffrey, she prayed as the juice ran down her face and the front of her blue silk gown. Laugh and be satisfied.

Joffrey did not so much as snigger. “Boros. Meryn.”

The green dress: Eddard, joy and tragedy

By her own admission, the tourney thrown in her father’s investment as Hand to King Robert was one of the happiest times in Sansa’s short life, and elegant girl that she is, she carefully chose her best green silks to the first day of the jousts, thus starting the tradition of green dresses in relation to specific interactions with her lord father during his Handship:


Sansa rode to the Hand’s tourney with Septa Mordane and Jeyne Poole, in a litter with curtains of yellow silk so fine she could see right through them. They turned the whole world gold. Beyond the city walls, a hundred pavilions had been raised beside the river, and the common folk came out in the thousands to watch the games. The splendor of it all took Sansa’s breath away; the shining armor, the great chargers caparisoned in silver and gold, the shouts of the crowd, the banners snapping in the wind... and the knights themselves, the knights most of all.

“It is better than the songs,” she whispered when they found the places that her father had promised her, among the high lords and ladies. Sansa was dressed beautifully that day, in a green gown that brought out the auburn of her hair, and she knew they were looking at her and smiling.

But this positive association soon turns sour when all of a sudden her father announces he’s sending her back to Winterfell with her sister, shattering her cherished dreams of marriage, motherhood and queenship, which would then impel her to seek a way to have him be ordered to stay in King’s Landing, with the unfortunate and unforeseen repercussions it had:


Septa Mordane returned with Arya squirming in her grasp. Sansa had put on a lovely pale green damask gown and a look of remorse, but her sister was still wearing the ratty leathers and roughspun she’d worn at breakfast. “Here is the other one,” the septa announced.

“My thanks, Septa Mordane. I would talk to my daughters alone, if you would be so kind.” The septa bowed and left.

“Arya started it,” Sansa said quickly, anxious to have the first word. “She called me a liar and threw an orange at me and spoiled my dress, the ivory silk, the one Queen Cersei gave me when I was betrothed to Prince Joffrey. She hates that I’m going to marry the prince. She tries to spoil everything, Father, she can’t stand for anything to be beautiful or nice or splendid.”

“Enough, Sansa.” Lord Eddard’s voice was sharp with impatience.

Arya raised her eyes. “I’m sorry, Father. I was wrong and I beg my sweet sister’s forgiveness.”

Sansa was so startled that for a moment she was speechless. Finally she found her voice. “What about my dress?”

“Maybe... I could wash it,” Arya said doubtfully.

“Washing won’t do any good,” Sansa said. “Not if you scrubbed all day and all night. The silk is ruined.”

“Then I’ll... make you a new one,” Arya said.

Sansa threw back her head in disdain. “You? You couldn’t sew a dress fit to clean the pigsties.”

Their father sighed. “I did not call you here to talk of dresses. I’m sending you both back to Winterfell.”

And to round out the turn towards the tragic, she put on the same green dress she’d worn at the Hand’s tournament the last time she sees her father, or rather his rotting head, courtesy of Joffrey:


The hot water made her think of Winterfell, and she took strength from that. She had not washed since the day her father died, and she was startled at how filthy the water became. Her maids sluiced the blood off her face, scrubbed the dirt from her back, washed her hair and brushed it out until it sprang back in thick auburn curls. Sansa did not speak to them, except to give them commands; they were Lannister servants, not her own, and she did not trust them. When the time came to dress, she chose the green silk gown that she had worn to the tourney. She recalled how gallant Joff had been to her that night at the feast. Perhaps it would make him remember as well, and treat her more gently.

Her choice of dress is informed by her desire to encourage Joffrey, who’d just had the Kingsguard beat her for the first time, to be more considerate towards her as he’d been at the banquet the night of the Tourney when she’d worn that same dress; but at the start of the scene she’s taking a steaming hot bath that reminds her of Winterfell and gives her strength, and right after that she chooses the green dress, which would point to a subconscious affinity with her father.

The ivory dress: Cersei, bringer of mourning

When the news of the Joffrey-Sansa betrothal was broached, likely at Winterfell, Queen Cersei gifted her future daughter-in-law with an ivory silk gown, as was probably the custom to exchange presents during the official betrothal announcement ceremony—if Westeros has such an ages-old custom, that is—a colour Cersei perhaps chose because it’s a shade of white, the colour of the field in the House Stark coat of arms, and perhaps inadvertently mirroring the habit she herself has of dressing in crimson silk like the colour of the field in the House Lannister coat of arms. As we learn afterwards, this dress was quickly ruined by an indelible stain during a sibling squabble over the killing of Mycah, which had happened on Cersei’s orders:


“It’s not the same,” Sansa said. “The Hound is Joffrey’s sworn shield. Your butcher’s boy attacked the prince.”

“Liar,” Arya said. Her hand clenched the blood orange so hard that red juice oozed between her fingers.

“Go ahead, call me all the names you want,” Sansa said airily. “You won’t dare when I’m married to Joffrey. You’ll have to bow to me and call me Your Grace.” She shrieked as Arya flung the orange across the table. It caught her in the middle of the forehead with a wet squish and plopped down into her lap.

“You have juice on your face, Your Grace,” Arya said.

It was running down her nose and stinging her eyes. Sansa wiped it away with a napkin. When she saw what the fruit in her lap had done to her beautiful ivory silk dress, she shrieked again. “You’re horrible,” she screamed at her sister. “They should have killed you instead of Lady!”

As if to foreshadow that dresses given to her as gifts by Cersei are to be cause for mourning to Sansa, she has to dye it black and wears it as mourning dress to the audience to plead before Joffrey for Lord Eddard’s life, not suspecting that she won’t be able to mourn or wear if again for her father as she did for the king:


When the king’s herald moved forward, Sansa realized the moment was almost at hand. She smoothed down the cloth of her skirt nervously. She was dressed in mourning, as a sign of respect for the dead king, but she had taken special care to make herself beautiful. Her gown was the ivory silk that the queen had given her, the one Arya had ruined, but she’d had them dye it black and you couldn’t see the stain at all. She had fretted over her jewelry for hours and finally decided upon the elegant simplicity of a plain silver chain.

The herald’s voice boomed out. “If any man in this hall has other matters to set before His Grace, let him speak now or go forth and hold his silence.”

Later, Cersei will again arrange for Sansa to have a “gift” that will bring her much sorrow, again an ivory samite dress she’s to wear to her unwanted wedding to the Imp:


Cersei herself arrived with the seamstress, and watched as they dressed Sansa in her new clothes. The smallclothes were all silk, but the gown itself was ivory samite and cloth-of-silver, and lined with silvery satin. The points of the long dagged sleeves almost touched the ground when she lowered her arms. And it was a woman’s gown, not a little girl’s, there was no doubt of that. The bodice was slashed in front almost to her belly, the deep vee covered over with a panel of ornate Myrish lace in dove-grey. The skirts were long and full, the waist so tight that Sansa had to hold her breath as they laced her into it. They brought her new shoes as well, slippers of soft grey doeskin that hugged her feet like lovers. “You are very beautiful, my lady,” the seamstress said when she was dressed.

“I am, aren’t I?” Sansa giggled, and spun, her skirts swirling around her. “Oh, I am.” She could not wait for Willas to see her like this. He will love me, he will, he must... he will forget Winterfell when he sees me, I’ll see that he does.

Queen Cersei studied her critically. “A few gems, I think. The moonstones Joffrey gave her.”

“At once, Your Grace,” her maid replied.

When the moonstones hung from Sansa’s ears and about her neck, the queen nodded. “Yes. The gods have been kind to you, Sansa. You are a lovely girl. It seems almost obscene to squander such sweet innocence on that gargoyle.”

“What gargoyle?” Sansa did not understand. Did she mean Willas? How could she know? No one knew, but her and Margaery and the Queen of Thorns... oh, and Dontos, but he didn’t count.

Cersei Lannister ignored the question. “The cloak,” she commanded, and the women brought it out: a long cloak of white velvet heavy with pearls. A fierce direwolf was embroidered upon it in silver thread. Sansa looked at it with sudden dread. “Your father’s colors,” said Cersei, as they fastened it about her neck with a slender silver chain.

A maiden’s cloak. Sansa’s hand went to her throat. She would have torn the thing away if she had dared.

This pattern is especially noteworthy due to its consistent thematic repetition that one can’t but wonder if the author was intentionally drawing this parallel: we have Cersei giving Sansa an ivory dress, one of the Stark colours, when she’s betrothed to her son, which brought her misery in the end; and later we again have Cersei giving Sansa another ivory dress, this time even more obviously meant to underscore her status as Stark heiress with the lining in gray and the cloak, when she’s to be forcefully married to her brother, which will also bring her no end of misery. Before this incident, it’s mentioned in ACOK Sansa II that she had a gray cloak, but then it was just an item of clothing that Sansa wore like all trueborn members of House Stark, but the Lannisters through Cersei transformed a cloak in her House colours into a symbol of negation of agency and exploitation through marriage for her claim, which later Littlefinger would reinforce with his grandiose plan of marrying her off to Harry Hardyng, in AFFC Alayne II:

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

The brown dress: Littlefinger, captivity and concealment

Sansa wears a brown dress twice in relation to Littlefinger, and in both instances it’d due to the need for concealment. In the first situation, she wears brown at her escape because she has to blend in with the darkness of the night and that was the darkest colour she had, and doesn’t know that escape supposedly to freedom and home will land her in Baelish’s clutches:


The gods are just, thought Sansa. Robb had died at a wedding feast as well. It was Robb she wept for. Him and Margaery. Poor Margaery, twice wed and twice widowed. Sansa slid her arm from a sleeve, pushed down the gown, and wriggled out of it. She balled it up and shoved it into the bole of an oak, shook out the clothing she had hidden there. Dress warmly, Ser Dontos had told her, and dress dark. She had no blacks, so she chose a dress of thick brown wool. The bodice was decorated with freshwater pearls, though. The cloak will cover them. The cloak was a deep green, with a large hood. She slipped the dress over her head, and donned the cloak, though she left the hood down for the moment. There were shoes as well, simple and sturdy, with flat heels and square toes. The gods heard my prayer, she thought. She felt so numb and dreamy. My skin has turned to porcelain, to ivory, to steel. Her hands moved stiffly, awkwardly, as if they had never let down her hair before. For a moment she wished Shae was there, to help her with the net.

And the second time she appears on page wearing brown, she’s forced by circumstances to be complicit in Littlefinger’s deception of the Lords Declarant of the Vale, posing as his bastard daughter, and she puts on this colour so as to not raise the Lords’ suspicions about her true identity, or give them the impression that she acting above her station:


There was a gown of purple silk that gave her pause, and another of dark blue velvet slashed with silver that would have woken all the color in her eyes, but in the end she remembered that Alayne was after all a bastard, and must not presume to dress above her station. The dress she picked was lambswool, dark brown and simply cut, with leaves and vines embroidered around the bodice, sleeves, and hem in golden thread. It was modest and becoming, though scarce richer than something a serving girl might wear. Petyr had given her all of Lady Lysa’s jewels as well, and she tried on several necklaces, but they all seemed ostentatious. In the end she chose a simple velvet ribbon in autumn gold. When Gretchel fetched her Lysa’s silvered looking glass, the color seemed just perfect with Alayne’s mass of dark brown hair. Lord Royce will never know me, she thought. Why, I hardly know myself.

Note that although both dresses are of common woollen fabric, very simply cut and meant to help Sansa move around unnoticed as arguably a “commoner” girl (for brown and natural undyed fabric, especially wool, has historically been for the smallfolk), they nonetheless have details that nudge an observer towards noticing her highborn roots: the first dress has sweetwater pearls, which though not as costly as marine pearls, aren’t an item lesser girls would have in their everyday clothes, and the second dress has gold thread embroidery, again an expensive item. Considering that both dresses were carefully chosen by Sansa herself and not by her captor, especially in the latter instance where her choice is so deliberately detailed by the author, one wonders if the brown dress could also represent some kind of agency for her, and perhaps also a hint at the transient nature of her current status.


Motifs in Sansa’s choice of dress

The gray dress: A pawn of the lions

Curiously, Sansa wears gowns in gray, the House colour the Starks favour, only when Joffrey begins his reign of terror in King’s Landing and she’s made a prisoner that has to tread carefully, minding not only her words and behaviour but her appearance as well. It’s under the constant danger of a beating and threats of rape and death that the themes of negation of agency and being utilised as a Stark pawn against the Starks stand out.

The first time she wears gray is when she’s summoned before the Queen and the Council after her father’s failed attempt at securing the throne for a legitimate Baratheon:


They came for Sansa on the third day.

She chose a simple dress of dark grey wool, plainly cut but richly embroidered around the collar and sleeves. Her fingers felt thick and clumsy as she struggled with the silver fastenings without the benefit of servants. Jeyne Poole had been confined with her, but Jeyne was useless. Her face was puffy from all her crying, and she could not seem to stop sobbing about her father.

Then she again wears gray to the banquet of Joffrey’s wedding to Margaery, where he’ll die poisoned:


Shae was helping Sansa with her hair when they entered the bedchamber. Joy and grief, he thought when he beheld them there together. Laughter and tears. Sansa wore a gown of silvery satin trimmed in vair, with dagged sleeves that almost touched the floor, lined in soft purple felt. Shae had arranged her hair artfully in a delicate silver net winking with dark purple gemstones. Tyrion had never seen her look more lovely, yet she wore sorrow on those long satin sleeves. “Lady Sansa,” he told her, “you shall be the most beautiful woman in the hall tonight.”

“My lord is too kind.”

In both occasions, Sansa is placed in a political situation and being used by her captors as a pawn in a move against her family: Queen Cersei first manipulates her into pleading through a letter to her family for them to bend the knee, something convenient for the Lannisters but harmful to the Starks; and then Lord Tywin had her married to his son under threat for her claim to Winterfell, something also beneficial to the Lannisters but that’d mean the likely extinction of the Starks in the long run.

One interesting detail is that when she was “made a Lannister,” even though her dresses are likely now paid for with Lannister gold since her own dresses have been either ruined in the fire at her bedchamber or have become too small/tight for her growing body, she never wears anything in Lannister colours: there’s nothing crimson, or even gold, in her clothing and jewellery. Speculatively speaking, if we are to assume that she had a say in choosing her new clothes to wear as a married woman (aside her wedding attire), then the absence of anything remotely resembling the Lannister colours and the predominance of Stark colours in her clothing would hint at a subtle assertion of her allegiance and identity. The same happens later, when another unwanted identity is forced upon her: she is given clothes by Littlefinger twice, for her escape and after Lysa is deceased, but we don’t see her wear Baelish colours and instead she goes for her favourite blue, for both Tully colours and for brown, thus crowning the tendency in Sansa to wear the colours of her paternal House and her maternal House precisely when she’s a hostage of people who have an unhealthy interest in her political value due to her birth.

Going back for a moment to Cersei’s gifting of dresses in House Stark colours to Sansa, it had been noted that she chooses ivory white instead of gray as Sansa does, and such ignoring of the Starks’ practice of wearing gray might be due to the queen’s and her family’s own habit of wearing the colour of the field in their sigil. There’s an intriguing contrast between the Stark and Lannister preference for identifying themselves through one of the two colours in their coats of arms. Although their “Winter is coming” motto and snow make a much more compelling case for white as the meaningful colour, the Starks of Winterfell still choose gray, the colour of the direwolf, and even their household guards wear gray cloaks. This might be significant in view of the warging abilities of the current generation (and likely past Starks as well) and the impact it could have in the upcoming supernatural conflict, so from such a perspective it does make sense. But less so the Lannisters’ peculiar fondness of crimson: it’s the colour of the field in their coat of arms only, so it doesn’t add up for the Lannisters of Casterly Rock to choose it when their animal is the golden lion of “Hear me roar” and their big boasting point is about gold (“A Lannister always pays his debts”).

The purple dress: Hide the wounds and fight back quietly

Interestingly, the only two occasions in which purple is mentioned in Sansa’s clothing are both connected to Joffrey: when she reappears in ACOK, she’s wearing purple to the king’s nameday tournament, a dress she had selected because the cut was suited for hiding the wounds of the beatings this same king inflicted on her through his guards:


Sansa closed the shutters and turned sharply away from the window. “You look very lovely today, my lady,” Ser Arys said.

“Thank you, ser.” Knowing that Joffrey would require her to attend the tourney in his honor, Sansa had taken special care with her face and clothes. She wore a gown of pale purple silk and a moonstone hair net that had been a gift from Joffrey. The gown had long sleeves to hide the bruises on her arms. Those were Joffrey’s gifts as well. When they told him that Robb had been proclaimed King in the North, his rage had been a fearsome thing, and he had sent Ser Boros to beat her.

Much like wearing her green dress in her last AGOT chapter was meant to induce him to be gallant, this one is an obvious attempt at pacifying Joffrey: she wears this colour and the moonstones because she knows she’ll look pretty as he prefers her, and this way she can avoid his displeasure, with the inevitable beating. Yet, purple becomes a means of “fighting back” when she goes against Joffrey to save Dontos, the man with whom she’ll subsequently plan to escape. Later, the disgraced ex-knight will betray her and give her the amethyst hairnet that she’ll bring to the royal wedding. That scene, quoted in the previous section, is the second time purple appears in her arc: the gray gown she’s wearing has purple lining, almost like a hidden dagger, and the purple serpents she’s unknowingly carrying in her hairnet will make her pivotal in the scheme to kill the king that’d been so cruel to her.

The blue dress II: The Tully roots of a bastard girl

After Joffrey’s horrendous public humiliation of her, we never again see Sansa wearing blue, until she becomes a prisoner a second time, one year later. This time it’s one of the colours of House Tully, her mother’s family, that will serve to assert her real identity when she’s made to impersonate a bastard girl in the Vale.

The first scene has her wearing a blue dress as she builds a snow castle in the likeness of her home, which also assists her in professing and maintaining her emotional connection to her true roots; and this is also the only time this far, apart from her wedding, in which we see her wearing a white cloak, one of the House Stark colours:


Sansa left the shutters open as she dressed. It would be cold, she knew, though the Eyrie’s towers encircled the garden and protected it from the worst of the mountain winds. She donned silken smallclothes and a linen shift, and over that a warm dress of blue lambswool. Two pairs of hose for her legs, boots that laced up to her knees, heavy leather gloves, and finally a hooded cloak of soft white fox fur.

Once her aunt Lysa is murdered and she “inherits” her dresses and jewels, the first gown of hers that we see Sansa wearing is precisely one in the colours of Lady Catelyn’s House:


“The white. And you’d best change as well.”

Alayne looked down at her dress, the deep blue and rich dark red of Riverrun. “Is it too—”

“It is too Tully. The Lords Declarant will not be pleased by the sight of my bastard daughter prancing about in my dead wife’s clothes. Choose something else. Need I remind you to avoid sky blue and cream?”

“No.” Sky blue and cream were the colors of House Arryn.

Littlefinger’s reason for asking her to change is ironic in this context, for it’s his old resentment towards the Riverlands’ ruling family and the fact that Sansa looks “too Tully” what motivated him to abduct her and embroil her in his questionable schemes in the first place. And his remark on avoiding the House Arryn colours, though said for practical reasons (not to vex the Vale lords), is intriguing in light of his supposed plan to marry Sansa off to the next in line to the Arryn seat. Deception seems to be a strong secondary motif linked to sky blue; considering that the only other time Sansa was wearing sky blue is at the decapitation of her father, which was quite likely orchestrated by Littlefinger who instigated the boy-king to renege on his promise, this could suggest that Baelish is once again looking to deceive Sansa through a poisoned prince charming, Harry.

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Excellent thematic analysis of Sansa's choices in clothing, Milady! Sansa is one of the few female characters who we actually see (besides Cersei, occasionally) carefully considering her wardrobe; and she is quite good at using fabrics/color/textures to express herself and her moods and purposes.

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Congratulations on the anniversary!

Milady, nice post. I especially appreciate that you kept color theory out of your analysis and instead focused on colors in their context for Sansa within ASoIaF.

Some quick thoughts and questions below. (Apologies for any strange formatting and/or vagueness below. I'm attempting to write this post using my phone, and can't seem to quote posts or navigate away to reference anything without everything here deleting.)

Point about Stark/Lannister colors from sigils:

Starks tradition of emphasizing gray/direwolf over the white snow field could have older connections related to warging, absolutely. Also reminded me of the part (Bran chapter maybe?) where they're talking about how direwolves will outlive all sorts of other species. Longevity, resilience?

The Lannisters' emphasis on crimson (over gold) wasn't so surprising to me. Considering how they suppress the lion in their family motto as well... "Hear Me Roar" is the official line, but the focus is "A Lannister Always Pays His Debts" - a line used more about revenge (red blood) than about gold. Lannisters don't just boast about their gold, but also bloody deeds... Tywin and the Raines of Castamere, the taking of King's Landing /Kingslaying. (... If it's mostly Cersei preferring crimson, this might just be aesthetic. Being decked out in gold would completely wash her out. Cersei wants to be seen.)

Speculating about gray/who picks the wardrobe after Lannister wedding:

Although I would love to see Sansa's not wearing Lannister colors post-wedding as a sign of subtle defiance, it's just as possible that the Lannisters are purposefully restricting her to certain colors. They want Sansa for her claim, and keeping her in Stark colors makes that connection more apparent, reminds everyone who she is.

Two questions about purple:

The long purple sleeves on the gray dress Sansa wears to Joff's wedding... I think the quote said the sleeves "dragged" - do you think of these as being long-sleeved? Possibly, like the earlier purple dress sleeves, this is hiding more injuries from Joffrey?

When Sansa/Alayne is choosing the brown dress in the Eyrie, she is first drawn to a purple dress (Milady quoted this section above). Any significance?

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Thank you, Raksha, glad that you enjoyed it. And thank you as well, Ashkhen.

The long purple sleeves on the gray dress Sansa wears to Joff's wedding... I think the quote said the sleeves "dragged" - do you think of these as being long-sleeved? Possibly, like the earlier purple dress sleeves, this is hiding more injuries from Joffrey?

When the text says that the sleeves of a woman's dress are "dagged," it's referring to this model of dress. Notice the long dangling bell-like sleeves? Everyday dresses didn't have such long dagged sleeves but shorter ones, so when a gown has this type of sleeve it usually indicates a luxurious dress to be worn at special occasions. Both Joffrey's nameday tourney and his wedding banquet were obviously occasions to wear one's finest silk clothing, so that would be the reason for both gowns to be of expensive fabric and have long sleeves, and not necessarily because of the need to hide wounds from Joffrey, who'd not beaten her after that public beating the Imp stopped.

When Sansa/Alayne is choosing the brown dress in the Eyrie, she is first drawn to a purple dress (Milady quoted this section above). Any significance?

Not really, as she's safe at the Eyrie at present. Sansa's reason for not choosing that dress is simple enough: the dress is of expensive silk. Littlefinger had told her to avoid dresses that would displease the Lords Declarant, and a purple silk gown, as well as one of velvet, worn by a bastard girl is going to raise some eyebrows, unlike a simple woollen brown dress, fitting for her station.

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Lovely analysis, Milady, and a worthwhile exploration into the sartorial symbolism and patterns in Sansa's dress choices. It illustrates very well how the personal becomes political in Sansa's arc: all these things that were once appreciated as merely decorative or part of her "traditional femininity" (much maligned in some parts), are transformed by the conscious need to act in a certain manner to placate one's enemies and to disguise one's identity or allegiance. For a Stark in a lion's den, dressing takes on a new meaning, and this is appropriately foreshadowed when she wears the dyed black dress to plead for her father's life. Gowns and the choices therein are very much an integral part of the game, one that Sansa has to be play even with limited knowledge. She has to be resourceful, keen and vigilant.

She is lulled into a false sense of security when she believes she can find happiness with the Tyrells in Highgarden, not realising that like the Lannisters, their primary focus is her claim to Winterfell. Her thoughts when she is dressed unknowingly for her wedding to the Imp are therefore full of irony:

She could not wait for Willas to see her like this. He will love me, he will, he must... he will forget Winterfell when he sees me, I’ll see that he does.

There is Sansa wanting Willas to "see her" as she is, just a beautiful girl in fancy dress that suggests the promise of womanhood. However, what she doesn't immediately recognize is that she's being dressed in her house colours, and there is no coincidence or benevolence in this choice. If Willas was to see her as she is dressed, then he would see Sansa Stark, Winterfell's daughter, and soon to be Winterfell's heir. The conflict then between what Sansa sees (and desires) and what other people see (and desire) is underscored in this moment, and a significant part of her development into a player is having the foresight and foreknowledge into what it is people will expect to see and how to cater to that in a way that preserves her interests or survival. Hence the whole shenanigans in the Vale - Alayne Stone, the brown hair, the brown dress - don't simply revolve around the theme of identity for Sansa, but critically incorporate the issues of power and agency.

Very intriguing point about the sky blue colour relating to deception!

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Nice analysis, Milady... This thread has spoken quite a lot about what Sansa wore in certain situations, colors of her dresses, that I have only to bow to excellence in such profound analysis. However, for me, it was always more interesting what jewelery Sansa was wearing, and something I privately, for my notes called "silver chain/moonstones code" and their connection to a wolf motif in Sansa's storyline, given that both silver and moonstones have been closely intertwined with lupine mythology.

As brash, I find very interesting your observation regarding LF telling Sansa not to wear sky blue colored dress. First, it was the Tully dress, and then the Arryn dress. Warning her to change the Tully dress is expected, especially given the fact that in those colors she might easily be recognized by Yohn Royce. But given the trajectory of Sansa's seizure of power, one might say that LF metaphorically is holding what is Sansa's, or what might be hers: Harrenhal, Paramount lordship of the Riverlands, and of course position of Lord Protector of the Vale. Sansa is in line of inheriting both Harrenhal and Riverlands, plus from the two stories of Vale in Aegon's Conquest and Dance of dragons, we can find intersection in them, and conclude that Sansa will end up as some sort of ruler of the Vale. So, I find very interesting that by literally stripping her of those dresses, LF tries to strip her of what is rightfully hers. Add to that, (I think it was tze's, but I could be misreading or misremembering it) idea of Sansa and Jon ruling like Ptolemaic rulers(without whole marriage part), one from Winterfell, and the other from, well let it be, Harrenhal, then metaphorically in this case, dresses are what they are supposed to be - the symbol of power, origin and wealth.

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Milady of York, on 17 Jan 2014 - 10:17 PM, said:

When the text says that the sleeves of a woman's dress are "dagged," it's referring to
Notice the long dangling bell-like sleeves?

Wuuft, serves me right for reading & posting without access to the books or your original post. Thanks for the picture.

"Dress warmly, Ser Dontos had told her, and dress dark. She had no blacks, so she chose a dress of thick brown wool."

Sansa first chooses brown because she has no blacks, and the dark brown will help her to escape. Pretty clear. The threads recently about how Sansa bases her Alayne character on Jon, made me think that Sansa continuing to choose dark brown (close to black) could also be seen as an example of that connection.

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Continuing the Female Influences series, I'm very honored to present the following:

The Sun and the Moon:

The Sisterhood of Sansa and Arya Stark

When thinking of Sansa and Arya Stark readers often tend to see them as opposites, from their first scene to their last. Though this opposition of characters is undeniable, it doesn’t mean that opposites have to be always in conflict. A complementary interpretation is possible, as the following incident illustrates:

In AGoT, chapter 65, Arya wonders why Sansa is on the steps of the Great Sept as their father is brought before the mob, and why she looks "so happy." The reader knows that Sansa has used her courtesy and her pretty words, a lady's armour and weapon, to buy her father's life:

"As it please Your Grace, I ask mercy for my father, Lord Eddard Stark, who was Hand of the King." She had practiced the words a hundred times. […] King Joffrey looked her up and down. "Your sweet words have moved me." He said gallantly, nodding, as if to say all would be well. "I shall do as you ask … but first your father has to confess …" AGoT, chapter 57

When it becomes clear that Joffrey is ordering Ned's execution, Arya

... threw herself into the crowd, drawing Needle […] Arya slashed at them with Needle […] She could still hear Sansa screaming.

At first glance these are two very different reactions to the same situation: Sansa— accommodating and sensitive, attempts to create a shield for her father, while Arya— belligerent and headstrong, would use her sword to defend him. On closer examination, the two girls doing exactly the same thing: using their individual talents in an effort to defend and save their father's life. Their talents and actions in this situation are complementary, but their objective is the same.

Sisterhood refers to the relationship of two females who share a parent or parents. But a secondary definition of the word is "the solidarity of women based on shared conditions, experiences, or concerns." While GRRM admittedly created Arya and Sansa as complementary characters (SSM), I propose that the shared bond of their sisterhood has embedded a blueprint in the arc of each girl, that their arcs and the roads each has to travel after their parting in King's Landing move in tandem each to the other, along seemingly opposite paths, but progressing towards a common outcome: reunion with their family and the reformation of the pack. Ned's words to Arya in AGoT chapter 22 reflect the values the girls were raised with, which will affect this outcome:

"Let me tell you something about wolves, child. When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Summer is the time for squabbles. In winter, we must protect one another, keep each other warm, share our strengths. So if you must hate, Arya, hate those who would truly do us harm … Sansa is your sister. You may be as different as the sun and the moon, but the same blood flows through both your hearts. You need her, as she needs you …"

From the beginning, we are alerted to the differences between the two girls:

"Sansa's work is as pretty as she is," Septa Mordane told their lady mother once. "She has such fine, delicate hands." […] "Arya has the hands of a blacksmith." AGoT, chapter 7

Sansa even points out the difference to Cersei, in a moment of self defence:

"I'm not like Arya," Sansa blurted. "She has the traitor's blood, not me. I'm good…" AGoT, chapter 51

Yet, are they really so different? Septa Mordane, she of the blacksmith hands analogy, has this sentiment for Sansa, who loved Lady as much as Arya loved Nymeria:

"You're a good girl, Sansa, but I do vow that when it comes to that creature you're as willful as your sister Arya." AGoT, chapter 15

Even in their occasional indifference to each other, there are similarities:

"It was not until later that night, as she was drifting off to sleep, that Sansa realized she had forgotten to ask about her sister." AGoT, chapter 51

Not to be outdone, Arya initially spares no thought for her sister once she escapes the horrors of King's Landing:

"when at last she slept, she dreamed of home … She yearned to see her mother again, and Robb and Bran and Rickon . . . but it was Jon Snow she thought of most." ACoK, chapter 1

Shortly we see both girls having thoughts of their home and the "pack", coupled with assertions of their defenses:

What was it that Septa Mordane used to tell her? A lady's armour is her courtesy, that was it. She donned her armour and said, "I'm sorry my lady mother took you captive, my lord." […] Once she had loved Prince Joffrey with all her heart, and admired and trusted his mother, the queen. They had repaid that love and trust with her father's head. Sansa would never make that mistake again. ACoK, chapter 2

Sansa resolves to armour herself in courtesy, steeling her heart against the girlish love and admiration that once filled it. While for Arya we see a resolution to stand fast with sword in hand:

It made her sad to think of Sansa and her father […] If she was a real water dancer, she would go out there with Needle and kill all of them, and never run from anyone ever again […] Arya wouldn't let them die for her like Syrio. She wouldn't! Shoving through the hedge with Needle in hand, she slid into a water dancer's stance. ACoK, chapter 5

As Yoren leads her towards Harrenhal, Arya's hope that she will find someone to rescue her sounds like an echo of her sister:

That was what knights did; they kept you safe, especially women. ACoK, chapter 14

We know Sansa has long believed in true knights, and while she still hopes, we begin to see the cracks in her conviction:

Knights are sworn to defend the weak, protect women and fight for the right, but none of them did a thing. ACoK, chapter 32

"True knights protect the weak." He snorted. "There are no true knights, no more than there are gods." […] Wordless, she fled … There are gods, she told herself, and there are true knights too. All the stories can’t be lies. ACoK, chapter 52

Arya's hope begins to fade as well after she is taken by The Mountain's men:

By the time she marched, Arya knew she was no water dancer […]Syrio would never have sat silent in that storehouse, nor shuffled along meekly with the other captives. The direwolf was the sigil of the Starks, but Arya felt more a lamb, surrounded by a herd of other sheep. ACoK, chapter 26

In ACoK, chapter 18, Sansa receives a mysterious message saying "Come to the godswood if you want to go home." Her thoughts at first are full of fear of betrayal, yet she resolves to go:

"If it is some trap, better that I die than let them hurt me more."

Over the course of several months, Sansa meets Ser Dontos in the godswood of the Red Keep, forging an alliance that she believes will take her home to Winterfell once and for all. During those months, we hear the following words in her internal monologue on more than one occasion echoing the resolve she felt on her visit, "I can be brave." In fact, Sansa tells herself to "be brave" so many times in her final chapters in King's Landing, it seems to have become her mantra.

By the time she flees King's Landing in ASoS chapter 61, Sansa's emotional shield is fully functional. Her internal monologue has grown increasingly rebellious, while the façade she presents to the world is all courtesy and pleasant words. As Tyrion tells her, "You hide behind courtesy as if it were a castle wall." Yet as she flees, she feels her skin has turned "to porcelain, to ivory, to steel…"

Meanwhile at Harrenhal, Arya has been finding her courage and visiting the godswood as well. Arya uses her time in front of the heart tree to practice her needlework, recite her ever growing litany of judgement, and pray:

I was a sheep, and then I was a mouse, I couldn't do anything but hide […] Jaqen made me brave again. He made me a ghost instead of a mouse. ACoK, chapter 26

Help me you old gods …Help me get those men out of the dungeon so we can kill Ser Amory, and bring me home to Winterfell. Make me a water dancer and a wolf and not afraid again, ever. ACoK, chapter 47

Arya finds her prayers answered in the form of Jaqen and weasel soup. Sansa's prayers for delivery seem to be answered by Ser Dontos. But prayers, as we soon see, can be answered in unexpected ways. While Dontos ultimately spirits Sansa away, it is not yet to Winterfell; and while Jaqen does help Arya to free the northmen, which leads to the death of Amory Lorch, and is indeed the agency that allows Arya to rediscover her identity and conquer her fear, neither are Arya's prayers for home answered. Both girls are set to move into a new phase of their journeys, but in paying homage to the gods of their father each has strengthened their gift-- the shield has become steel, and the sword arm stiffened.

The next major settings in the arcs of the two girls are Braavos and the Vale. In the interim, between godswoods and the destinations, each forms a brief alliance with a faction that may one day prove fortuitous: Arya with the Brotherhood without Banners and Sansa with the Tyrells. During these brief interludes (a matter of weeks really) both girls complete a reconnection with their "Stark family values."


Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid? That is the only time a man can be brave. Eddard to Bran, AGoT, chapter 1

Brave. Sansa took a deep breath. I am a Stark, yes, I can be brave. ASoS, chapter 28

I must be brave, like Robb. ASoS, chapter 59

... she felt calmer than she ever had in Harrenhal. The rain had washed the guard's blood off her fingers, she wore a sword across her back, wolves were prowling through the dark like lean grey shadows, and Arya Stark was unafraid. ASoS, chapter 3


You never could lie for love nor honor, Ned Stark. Robert Baratheon, AGoT, chapter 30

My father always told the truth […] Joffrey is a monster. He lied about the butcher's boy and made Father kill my wolf. When I displease him he has the Kingsguard beat me. ASoS, chapter 6

"You are very beautiful, Sansa," he told her. "It is good of you to say so my lord." She did not know what else to say. Should I tell him he is handsome? He'll think me a fool or a liar. She lowered her gaze and held her tongue. ASoS, chapter 28

Arya, being younger, struggles with the moral implications of her survival instinct. I found this line reminiscent of Ned's "there were some secrets it was too dangerous to share":

Arya told of Yoren and their escape from King's Landing as well, and much that had happened since, but she left out the stableboy she'd stabbed with Needle, and the guard whose throat she'd cut to get out of Harrenhal. Telling Harwin would be like telling her father, and there were some things she could not bear having her father know. ASoS, chapter 17


Her father used to say that a lord needed to eat with his men, if he hoped to keep them. "Know the men who follow you," she heard him tell Robb once, "and let them know you. Don't ask your men to die for a stranger." AGoT, chapter 22

"Another lesson you should learn, if you hope to sit beside my son. Be gentle on a night like this and you'll have treasons popping up all about you like mushrooms after a hard rain […] The only way to keep your people loyal is to make certain they fear you more than they do the enemy."

"I will remember, Your Grace," said Sansa, though she had always heard that love was a surer route to the people's loyalty than fear. If I'm ever a queen, I'll make them love me. ACoK, chapter 60

"Don't be afraid," she told them loudly. "The queen has raised the drawbridge. This is the safest place in the city. There's thick walls, the moat, the spikes …" […] Sansa went to to Ser Lancel and knelt beside him […] "Help him," Sansa commanded two of the serving men. ACoK, chapter 62

Arya took the lead, kicking her stolen horse to a brisk heedless trot […] Arya kept them moving at a slow steady pace. ASoS, chapter 3


The blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks, and we hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword […] If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die. AGoT, chapter 2

But when the septon climbed on high and called upon the gods to protect and defend their true and noble king, Sansa got to her feet. […] Let his sword break and his shield shatter, Sansa thought coldly as she shoved out through the doors, let his courage fail him and every man desert him. ACoK, chapter 57

Ser Gregor, Dunsen, Polliver, Raff the Sweetling, The Tickler and the Hound. Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, King Joffrey, Queen Cersei…

Arya's oft-repeated litany of judgement changes somewhat by the end of Storm:

Ser Gregor the Mountain… Dunsen, Raff the Sweetling, Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn and Queen Cersei […] she was glad [Joffrey] was dead, but she wished she could have been there to see him die, or maybe kill him herself. " ASoS, chapter 74 (emphasis mine)

Both girls have yet to complete their journey to fulfill this particularly ideal but their thoughts, cold and unyielding as the north itself, indicate they understand the Stark concept of righteous judgement.


Their thoughts about Robb and their faith in his prevailing over his enemies are strikingly similar:

Robb will beat him, Sansa thought. He beat your uncle and your brother Jaime, he’ll beat your father too. Sansa, ACoK, chapter 32

Robb will kill you all, she thought, exulting. Sansa, ACoK, chapter 32

Robb has beaten them every time. He’ll beat Lord Baelish too, if he must. Sansa, ACoK, chapter 65

If the Lannisters hurt Bran and Rickon, Robb will kill them every one. He’ll never bend the knee, never, never, never. He’s not afraid of any of them. Arya, ACoK, chapter 64

"The Lannisters will soon have Riverrun under siege."

Robb will beat them.Arya, ASoS, chapter 43

In AFfC chapter 6, Arya arrives in Braavos and her thoughts turn to Winterfell, but only for half a heartbeat. Telling herself that all is lost, she determines that she doesn't need her pack:

But that was stupid. Her home was gone, her parents dead, and all her brothers slain but Jon Snow on the Wall […] Arya never seemed to reach the place she set out to reach […] what good had friends ever done her? I don't need any friends, so long as I have Needle.

Yet, much as we will see with Alayne, Arya's inner thoughts are often at odds with what she says aloud or even what she wishes to think. She continues to think about Winterfell, about Old Nan and Maester Luwin and her family even as she tells herself she will not. And we know that for her Needle is

... Robb and Bran and Rickon, her mother and father, even Sansa… Winterfell's grey walls, and the laughter of its people… the summer snows, Old Nan's stories, the heart tree with its red leaves and scary face, the warm earthy smell of the glass gardens, the sound of the north wind rattling the shutters of her room… Jon Snow's smile. AFfC, chapter 22

As Arya beholds the Titan at close range, she is awed by its scale “He could step right over the walls of Winterfell,” and when Yorko Terys delivers her to the steps of the House of Black and White, she affirms her Stark identity:

I am a wolf, and will not be afraid.”

After she enters, she reveals who she is:

"I am Arya, of House Stark."

"You are," he said, "but the House of Black and White is no place for Arya, of House Stark."

"Please," she said, "I have no place to go."

She stubbornly clings to her identity, to her Stark qualities and her memories, in spite of being told she must abandon them. And her observation about Braavos' Titan has a very interesting parallel with what is happening with her sister in the Vale.

Sansa arrives at the Eyrie at the end of Storm with no illusions that her aunt is little better than the Lannisters, with the intention of marrying her to her son to take advantage of her claim. Her thoughts are also full of Winterfell, home and her lost family, though she also spends much time thinking that she must be Alayne. Her first chapter to open at the Eyrie begins with a dream of home, of sharing a room with her sister. It continues with the oft discussed snow castle. In terms of connection with her sister's arc, one line stands out:

...he stepped over both walls with a single long stride and squatted on his heels in the middle of the yard. ASoS, chapter 80

In the aftermath, as Sansa is escorted by Marillion to Lysa her thoughts echo Arya’s on the steps of the HoBaW:

I am a Stark of Winterfell, she longed to tell him. Instead she nodded, and let him escort her down the tower steps and along a bridge.

Later, as Lysa drags Sansa to the Moon Door, we have echoes of Arya in Harrenhal, contrasted with Cat's bravery:

"You squeak like a mouse now, but you were bold enough in the garden, weren't you? […] Your mother was brave at least." ASoS, chapter 80

When Petyr arrives, a ranting Lysa tells him:

"Why did you bring her to the Vale, Petyr? This isn't her place. She doesn't belong here." ASoS, chapter 80

In her new phase, Arya begins honing the skills foreshadowed with her "needlework", while Sansa continues to develop her own foreshadowed by her “armour of courtesy”—her diplomacy and kindness, and her social and political skills. The parallels identified above, and the continued similarities in their thoughts, illustrate that their arcs, while different in approach, continue in a complementary direction.

Both Sansa and Arya assume new identities at this stage. As Alayne and No One they must present these new identities flawlessly to the world, for their own survival. But in spite of continued self-assurance that they are indeed becoming those characters, both remain Starks in their hearts:

I am not your daughter, she thought. I am Sansa Stark, Lord Eddard's daughter and Lady Catelyn's , the blood of Winterfell. AFfC, chapter 10

"Who are you?" he would ask every day.

"No one," she would answer, she who had been Arya of House Stark, Arya Underfoot, Arya Horseface. She had been Arry and Weasel too, and Squab and Salty. Nan the cupbearer, a grey mouse, a sheep, the ghost of Harrenhal … but not for true, not in her heart of hearts. In there she was Arya of Winterfell, the daughter of Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Catelyn, who had once had brothers named Robb and Bran and Rickon, a sister named Sansa, a direwolf named Nymeria, a half-brother named Jon Snow. AFfC, chapter 22

As Sansa concludes her stay in the Eyrie, she focuses on presenting Alayne Stone to the world, telling herself:

I must be Alayne all the time, inside and out. AFfC, chapter 41

And yet she is still demonstrates Stark qualities:

Bravery: "So you're brave as well as beautiful," Myranda said to her

Honesty: "Almost, I said. I saw you."

Leadership: Alayne knew 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...

Judgment: One of the squires sniggered, until she said, "Terrance, lay out his lordship's riding clothes and his warmest cloak. Giles, you may clean up that broken chamber pot." (A minor point of justice, but a judgment nonetheless)

Arya is also focused on being No One, more importantly on not being Arya of House Stark. Yet she is still the night wolf, and her experiences with the cats of Braavos prove she cannot leave her identity wholly behind. As well, she remains a Stark. Her bravery is beyond question, she is learning to speak truth while hiding her innermost thoughts, and in learning to follow the FM learns a valuable in leadership.

As for judgment, she remembers a lesson learned from her father early in life:

The girl was not sorry, though. Dareon had been a deserter from the Night's Watch; he deserved to die.

Last we see Sansa she is poised for the next phase, possibly one that will bring some moral ambiguity through her continued association with Petyr Baelish, but one that seems to be moving her closer to home, to Winterfell. Her sister as well is moving on to a new phase. Her conflict is clear as she is about to begin an unknown apprenticeship under the auspices of the Faceless Men. But it's also clear that she is unable to fully abandon her true self and her memories of home.

The sun and the moon, the shield and the sword do not exist without each other but move in concert, each complementing the other. So do these sisters. To paraphrase the words of GRRM: they have issues to work out, but they need each other. One day we hope they will meet again to prove that the solidarity of sisterhood can overcome even the most diametrically different personalities.

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