The Bloody Cloak

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art by hedgehog in snow

This essay originally appeared at Westeros.org, in “Pawn to Player: Rethinking Sansa XXI” and was co-written by Westeros contributor and PtP co-host Milady of York.

 As has often been discussed in the Pawn to Player threads, the cloak is highly significant as a symbol of protection and comfort in Sansa Stark’s arc. In particular: the white Kingsguard cloak belonging to Sandor Clegane, which is missing and unaccounted for after that brief line in ASoS (chapter 6) in which she reveals she “had his stained white cloak hidden in a cedar chest beneath her summer silks.”

Or is it? We now present our favorite theory about what happened to Sandor’s discarded and bloodied Kingsguard cloak, as inspired by earlier work for PtP.

Let’s start by enumerating Sandor Clegane’s cloaks: apart from the Kingsguard one, only two other cloaks belonging to him are noted in the books. In AGoT, we find him associated with a bloody cloak for the first time:

There was something slung over the back of his destrier, a heavy shape wrapped in a bloody cloak. “No sign of your daughter, Hand,” the Hound rasped down, “but the day was not wholly wasted. We got her little pet.”

AGOT, Ch.16

It’s to be noted that the colour of this cloak isn’t mentioned at all, though we can speculate that it could’ve been crimson, for two reasons: Sandor is a Lannister man whose liege lady is Cersei, and the Lannister guards and men-at-arms wear crimson cloaks as a sort of uniform, and also because his presenting the cut down body of Mycah to Lord Eddard is reminiscent of Tywin presenting the bodies of the Targaryen babies murdered by Gregor to Robert in a bloodied crimson cloak.

Then, at the Hand’s Tourney, Sandor wears an olive-green cloak when he saves Ser Loras from his monstrous brother:

Sandor Clegane was the first rider to appear. He wore an olive- green cloak over his soot-grey armor. That, and his hound’s-head helm, were his only concession to ornament

AGOT, Ch. 30

This is the only time the colour of Sandor’s cloak is noted, other than the Kingsguard white, and in contrast to the white and the red which are like uniforms, this appears to be his own personal garment.

When he joined Joffrey’s garde de corps, he would give Sansa his white cloak when she was beaten and stripped in public, which is the first demonstration on Sansa’s part that she finds his cloak comforting. The scene in ACoK where Sandor visits Sansa’s chambers after he breaks during the fiery Battle of Blackwater, should be familiar to most readers. When he has taken his song he departs, leaving his discarded cloak behind for Sansa to pick up:

She found his cloak on the floor, twisted up tight, the white wool stained by blood and fire […] She shook out the torn cloak and huddled beneath it on the floor, shivering.

ACOK, Ch. 62

In ASoS, as Sansa flees King’s Landing, she dons a deep green cloak with a large hood in the castle godswood to cover the brightness of the pearls on the bodice of her brown dress.

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 deep green, with a large hood.

ASOS, Ch.61


Interestingly, Sansa has another dark cloak, a grey cloak, which may have served quite well to cover her in this occasion:

Sansa threw a plain grey cloak over her shoulders and picked up the knife she used to cut her meat. If it is some trap, better that I die than let them hurt me more, she told herself. She hid the blade under her cloak

ACOK, Ch.18

But instead of donning that one, she chose a green cloak. We propose the reason behind this is that it’s the Kingsguard cloak. Sansa has dyed Sandor’s white cloak green to cover the blood stains. We know she has used this tactic to cover “blood” stains in the past; in AGOT we read that Arya hurled a blood orange at her sister in a fit of anger and ruined her lovely new ivory silk gown:

. . . 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 […] The blood orange had left a blotchy red stain on the silk.

AGOT, Ch. 44

And when next we see that gown, Sansa has come up with the solution to dye it black; ostensibly as a symbol of royal mourning, but in reality to cover the stains left by the blood orange, and she wears it when she goes before the court to plead for her father:

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.

AGOT, Ch.57

The answer to the question “why green?” is twofold. First, and on a practical level, bloodstains that have failed to wash out of white fabric can often have a greenish cast, especially with wool or silk, in which case the removal of bloodstains is even harder than for other fabrics, and both Sansa’s dress and Sandor’s cloak are tailored precisely from these materials. Second, Sandor wearing the green cloak at the Tourney occurred the morning after their first significant interaction, so Sansa would have reason to remember his attire that day. Green and brown, with soot-grey are Sandor’s usual attire when he wasn’t armoured. At Joffrey’s nameday tournament he wore brown under his Kingsguard cloak, which wouldn’t be lost on Sansa either:

The white cloak of the Kingsguard was draped over his broad shoulders and fastened with a jeweled brooch, the snowy cloth looking somehow unnatural against his brown rough-spun tunic and studded leather jerkin. “Lady Sansa,” the Hound announced curtly when he saw her. ACok, ch.2

So the brown dress under the remade Kingsguard cloak is a perfect mirror of Sandor’s garb. The fact that she uses the green cloak to shield herself is so symbolically perfect that the conclusion almost writes itself.

Regarding the parallel of the brown and green color scheme, it’s been noted that following Eddard’s execution, Sandor entered Sansa’s chamber in similar attire:

“See that you bathe and dress as befits my betrothed.” Sandor Clegane stood at his shoulder in a plain brown doublet and green mantle, his burned face hideous in the morning light. Behind them were two knights of the Kingsguard in long white satin cloaks.

Sansa drew her blanket up to her chin to cover herself. “No,” she whimpered, “please… leave me be.”

“If you won’t rise and dress yourself, my Hound will do it for you,” Joffrey said.

“I beg of you, my prince.”

“I’m king now. Dog, get her out of bed.”

Sandor Clegane scooped her up around the waist and lifted her off the featherbed as she struggled feebly. Her blanket fell to the floor. Underneath she had only a thin bedgown to cover her nakedness. “Do as you’re bid, child,” Clegane said. “Dress.” He pushed her toward her wardrobe, almost gently.

AGoT, ch. 67

Finally, following his flight from King’s Landing and seizure of Arya and reminiscent of the soot-grey armor from the Hand’s Tourney, a similar color scheme:

The big bad-tempered courser wore neither armor, barding, nor harness, and the Hound himself was garbed in splotchy green roughspun and a soot-grey mantle with a hood that swallowed his head. ASoS, ch. 50

We don’t think it’s an accident that these colours are repeatedly associated with Sandor Clegane. Sansa mirroring Sandor’s colours in her choice of attire during her flight from King’s Landing is, for us, a sign of great significance rather than random chance.

On the matter of the hood, we don’t know for certain that Sandor’s white cloak had a hood or not, but it’s likely that it didn’t since ceremonial cloaks were of the “cape” type and generally didn’t have hoods. We would suggest that if it did not, although Sandor most likely ripped a strip from the bottom of it to use as a bandage (“Sansa heard cloth ripping…”), we should remember that he stands well over a foot taller than Sansa, so it was a large piece of cloth and it’d be easy for a young lady known to be clever with her needle to cut a cloak down and fashion a hood from the pieces.

In fact, we were able to piece together a bit more, after the discussion on westeros. During the period between the Blackwater and her marriage to Tyrion, Sansa spends quite a bit of time with the Tyrells. Even as Cersei orders a new wardrobe to be made for her (a gown, smallclothes and hose, kirtles, mantles and cloaks…) Sansa and the Tyrell girls:

…spent long afternoons doing needlework and talking over lemon cakes and honeyed wine […] Sansa wondered what Megga would think about kissing the Hound, as she had. ASoS, ch.16

With the confusion of a team of eighteen seamstresses working in her chambers and the Tyrell girls to provide camouflage, surely at some time during this interval Sansa could have found the means to remake the cloak. One poster even noted that the Tyrell color is green, so how easy to use flattery to obtain the necessary dye to disguise her keepsake!

A couple of other interesting notes from the westeros discussion: many posters noted the parallel between Sansa using her needle to create a shield and Arya’s potential use of Needle as self-protection. It was observed by PtP co-host brashcandy that Sansa retained the amethyst hairnet from the Purple Wedding, in the pocket of the green cloak, possibly turning it from shield to weapon (or at the very least, sheath) Finally, yolkboy observed that hoods are used by many characters to conceal their identity. In my essay on Sansa’s Arthurian themes I asserted that Sansa became a Grail Maiden (guardian of Self) for Sandor on the night he left the cloak in her chambers. Also, that as she fled KL she donned the green cloak not only as protection, but as her own symbolic Grail Castle in which to hide her identity. The concept of the Grail Castle as the unconscious where the experience of Self may be discovered is a cornerstone of Jungian interpretation of the myth. We see this borne out in her chapters following the flight, as her true identity is increasingly subject to her assumed identity. How appropriate it will be then if the cloak does become instrumental in her reassertion of her true identity.

As a closing thought, it’s noteworthy that after Sansa reveals that the cloak has been hidden away under her summer silks, she doesn’t think of it again until this passage:

As the boy’s lips touched her own she found herself thinking of another kiss. She could still remember how it felt, when his cruel mouth pressed down on her own. He had come to Sansa in the darkness as green fire filled the sky. He took a song and a kiss, and left me nothing but a bloody cloak

AFFC, Ch.41

This indicates to us that she has the cloak still, since she doesn’t mention what became of it nor give any indication that it is lost to her. Since we know that she only took one cloak with her as she fled King’s Landing, we shall now say with confidence, quod erat demonstrandum.

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