I deleted this before, sorry - I’d accidentally posted it before I was done with it.
I’ve been writing this in-depth essay on Sandor Clegane’s character arc. It’s in a series of lessons because it’s really long and I didn’t want to be fatiguing. Some of the lessons go off topic in an effort to share interesting things that I figured out on my Sandor journey.
Like, for example, the first lesson has fuckall to do about Sandor. It’s about Jorah and Daenerys.
SANDOR STUDIES 101 - LESSON 1 - Daenerys & Ser Jorah & Jorah
I can’t explain cool things about Sandor (a non-POV character) without making heavy reference to the way GRRM uses his POV characters to manipulate his readers’ feelings and expectations about the non-POV characters.
We’ve all figured out already that GRRM’s POV characters tint your expectations as a reader about all the people they interact with. But I want to focus on something more specific - the POV character’s narrative will address other characters by different names depending on changes in their relationship, or on changes caused by outside events. This is a primary way that GRRM uses to manipulate the readers’ emotions about non-POV characters, using deliberate word choice.
Here. A really good example unrelated to Sandor Clegane. Take Ser Jorah Mormont. Did you ever notice the exact moment when Daenerys went from calling him “Ser Jorah” to just calling him by his first name, “Jorah?”
Me neither. I didn’t really think about it. But when I figured out that the names and nicknames given to secondary characters was deliberate and important while I was looking at Sandor (I’ll get to that in a second), I went back and looked at Jorah.
So you’re thinking, what. So Dany changed the mental name she called Jorah after he gave her those books or something, so what?
Wrong. The name change didn’t have anything to do with the gifting of glorious tomes. It happened at an important, key moment for Dany. It was the moment when Viserys turned to Jorah and said:
“Hit her, Mormont. Hurt her. Your king commands it. Kill these Dothraki dogs and teach her.”
The exile knight looked from Dany to her brother; she barefoot, with dirt between her toes and oil in her hair, he with his silks and steel. Dany could see the decision on his face. “He shall walk, Khaleesi,” he said.
Notice how when Dany is uncertain about what Jorah’s answer is going to be, her narrative calls him the exile knight in a very dispassionate, impersonal way - she isn’t certain he’s going to be her friend. But not two paragraphs later, you get her first instance of the name “Jorah” without honorifics. He’s passed the test and become her friend.
“He is proud. He may be too shamed to come back.”
Jorah laughed. “Where else should he go? If he cannot find the khalasar, the khalasar will most surely find him. It is hard to drown in the Dothraki sea, child.”
Oh and notice how it’s “Jorah laughed” - that combination of “first time first name use” and super positive body language. This is double deuce of a subconscious hint hint to the reader that this person is Somebody Dany Trusts.
((Also, here’s an interesting aside - do you remember when the word “fuck” was used for the first time in this series? It was deliberately saved to be used for the first time by Viserys. It was for the shock value, so it would stick out as really horrible and shocking when he said,
“I’d let his whole khalasar fuck you if need be, sweet sister, all forty thousand men, and their horses too if that was what it took to get my army.”
It was the first hint that this series was not going to be anything like Tolkien, and it was there to sucker punch you in the gut. I remember being quite shocked when I first read it because my mom was the person who bought me the book and I was surprised she bought me a book where people said fuck.))
So to recap:
GRRM uses the way his POV characters address his non-POV characters as a way to control how his readers relate to his non-POV characters. This is super important to remember when dealing with all the characters in the series, but especially with prominent non-POV characters like Jorah, Sandor, Littlefinger, Stannis, Loras, etc.
The only way we get to relate to these guys is through a POV character, and it’s important as fuck to remember the bias that goes on when viewing someone through another person’s eyes. And we’ll see how GRRM subtly manipulates the audience via word choice concerning them.
I’ll write a bit about a lot of the non-POV characters to illustrate this because I think it’s cool, but I’ll do a truly in-depth one on how GRRM does this with Sandor.