Sandor Studies 101 - Lesson 3 - Eddard’s Reluctant Sandor Feels
(Here’s a long essay about my very favorite part of ASOIAF. Spoilers for all the books.)
Sandor Studies 101 - Lesson 3 - Eddard’s Reluctant Sandor Feels
(Here’s a long essay about my very favorite part of ASOIAF. Spoilers for all the books.)
I’ve written something about Sansa and warging, yes, in relation to the old blind dog at Petyr’s keep, and you can see it here. I also have some minor commentary in the tags here, and replies here and here.
But to expand a bit: As a given, Sansa is a Stark, and does have skinchanging potential. (Note, the term “warg” technically applies only to skinchangers who bond with wolves.) Also, the general process of skinchanging/warging seems to be:
- an emotional bond with the animal, where they feel your feelings (and express them even if you repress them) and defend you
- dreams of yourself within the animal’s mind/body, passively experiencing what they experience
- actual control/guidance of that animal’s actions.
All 6 Stark children (including Jon) have gone through step 1; we know Arya, Jon, and Bran have experienced step 2; and Bran for sure has done step 3, possibly Arya as well. (It’s possible to skip straight to step 3, especially if you’re a powerful skinchanger, but the fight for control is much harder, and the animal may hate your presence within its mind.)
Now, like her siblings, Sansa had begun the skinchanging process, emotionally bonding with her wolf, but Lady’s death put an end to that for her. (Perhaps a psychically traumatizing one? Hard to tell, but since Bran uses Sansa’s losing her wolf as an excuse for her emotionally lost behavior, he may know something instinctively.)
It’s notable, though, that after Lady’s death, Sansa does not interact significantly with any animal while in the Red Keep. (Excluding, of course, the Hound, but I’m going to leave actual humans out of this for now.) Not the cats there, nor any dogs, not even the little birds we’re told ladies keep as pets. Even if her skinchanging potential was active, there was nothing for her to form a bond with. (Although she does go out hawking with Margaery once, but I think only once.)
But the moment Sansa does get a chance to interact with an animal, the old blind dog, she forms a bond almost immediately. “When she patted him he whined and licked her hand, and after that they were fast friends.” Within a week of her staying at the keep, the dog is already sensitive to her emotions (much like Lady), and tries to defend her, even as old and sick as it is. Unfortunately, she soon leaves Petyr’s keep for the Eyrie, and then we hear nothing of her interacting with any animals again. (Excluding Mya’s mules, I suppose.)
So… it’s likely Sansa has a lot of potential for skinchanging, but little to no opportunity. But the Gates of the Moon seems to be a much more socially active castle than the Eyrie, and perhaps she will get a chance… another dog, perhaps, or maybe a bird of her own. Sansa is strongly textually connected to both dogs and birds, so I believe there’s a strong possibility for her to form a bond with one or the other (perhaps both). I think it would be very interesting if she interacted with a maester’s ravens… that could also be a way for Bran to communicate with her, come to think of it…
(As for humans… well, we don’t know if anyone’s capable of that except the very strong skinchangers, like Varamyr and Bran. And human minds fight the mental control of another person, much harder than animals do, to the point of committing suicide if they can. And it’s notable that Bran only controls a human who can’t mentally fight that well, and it’s… really not a good thing. And despite his various sobriquets, Sandor Clegane is obviously not a dog in truth, so I don’t think Sansa’s connection to him had anything to do with her skinchanging potential. Note, it’s an interesting idea to explore, but I’d be very surprised if anything happened that way in the books themselves.)
Anyway, I really look forward to Sansa’s TWOW chapters. I hope we do get some of her storyline shifting from the political to the magical — so far she’s the only living Stark who’s remained almost entirely on the political storyline, and I can’t see that lasting forever. And seeing her bond with a dog, or find freedom in the skies as a bird, would be absolutely fascinating.
Some quotes, btw, that may or may not have future significance:
Dogs were the easiest beasts to bond with; they lived so close to men that they were almost human. Slipping into a dog’s skin was like putting on an old boot, its leather softened by wear. As a boot was shaped to accept a foot, a dog was shaped to accept a collar, even a collar no human eye could see. Wolves were harder. A man might befriend a wolf, even break a wolf, but no man could truly tame a wolf. “Wolves and women wed for life,” Haggon often said. “You take one, that’s a marriage. The wolf is part of you from that day on, and you’re part of him. Both of you will change.”
“Some skins you never want to wear, boy. You won’t like what you’d become.” Birds were the worst, to hear him tell it. “Men were not meant to leave the earth. Spend too much time in the clouds and you never want to come back down again. I know skinchangers who’ve tried hawks, owls, ravens. Even in their own skins, they sit moony, staring up at the bloody blue.”
He wished Robb were with them now. I’d tell him I could fly, but he wouldn’t believe, so I’d have to show him. I bet that he could learn to fly too, him and Arya and Sansa, even baby Rickon and Jon Snow. We could all be ravens and live in Maester Luwin’s rookery. That was just another silly dream, though.
Oh, all of this is so lovely. If Sansa ever skin-changed a bird, I would not stop screaming with delight. And there’s that quote from her last AFFC chapter:
By the time they finally reached her father’s castle, Lady Myranda was drowsing too, and Alayne was dreaming of her bed. It will be a featherbed, she told herself, soft and warm and deep, piled high with furs. I will dream a sweet dream, and when I wake there will be dogs barking […]
Dogs and birds. That’s where it’s at. I wasn’t aware that the word ‘warg’ only applied to wolves, too. That’s really good to know.
I’ve noted that several people who follow me for my ASoIaF / GoT art often post in-depth and very awesome analyses concerning the books and the show. If you think I’m talking about you, I probably am. I’m an excellent internet stalker.
You guys astound me with your attention to detail, and I’d love to discuss a million and one things with you pertaining to ASoIaF — but, for tonight, there’s one event in particular I’d love your opinions on.
“He’s attracted to her because she’s the thing he can never have.”
That’s straight from David Benioff’s mouth. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve read the same books.
Of all the reasons I can think of for Sandor to be attracted to Sansa, this one is almost completely off my radar. I never thought, reading ACOK, that he wants her because he can never have her. He wants her because she is the living, breathing testament to every story and song about knights and fair maidens he heard when he was a boy, before his brother shoved his face in that fire and burned away not only flesh, but idealism and honor and the possibility of something beautiful and real in an otherwise ugly world. Sandor is attracted to Sansa because she’s not just a pretty little bird who recites all the pretty little things she’s been taught to say. She has a mind and an opinion and she’s not afraid to show him that. He’s attracted to her because she’s offered him compassion and tenderness and empathy. He’s attracted to her because she reminds him that he’s more than just a dog.
Is there a small part of him that thinks he can never have her? I suppose it’s possible, but that didn’t stop him from waiting in her room and offering her protection and a way out of King’s Landing during the Blackwater Bay battle. If he truly thought he could never have her, would he have done that? Would he have waited around, knowing his life was now forfeit, if he didn’t believe in the possibility that Sansa might accept his offer and come with him?
No wonder the Sandor/Sansa dynamic was gutted so badly in the second season of GoT. At least half of the showrunner team is utterly without a clue.
You’re actually saying partly the same thing as Benioff, I think. Sandor wants the thing he can never have- that sweet innocence and hope that Sansa has. Compassion and a positive sort of strength, and a warm safe place- that’s what she is to him, and what he thinks he doesn’t deserve, and so he won’t have. He may want her and that goodness, but he doesn’t actually believe he can have it. He may have tried in Blackwater, when he was drunk and desperate, since he had just walked away from the king, a dangerous act. But I suspect he didn’t really believe she’d take him up on his offer.
Benioff is straight-up wrong about plenty of things but this isn’t one of them. It’s largely a matter of interpretation, so neither of the takes on it- yours or Benioff’s- is wrong.
Pretty much this. The whole clip is illuminating — the songs of knights and fair maidens, the “idealism and honor and the possibility of something beautiful and real in an otherwise ugly world” are the things Sandor feels he can never have, not anymore. He both wants Sansa for these reasons and is angered by these elements of her at the same time. His fundamental conflict in the first two books is the part of him that wants to have and protect these things, and the part of him that wants to break and destroy them, as he himself was broken, perhaps to prove to himself that those ideals were never real and he was a fool for believing in them.
And Sandor’s actions in Sansa’s room at Blackwater is the culmination of that mental conflict. His offer to take her home is never actually stated as such (book version, not show), and he takes her silence/misunderstanding as a rejection, far too easily — because, again, in his mind, someone like him could never have someone like her. He offers to protect her and yet threatens her with a knife; he says he’ll kill anyone that hurts her and yet one of the reasons he was in her room was out of that same mix of desire/destruction (yes, what he told Arya was incite her to kill him, but I believe there was a lot of truth there as well).
But in the end, Sansa’s idealism and goodness and empathy win out over his destructive urges, and Sandor leaves because he knows he’s too ruined and broken for her… tearing off the white cloak of the Kingsguard (knights and honor and protection, all his childhood dreams, torn and stained) as he goes.
Reason #36 that SanSan is meant to be subconsciously endgame:
(MAJOR SPOILERS FOR A STORM OF SWORDS + A FEAST FOR CROWS)Read more
I’ve always been struck by how similar-edging-on-identical these two scenes are, contrasting how Catelyn and Sansa both react to the same experience.
But I’ve never read anyone discussing this before, besides the ghost wolf, big as mountains quote. What do you think was the point in contrasting these two scenes? (To show Sansa’s bravery and potential?)
(Spoilers for A Feast For Crows)
My attempt at a book-canon Sandor c:
(you are more than welcome to delete my following ramblings if you want to reblog the pic!)
For me, the only mattering point of difference between Sandor in the books and Rory McCann’s portrayal of him comes down to “hate”. Rory plays a Sandor who’s got a secure lid on his… “issues”, shall we say. It’s is a valid interpretation, because for all his volatility there’s no hard evidence that Sandor hasn’t got himself in check.
But in my head-canon, Sandor is constantly a heartbeat away from completely losing it. He drinks himself blind so that he won’t smash Gregor’s face in first chance he gets, or Joffrey’s face, or Tyrion’s. His scenes from Sansa’s perspective show him at the moments he comes closest to snapping (which I believe has everything to do with her effect on him) — until finally he does snap during the Battle of Blackwater. The fire flips his switch, and no amount of alcohol will un-flip it, and when he realises that, what does he do? He goes to Sansa. I assume with confidence it’s the closest he’s come to being romantic in the entirety of his bitter little life.
It would’ve been so very interesting if Gregor had been in King’s Landing during the Battle of Blackwater. Who would Sandor have picked, I wonder? Probably Gregor. But then… perhaps not?
GRRM placing Gregor elsewhere at that point delays the decision we’re all dying to see Sandor make. There’s no doubt in my mind that’s what it will come to…
Gregor or Sansa. He can’t have both.
… Well, that was a tangent. What was I supposed to be talking about? Yeah — “hate”! Rory McCann is glorious, and I wouldn’t have any other Hound, but, in my mind, Sandor’s eyes are more pits of hell than they are big and beautiful and brown, and that most of all was what I wanted to capture with this sketch :)
Either way, I’d be on him in a second.
OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG
THIS. IS. PERFECT.
THOSE EYES! THE MANLY TEARS JUST ABOUT TO START FLOWING!
THE WONDERFULLY MUSCLED TORSO! THE DELICIOUSLY HAIRY CHEST! THE BIG HANDS, CLOSED AROUND THE POMMEL!
THE NOSE! THE SCARS!
THE OBLIGATORY SCOWL! I CAN ALMOST HEAR HIM RASPING “little bird” while being all melodramatic and conflicted and depressed and angry; I can see him mocking her and eyefucking her and hating himself for it; I can see him butchering people in a testosterone and self-hatred fueled rage.
Dammit, this is so wonderful I almost want to cry.
Yes, this is perfect. And focused on the scarred side, which is rather (surprisingly?) rare in accurate book-Sandor art. Mind you I don’t typically visualize book-Sandor with a beard (with stubble yes — but note fanfic can do whatever it likes), but it really works for him here, I think.
And why would I delete the ramblings? I like them. :) It’s interesting to compare book- and tv-Sandor, emotionally… I once theorized that the primary difference between the depictions is that what book-Sandor says, tv-Sandor thinks — which is a way to get around the fact he hasn’t had enough lines, but also, yes, a sign that he may have more of his rage under control. We’ll have to wait for the 3rd season to be sure of this, mind you.
Note regarding the Blackwater and Sansa, I’m not sure it was fully a romantic effort on Sandor’s side, as much as a need to find a better, truer master once he’d cast his lifetime allegiance aside. Of course there was also an element of desire there (and maybe an attempt at romance in the courtly knight-and-maiden sense), and it all got twisted up in his head, but it’s important to note that “I could keep you safe” means things on several different levels. And it’s Sansa’s apparent rejection of this offer (on all its levels), as well as Sandor’s own abandonment of one of his major life purposes (and of course his whole self-realization due to Sansa’s song and her touch), that sends him masterless and purposeless, wandering aimlessly and drunkenly through the Riverlands.
As for Gregor at the Blackwater, I don’t think Sandor would have picked him for certain. Sandor’s relationship with Gregor is interesting, in that he says he wants him dead and he wants to kill him… but when we have one example for sure of when push came to shove, at the Hand’s Tourney, Ned notes that Sandor did not aim his sword at his brother’s unprotected head. And it’s a good question why not (some think Sandor was hoping Robert would step in for justice there), especially considering his words to Sansa the previous night. But I think Sandor wants to pick his battle, so that it fulfills whatever need for justice he has, and apparently defending Loras wasn’t the right time or whatever. And even though I don’t have much context for it, I think that fighting Gregor at the Blackwater would also not have been a proper fulfillment of that particular life motivation. (Also, the fire and stuff. Very bad.)
And, personally, I also think there’s a buried part of Sandor that does not truly want to be a kinslayer, not the way that Gregor is. (4 times over at minimum, if you count the dead wives.) It’s one of the ways, that even with Sandor’s rage and love of killing, where he’s separate from his monstrous brother. And I think whether he consciously realizes it or not, he doesn’t want to go there directly, not even if he says he does.
-book!Sandor drawn by eeba-ism
-meta by nobodysuspectsthebutterfly
Yep, it all checks out. This may just be my favorite post on tumblr.
It looks like Headtrip and Mindset have been talking about how to write Sandor dialogue in fic while I was temporarily distracted? I would have reblogged your lovely commentary about how he doesn’t curse the way people think he does, but the posts I saw weren’t rebloggable. :/
To make it really easy to figure out how to write Sandor dialogue, HERE IS A HANDY POST WITH ONLY HIS DIALOGUE AND EVERYTHING ELSE CUT OUT.
Read it without the story distracting you, and you’ll probably notice a lot! Even with all the obvious “rasping voice” indicators taken out, GRRM managed to give Sandor a really aggressive, distinct way of speaking.
I’ll talk about it a little bit too much under the read more. Warning for pedantry and really vague spoilers for later books, but probably safe to read for anyone.Read more
[SPOILERS FOR A STORM OF SWORDS]
A dog can smell a lie, you know, the Hound had told her once. She could almost hear the rough rasp of his voice. Look around you, and take a good whiff. They’re all liars here, and every one better than you. She wondered what had become of Sandor Clegane. Did he know that they’d killed Joffrey? Would he care? He had been the prince’s sworn shield for years.
— A Storm of Swords, Sansa VI
This chapter of ASOS is so fascinating for so many reasons. (It’s the one with Lysa and Petyr’s wedding, and the old blind dog, and Sansa’s dream, and so on.) But I find this line in particular to be interesting in that:
- Sandor’s words keep coming back to Sansa, to keep her wary
- She wonders where he is, and how he’d react to Joffrey’s death.
And it’s interesting that she is the only character who thinks this way about him. Both Jaime and Cersei have thoughts about Sandor in AFFC, but note that’s after they hear word of the Saltpans massacre and their thoughts are mostly in reaction to that. And Arya also thinks of Sandor briefly in AFFC, but only about the situation in which she left him.
But Sansa thinks of him as a person, by name, and wonders about his feelings regarding someone he’d been close to for years. It’s certainly because of her empathetic nature, and the way she builds stories around people… but it’s interesting nevertheless. Especially because he is the only one of her King’s Landing connections that she thinks this way about, IIRC.
(Now, what’s really interesting is that when Sandor does hear about Joffrey’s death he doesn’t seem to give a shit… it’s the news of Sansa’s wedding to Tyrion that makes him sit down and get very drunk very quickly. But that’s a different post…)
Anyone have any thoughts on the UnKiss?
Way too many…..
there are people who don’t have thoughts about the unkiss?
I’m only slightly obsessed with the UnKiss.
SPOILERS FOR A STORM OF SWORDS
I think it’s interesting to remember that if this kiss truly had taken place, this kiss would have been Sansa’s first kiss.
The rest got lengthy, so I put it under a read more.Read more