A Mother in Conflict: Catelyn Stark

Catelyn Stark by Amok

My son may be a king, but I am no queen … only a mother who would keep her children safe, however she could.

– Catelyn V, A Clash of Kings

 

As discussed in 
Radio Westeros E10 - A Mother's Madness

The first things we learn about Catelyn Stark are that she was born in the South and is uncomfortable in the Winterfell godswood. The first line of her first PoV chapter tells us that “Catelyn had never liked this godswood” and then goes on to relate that she was raised with the Seven. We get the strong sense early on that she is not entirely comfortable with the North and its gods. In fact, the Stark words give her a chill and she reflects, not for the first time, on “what a strange people these northerners were.”

On the other hand, we are given a picture of a close and caring marriage between two people who know and respect each other. Ned and Cat evidently share a deep love of family and each other, as illustrated by the empathy she shows Ned when delivering the news of Jon Arryn’s death. Then in spite of Ned’s apparent joy at the news of Robert’s visit, Cat’s distinct lack of it proves early on her sensitivity to foreshadowing, a quality we’ll see time and again in her, as she thinks of the story she has lately heard: “a direwolf dead in the snow, a broken antler in its throat.” The passage goes on: “Dread coiled within her like a snake, but she forced herself to smile at this man she loved, this man who put no faith in signs.” So we see both the bond Ned and Cat share in spite of their arranged marriage and the contrast between Ned’s rational and measured perspective and Cat’s more intuitive and visceral one.

As Cat’s story progresses we learn more about her upbringing in the Riverlands. The eldest of three children, she seems to have taken on both the eldest son’s role and the female duties in her family after her mother’s death, including traveling with her father to visit bannermen and watching for his return whenever he was away. She is presented as the dutiful daughter, accepting her early betrothal to Brandon Stark of Winterfell as a “splendid match.” We learn that the Tully words are “Family, Duty, Honor,” and Cat thinks to herself, “I have always done my duty,” specifically recalling when she accepted Ned in Brandon’s place.

Family is also very important to Cat. Her eventual identification of herself as a Stark is a progression that is shown throughout her arc, culminating in the final scene of her mortal life. But the ideals of Family and Duty can be in conflict, while Honor can mean different things to different people, as shown by the events leading up to the Red Wedding. In fact, it turns out the Tully words are very difficult to live up to fully. While Cat clearly tries to do so, the conflicts she encounters as the mother of Robb the King are often at odds with the ideals of Catelyn as a Tully and as the mother of the other Stark children.

As mentioned, Cat and Ned have a loving family relationship. This is obvious in their thoughts, as they both constantly think of the well-being of their children and of each other. En route to King’s Landing with Robert, Ned thinks, “He belonged with Catelyn in her grief,” and later, having arrived in King’s Landing, “He yearned for the comfort of Catelyn’s arms.”

Cat’s thoughts also often turn to Ned, initially seeking comfort and guidance, and later out of grief. Her feelings for him, as her grief at his loss makes plain, are profound. She reminisces about the connection she made with the “solemn stranger” that she wed, thinking, “I had love enough for any woman, once I found the good sweet heart beneath [his] face.

At the same time it’s clear that Cat’s children are her priority. In fact her roles — as mother, nurturer, protector, advocate and avenger — singularly define her role in the story. From the beginning of AGoT we learn that she is her children’s first and best advocate. She tells Ned in the godswood, “I am always proud of Bran,” and later when Ned thinks to refuse Robert’s offer, she is firm on one point: “You cannot. You must not. . . . He is a king now, and kings are not like other men. If you refuse to serve him, he will wonder why, and sooner or later he will begin to suspect that you oppose him. Can’t you see the danger that would put us in?”

It’s probably no accident that in that one brief exchange with Ned about Robert’s offer, the Tully ideals of Family, Duty and Honor are all referenced. Ned mentions his duties in the north, while Cat makes clear the danger refusal would bring to their family. They also disagree about the nature of the honors being offered. Cat is certain that Robert’s offer of the Handship and Joffrey for Sansa is meant as an honor. Ned sees it as a trap, and this minor discord leads to some bitterness as his dead brother’s shadow falls across their conversation. This conversation perfectly highlights the dilemma Cat will continue to face as the ideals of her House come into conflict with each other.

We see that Cat is resolved that Ned must go to King’s Landing, and the letter from her sister Lysa helps her make her case. With Maester Luwin’s help she is able to convince him that he must go south, cutting through his reservations based on his father’s and brother’s fates. She feels his pain but her children come first: “Catelyn’s heart went out to him, but she knew she could not take him in her arms just then. First the victory must be won, for her children’s sake.”

Ultimately her victory comes at a price when Ned tells her that he will take the girls and Bran with him. She has secured the future but has lost the present. In her loss she will not yield to Ned’s plea that Jon Snow be allowed to remain at Winterfell: “‘He cannot stay here,’ Catelyn said, cutting him off. ‘He is your son, not mine. I will not have him.’ It was hard, she knew, but no less the truth. Ned would do the boy no kindness by leaving him here at Winterfell.”

Cat is convinced that Jon must go, even at the expense of Ned’s heartache. For the first time we see Cat’s heart described as hard: “Catelyn armored her heart against the mute appeal in her husband’s eyes.” While Cat is recalled as “hard” by Jon on more than one occasion, some empathy on this score is due her. She has been placed in a seemingly impossible situation by her husband in the early days of their marriage, with his installation in their family of an infant more or less of an age with their own firstborn without a satisfactory explanation. We know from GRRM that Cat’s relationship with Jon is both tense and complicated. When asked about Cat’s perceived mistreatment of her husband’s bastard son, he replied:

“Mistreatment” is a loaded word. Did Catelyn beat Jon bloody? No. Did she distance herself from him? Yes. Did she verbally abuse and attack him? No. (The instance in Bran’s bedroom was obviously a very special case). But I am sure she was very protective of the rights of her own children, and in that sense always drew the line sharply between bastard and trueborn where issues like seating on the high table for the king’s visit were at issue. And Jon surely knew that she would have preferred to have him elsewhere.

Yet it’s important to recognize that months later she thinks back on this scene with mixed emotions. Upon meeting Mya Stone in the Vale “she could not help but think of Ned’s bastard on the Wall, and the thought made her angry and guilty, both at once.” It seems that Cat realizes her position with regard to Jon is uncharacteristically hard. She is pragmatically aware that it would not be in Jon’s best interest for Ned to leave him in her care, but she cannot help feeling anger (probably towards Ned for placing her in this position) and guilt.

In spite of their disagreement over Jon Snow, Ned ultimately leaves in her hands Winterfell and the shepherding of their eldest son into adulthood. But Bran’s fall from the tower answers Cat’s prayer that Bran remain at Winterfell. Her subsequent descent into despair can only have been fueled by the guilt she feels about her prayer being answered in such a way. When at long last, the attack on Bran’s life by the catspaw assassin brings her out of her despair and anger she finds herself ashamed at her behavior, thinking, “She had let them all down, her children, her husband, her House. It would not happen again. She would show these northerners how strong a Tully of Riverrun could be.”

She is still identifying as a Tully, a southerner, but we see glimmers of a desire to identify with the North. For now, it’s clear that first and foremost in her mind is her Family, and the Duty that comes along with that commitment.

Cat’s encounter with the catspaw not only underlines her role as protective mother but also offers some key foreshadowing of her arc to come. Cat learns the lesson of the direwolf as protector here, something that will haunt her later on as her children face dangers without these valuable guardians at their sides. Her inability to speak and hysterical laughter prefigure both her final scene and descent into madness at the Twins and her inability to speak as Lady Stoneheart.

Most significantly Cat nearly has her throat cut by the assassin, beginning an association with her and throats. From this scene to her defense of herself in the face of attack by the mountain clansmen en route to the Vale to the sad fate of Jinglebell Frey, we see a progression of Cat, throats and violence that will culminate with Lady Stoneheart. Cat will actually recall this moment during the dark climax of the Red Wedding, drawing a clear line back to this event as the beginning of a dramatically different type of motherhood.

Catelyn’s decisions after this event also move her into a more active role in northern politics and place her on the agonizing path she will follow for the rest of her natural life. She keeps her children’s best interests in her heart but will henceforth be faced with a series of dilemmas in which her only options frequently leave her in a double bind. She resolves to travel to King’s Landing to bring word personally to Ned, but in so doing she must leave her sons behind. Even upon arriving in the city, her faint hopes of seeing her girls are dashed by the need for secrecy, and she departs back to the North having had only the briefest of visits with her husband.

Ned proves his continued faith in her when he gives her instructions for the defense of the North:

Once you are home, send word to Helman Tallhart and Galbart Glover under my seal. They are to raise a hundred bowmen each and fortify Moat Cailin. Two hundred determined archers can hold the Neck against an army. Instruct Lord Manderly that he is to strengthen and repair all his defenses at White Harbor, and see that they are well manned. And from this day on, I want a careful watch kept over Theon Greyjoy. If there is war, we shall have sore need of his father’s fleet.

During her return journey, Cat makes what is possibly the most fateful decision of the series when she takes Tyrion Lannister into custody at the Inn at the Crossroads. Much has been said about her actions here. Certainly she fails to heed the counsel of both her husband, who urged her to return to Winterfell posthaste and gave her instructions to deliver to his bannermen, and Petyr Baelish, who reminded Ned and Cat that “The Imp will no doubt swear the blade was lost or stolen while he was at Winterfell, and with his hireling dead, who is there to give him the lie?” Littlefinger went on to advise them to toss the dagger into the river and forget it.

But, as noted, Catelyn Stark is first and foremost a mother. Recent events have also led her to identify more with the north than she seems to have in the prior fifteen years of her marriage. A classic example of how a Stark would choose to deal with the Imp is seen in Ned’s line to Littlefinger: “I am a Stark of Winterfell. My son lies crippled, perhaps dying. He would be dead, and Catelyn with him, but for a wolf pup we found in the snow. If you truly believe I could forget that, you are as big a fool now as when you took up sword against my brother.” Perhaps, when she is confronted with Tyrion at the Inn, her maternal instincts to protect and avenge her children leads her to choose a path that seems like what Ned would do. Certainly she has only a split second to decide, as she thinks here: “There was no time to think it through, only the moment and the sound of her own voice ringing in her ears.” That her actions are in keeping with her increasingly northern identity is borne out by Tyrion’s thoughts when he finds himself on the High Road to the Vale: “All his life Tyrion had prided himself on his cunning, the only gift the gods had seen fit to give him, and yet this seven-times-damned she-wolf Catelyn Stark had outwitted him at every turn.”

While it’s really impossible to predict what might have happened if Cat hadn’t encountered Tyrion at the inn, we cannot ignore the fact that the seizure of Tyrion Lannister has dire consequences for all those Cat holds dear. Whatever conclusions the reader draws about her actions, it seems clear that she ultimately draws the blame upon herself. The early stirrings of Cat’s cognitive dissonance are seen by Tyrion himself when he notes “a flicker of doubt” in her eyes in the face of his protestations of innocence. Cat begins to doubt herself in other ways too, following her departure from the Vale: “Catelyn had fought to keep herself strong, for Ned’s sake and for this stubborn brave son of theirs. She had put despair and fear aside, as if they were garments she did not choose to wear . . . but now she saw that she had donned them after all.”  Later her fears are clearly spelled out, along with a renewed determination to become a northerner once and for all:

“She feared for her lord father, and wondered at his ominous silence. She feared for her brother Edmure, and prayed that the gods would watch over him if he must face the Kingslayer in battle. She feared for Ned and her girls, and for the sweet sons she had left behind at Winterfell. And yet there was nothing she could do for any of them, and so she made herself put all thought of them aside. You must save your strength for Robb, she told herself. He is the only one you can help. You must be as fierce and hard as the north, Catelyn Tully. You must be a Stark for true now, like your son.

Following Whispering Wood, when word reaches them of Ned’s execution, her fears coalesce into true despair. She blames herself for her husband’s death and the mortal peril her daughters are now in: “It was your doing, yours, a voice whispered inside her. If you had not taken it upon yourself to seize the dwarf . . .”.

In the meantime, Cat has taken on the role of adviser to her son. While she tries to give him the space to make his own decisions, it is she who impresses upon him the importance of acceding to Lord Walder’s demands. Her thoughts reveal that she seeks wisdom from her husband’s example. When she volunteers to parley with Lord Walder alone in the Twins, there is chilling foreshadowing of her fate to come: “‘Lord Walder is my father’s bannerman. I have known him since I was a girl. He would never offer me any harm.’ Unless he saw some profit in it, she added silently, but some truths did not bear saying, and some lies were necessary.”

In that final phrase we see an echo of Ned’s thoughts in King’s Landing: “Some secrets are too dangerous to share, even with those you love and trust.” Much has been said about Ned Stark’s honor. His eldest daughter declares to herself, “My father always told the truth,” and Robert Baratheon mocks his friend with “You never could lie for love nor honor, Ned Stark.” But in his arc, and now in Catelyn’s as well, we see the idea that lying can be necessary. This seems at odds with ideals of northern honor, but we see time and again the theme of protecting children at any cost in Ned’s arc. This is clearly a philosophy that both Ned and Cat deploy with the best interest of their family in mind, illustrating again the difficulty of negotiating the Tully words.

As we saw with Ned when he was willing to deliver a false confession to the Lannisters to save his daughter, Cat reveals herself willing to go to any lengths to get her daughters back during the council with Robb’s bannermen: “I will mourn for Ned until the end of my days, but I must think of the living. I want my daughters back, and the queen holds them still. If I must trade our four Lannisters for their two Starks, I will call that a bargain and thank the gods.”

When the lords of the North and the Riverlands fail to heed her plea for peace, Cat finds herself despairing. She is wondering if she will be able to save her girls at the point when Greatjon Umber, swiftly followed by all the other lords, declares her son the King in the North. What follows must seem the death of hope, as every lord in the room rejects the Lannisters and the Iron Throne and vows to fight on in Robb’s name for honor, for revenge, and for independence.

When Robb, newly made King, sends Cleos Frey as an envoy to King’s Landing, a behind-the-scenes exchange reveals that Robb has begun to move away from his mother’s advice. He refuses to offer Jaime Lannister in exchange for his sisters, making the much less attractive offer of Willem Lannister and Tion Frey. Cat knows that Cersei will not agree and there is a bitter disagreement. Her harsh words wound Robb, and in her guilt she thinks, “Gods be good, what is to become of me? He is doing his best, trying so hard, I know it, I see it, and yet . . . I have lost my Ned, the rock my life was built on, I could not bear to lose the girls as well . . .

Despair and self-doubt are clearly replacing Cat’s earlier confidence and conviction. When she thinks about Ned’s bones returning to the north, her thoughts make it clear: “Living men had gone south, and cold bones would return. Ned had the truth of it, she thought. His place was at Winterfell, he said as much, but would I hear him? No. Go, I told him, you must be Robert’s Hand, for the good of our House, for the sake of our children . . . my doing, mine, no other . . .”.

She tries to reassert herself as adviser but perhaps due to their persistent disagreement over the hostage exchange, fails to make it clear that Ned’s final orders were to keep a close eye on Theon Greyjoy. Rather than firmly reminding her son that it was his father’s wish that Theon be kept close, she argues from her own perspective:

“I’ll say again, I would sooner you sent someone else to Pyke, and kept Theon close to you.”

“Who better to treat with Balon Greyjoy than his son?”

“Jason Mallister,” offered Catelyn. “Tytos Blackwood. Stevron Frey. Anyone . . . but not Theon.”

Her son squatted beside Grey Wind, ruffling the wolf’s fur and incidentally avoiding her eyes. “Theon’s fought bravely for us. I told you how he saved Bran from those wildlings in the wolfswood. If the Lannisters won’t make peace, I’ll have need of Lord Greyjoy’s longships.”

“You’ll have them sooner if you keep his son as hostage.”

“He’s been a hostage half his life.”

“For good reason,” Catelyn said. “Balon Greyjoy is not a man to be trusted. He wore a crown himself, remember, if only for a season. He may aspire to wear one again.”

Robb’s insistence on Theon’s loyalty, even to the point of forgetting his own righteous anger over the scene with the wildlings in the wolfswood, seems a stubborn reaction to an interfering  mother. The reader is left to wonder if Catelyn has done her duty in relaying Ned’s message clearly, or if the fraught situation has led to a breakdown of communication between mother and son.

Nonetheless, it is Cat who Robb chooses to send as an emissary to Renly Baratheon — perhaps because he cannot spare anyone else, but also because there are so few people who he can trust. Here we see the genesis of the northern plan to lure Tywin Lannister from the fastness of Harrenhal. While the plan would ultimately fail, it should be noted that it is Cat herself who originally suggested the means of drawing Lord Tywin into the field to her uncle.

As a reluctant emissary to Renly’s host in the south, Cat’s weariness with conflict shows clearly when she thinks, “I want to weep . . . . I want to be comforted. I’m so tired of being strong. I want to be foolish and frightened for once. Just for a small while, that’s all . . . a day . . . an hour . . .”. Furthermore, her frustration with the southron chivalry she encounters highlights her increasingly northern identity. In a reversal of her earlier aversion to the Stark words, she tells Lord Rowan and Brienne that she pities the young knights of Renly’s army “[b]ecause they are the knights of summer, and winter is coming.”

After failing in her diplomatic mission and witnessing the breakdown of relations between Renly and Stannis, she seeks the comfort of her gods on the eve of their battle. She prays for her family, but her despair is once again plain: “I have come so many thousands of leagues, and for what? Who have I served? I have lost my daughters, Robb does not want me, and Bran and Rickon must surely think me a cold and unnatural mother. I was not even with Ned when he died . . .”.

Following Renly’s death, she has what may be a premonition of the danger her son is facing when she recalls the words of Stannis Baratheon: “I am the rightful king . . . and your son no less a traitor than my brother here. His day will come as well.” Given what she witnessed in Renly’s tent, it’s probably not surprising that “a chill [goes] through her” when she recalls the naked threat. En route back to Riverrun, she tells Brienne, “My son may be a king, but I am no queen . . . only a mother who would keep her children safe, however she could.” This crystallizes everything Cat has done in her arc so far. Faced with dilemmas and impossible choices, she attempts to do her duty, to choose the path that Ned would take or that honor would dictate. What she has found, to her sorrow, is that these ideals can be impossible to live up to fully. As in that scene with Ned when she convinced him to accept Robert’s offer, she has learned that keeping family first can come at a price. Not unlike Jaime Lannister, whose passionate speech about conflicting vows is delivered to Cat herself, she finds herself torn: “[w]ould that there were five of me, one for each child, so I might keep them all safe.”

Here is the root of Cat’s dilemma: she is continually forced to choose between actions that might benefit one child at the expense of another. Her long exposure to this type of double bind wears ever more heavily upon her. Her inner doubts become more pronounced, as do her weariness and grief. Up until now, in spite of her weariness and doubt, she has maintained what Brienne identifies as “ . . . courage. Not battle courage perhaps but . . . a kind of woman’s courage.” Now, the contrast between her reactions to Bran’s fall, the attack by the catspaw, and her time with Robb could not be more stark. We begin to see her despair in nearly every thought.

She recalls Sansa’s excitement at court life: “I told her there would be singers at the king’s court, though. I told her she would hear music of all sorts, that her father could find some master to help her learn the high harp. Oh, gods forgive me . . .”. In the face of military victories, she thinks, “But if we are winning, why am I so afraid?

But it is the news from Winterfell of the deaths of her youngest sons that drives her to her knees: “I am become a sour woman . . . . I take no joy in mead nor meat, and song and laughter have become suspicious strangers to me. I am a creature of grief and dust and bitter longings. There is an empty place within me where my heart was once.” Besides being a possible allusion to her future as Lady Stoneheart, this statement captures Cat’s inner viewpoint for the rest of her arc. From here onward, nearly all of her inner musings are tinged with grief, remorse and self doubt. She tells Brienne: “I was certain the boys would be safe so long as the direwolves were with them. Like Robb with his Grey Wind. But my daughters have no wolves now.” It seems clear from her tone that she blames herself for this, as she feels personally responsible for their being in King’s Landing. She reminisces about the girls to Brienne — Sansa, who is with the Lannisters, and Arya, who she thinks is dead. It is this that leads her to tell Brienne, in both a chilling foreshadowing of her deeds as Lady Stoneheart and a poignant mirror of Arya’s “prayers”, “I want them all dead, Brienne. Theon Greyjoy first, then Jaime Lannister and Cersei and the Imp, every one, every one.”

When Cat releases Jaime Lannister and sends him to King’s Landing to procure the release of her daughters, the more sympathetic of Robb’s bannermen deem her act “a mother’s madness.” While this may indeed be true, Cat refuses to shy away from responsibility for the massive gamble she took with Robb’s only bargaining chip: “I understood what I was doing and knew it was treasonous.” Yet as her own brother takes steps to retrieve the Kingslayer, numerous others offer words of sympathy. In fact the storm might have blown over if not for two critical events. When Robb returns from the Crag with his new wife in tow, events are already in motion to bring about his downfall. But it is the rage-filled act of revenge by Rickard Karstark, precipitated by Cat’s release of Jaime, that ultimately seals the fate of the northern army. If the Karstarks had not abandoned Robb, the fracturing of his army would not have left him in such a weak position that he has no choice but to humble himself to Lord Walder and offer his uncle Edmure in his place.

When the dead squires Tion Frey and Willem Lannister are laid in front of Robb, Catelyn wonders: “Does he see Bran and Rickon as well? She might have wept, but there were no tears left in her. . . . Will they lay Sansa down naked beneath the Iron Throne after they have killed her?” When an unmoved Rickard Karstark speaks of a father’s vengeance, her fears and horror merge into one thought: “I did this. These two boys died so my daughters might live.

Following her father’s death and the grievous news of the burning of Winterfell, Cat’s and Robb’s thoughts turn again to the north. Once more Robb finds himself in need of Lord Walder’s crossing, and plans are laid for the retaking of the north. Cat is resolved to be a northerner, realizing that her example will be critical to her son’s success: “The northmen did not lack for courage, but they were far from home, with little enough to sustain them but for their faith in their young king. That faith must be protected, at all costs. I must be stronger, she told herself. I must be strong for Robb. If I despair, my grief will consume me.

Yet her grief and guilt persist as she reflects back upon her discussion with Lynesse Hightower, the erstwhile wife of Jorah Mormont, about being a southron lady married into the north:

One night, after several cups of wine, she had confessed to Catelyn that the north was no place for a Hightower of Oldtown. “There was a Tully of Riverrun who felt the same once,” she had answered gently, trying to console, “but in time she found much here she could love.”

All lost now, she reflected. Winterfell and Ned, Bran and Rickon, Sansa, Arya, all gone. Only Robb remains. Had there been too much of Lynesse Hightower in her after all, and too little of the Starks? Would that I had known how to wield an axe, perhaps I might have been able to protect them better.

As her fears threaten to overwhelm her and her sense of dread mounts, when Robb raises the issue of his succession, she tells him: “Nothing will happen to you. Nothing. I could not stand it. They took Ned, and your sweet brothers. Sansa is married, Arya is lost, my father’s dead . . . if anything befell you, I would go mad, Robb [emphasis mine]. You are all I have left. You are all the north has left.”

Throughout her arc, Cat has displayed remarkable fortitude in the face of tragedy: her father and husband dead, her sons thought to be dead, her sister lost to her, and her daughters as well. She has attempted to embody the words of her House, though they are often at odds with one another, given a mother’s priorities. She has despaired at her failures and mistakes and lamented that she could not defend each and every one of her children with her bare hands, as she had once done for Bran. She has in fact embodied the quest of the writer to explore the human heart in conflict with itself. But in the face of it all, she has moved ever closer to being a northerner for true, and maintained a stoic face and steady bravery — all for the sake of her eldest son, the King in the North. When it finally came to a mortal threat to his life, the last of her family, her thoughts are exactly what one might expect of her at this point: “Catelyn did not care. They could do as they wished with her; imprison her, rape her, kill her, it made no matter. She had lived too long, and Ned was waiting. It was Robb she feared for.” In that final scene she proclaims not only her Tully honor but also her Stark honor as well, the honor that would do anything to protect a child.

As we see in that most emotional scene in the series, the Red Wedding, her thoughts in the end are all for Robb and for the others already lost to her. Only when all is truly lost does Cat give herself over to the “madness of grief, a mother’s madness,” that has been foreshadowed in her arc.

The Sun and the Moon: The Sisterhood of Sansa and Arya Stark

arya_and_sansa_by_arashell-d4toyh1

art by Arashell

The following essay first appeared in a slightly different form on the Pawn to Player thread at westeros.org, as a part of their Female Influences project. Reprinted here with many thanks to PtP co-hosts Milady of York and brashcandy for involving me in this endeavor.

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, 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 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 …” AGoT,, chapter 22

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.”

Bravery:

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

Honesty:

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

Leadership:

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

Judgment:

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.

Loyalty:

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

Another important point of intersection in their arcs occurs during Arya’s time in the Riverlands: their respective interactions with Sandor Clegane. This intersection may well have great significance in their future arcs. Certainly he is a figure that looms large in both their lives for a time, and his exit from each girl’s story is closely tied to the theme of mercy.

In Storm, we remember Sansa praying for the Hound before the Battle of the Blackwater:

“…and finally, toward the end, she even sang for Tyrion the Imp and for the Hound. He is no true knight , but he saved me all the same, she told the Mother. Save him if you can, and gentle the rage inside him. ACoK, chapter 57

And of course, she delivers his “song”, the Hymn of the Mother which is all about mercy, in their final interaction.

After he seizes Arya, in their confrontation with Polliver and the Tickler, the Hound finds out that the little bird has flown King’s Landing:

“A pretty girl, I hear,” said the Tickler. “Honey sweet.” He smacked his lips and smiled. “And courteous,” the Hound agreed. “A proper little lady. Not like her bloody sister.” ASoS, chapter 74

He sees the clear difference (even invoking shades of the shield and sword metaphor, when he refers to Sansa’s courtesy and Arya as “wolf girl”) but he appreciates and identifies with both.

Arya’s “mercy” is of a different sort. Foreshadowed by this, after she leaves his name out of her “prayers”:

Sandor moaned and she rolled onto her side to look at him. She had left his name out too, she realized. Why had she done that? She tried to think of Mycah, but it was hard to remember what he’d looked like. She hadn’t known him all that long. All he ever did was play at swords with me. “The Hound,” she whispered, and “Valar morghulis.” Maybe he’d be dead by morning… ASoS, chapter 74

Finally at the end, harking back to Eddard’s statement that the one who passes the sentence should wield the sword:

“Do it! The gift of mercy … avenge your little Michael …” “Mycah.” Arya stepped away from him. “You don’t deserve the gift of mercy. ASoS, chapter 74

As we see with Dareon, Arya has no trouble wielding her blade when she has determined that death is deserved. In this case, what she must really be saying then is that the Hound does not deserve to die. In her interactions with the Hound, Arya moves a bit closer to Sansa’s position.

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, echoing the Kindly Man’s statement to Arya, 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 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.

The Bloody Cloak

sandor_sansa_by_hedgehog_in_snow

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.

The Maiden in the Tower/Grail Maiden: An Arthurian reading of Sansa Stark

alayne

art by akizhao

The following essay was originally posted in the Pawn to Player thread at Westeros.org. Pawn to Player is devoted to re-reading and literary analysis of Sansa Stark’s story arc.

In mythology and legend, the tale of the abduction and captivity of a princess is an archetype that conveys one of the central mysteries of chthonic cults, that of rebirth and regeneration, at the same time that it reassuringly conveys the balance of masculine and feminine. At the narrative heart of the abduction myth is the theme of the captive princess. This tale becomes in the telling increasingly complex and distant from its chthonic origins. However, all tales of rescuing a damsel in distress have their roots here.  Early in Sansa Stark’s story arc she travels to King’s Landing as the bethrothed of Prince Joffrey Baratheon and takes up residence in the Tower of the Hand. From there, as events progress, she becomes a captive in the upper reaches of Maegor’s Holdfast. After a short period of release, which is spent as an unhappy wife, she is taken away once more, this time alighting (ultimately) in the Maiden’s Tower of the Eyrie, from which she emerges during her final chapter in Feast.  Our little bird has spent the final months of her girlhood in a cage, represented by a succession of towers. Her periods of controlled release, while in themselves stagnant, can be seen to represent the fruition of growth in her arc, as in this poignant reminder from Ser Osmund as she descends from her chamber in Maegor’s for the final time:

“Do as you’re told sweetling, it won’t be so bad. Wolves are supposed to brave aren’t they?” Brave. Sansa took a deep breath. I am a Stark, yes, I can be brave. “

ASoS, chapter 28

Compare with her descent from the Eyrie where she has found a bravery of a different sort:

Sansa Stark went up the mountain, but Alayne Stone is coming down … Alayne was an older woman, and bastard brave.”

AFfC, chapter 41

The well-known story of Persephone, torn from her mother’s protection by Hades, the god of the underworld and forced to remain as his wife for a part of each year after partaking of the symbolic pomegranate, is at once a tale of regeneration and balance. In the Persephone myth, Demeter spends the months of her captivity searching in vain for her daughter while the landscape (the fertility of which is dependent upon her, the goddess of the harvest) grows increasingly barren and lifeless. Persephone’s ingestion of the pomegranate seeds ties her irrevocably to the underworld, and forces her annual return to her position as the consort of its ruler. We see echoes of this in Catelyn Stark, as Lady Stoneheart, searching in vain for her daughters in the wasteland that the Riverlands has become. Then too there is this scene that marks the beginning of Sansa’s second captivity

“Petyr cut a pomegranate in two with his dagger, offering half to Sansa. ‘You should try and eat, my lady.’

‘Thank you, my lord.’ Pomegranate seeds were so messy; Sansa chose a pear instead…”

ASoS, chapter 68

In choosing the much less symbolically fraught pear, Sansa rejects the cyclical captivity of Persephone for a more temporary version.

We also find a version of the captive princess theme in H.C. Andersen’s famous atmospheric tale The Snow Queen. In Andersen’s story, the young boy Kai is taken by the wicked Snow Queen to her fortress in the far North where he is ultimately rescued by his innocent young friend Gerda, who proves the power of love to conquer evil. There is early foreshadowing of Sansa’s role as the captive princess in AGoT and the tale of the Hand’s Tourney. Cersei, who has yet to reveal her true colors to Sansa, quarrels publicly with Robert at the evening feast. Note the description of Cersei:

“The queen’s face was a mask, so bloodless that it might have been sculpted from snow.” AGoT, chapter 29

Here we are given clear notice that Cersei is hiding her true self (behind a mask) and her future role as captor in the description that so closely echoes the description of the Snow Queen when Kai first beholds her

“She was delicate and beautiful but made of blinding, glimmering ice.” H.C. Andersen, The Snow Queen: Second Story 

The union of Hades and Persephone can be seen as a hieros gamos, or sacred marriage, where the representative of the Earth annually marries a sacrificial king in order to secure a bountiful harvest, with the hidden, underground aspect of Hades representing the potential of fertility, while Persephone represents the culmination of fertility. The hieros gamos is present in many world cultures, perhaps most significantly in Britain, where some have speculated that the union of King Arthur and Gwenhwyfar draws on ancient British traditions involving the sacrificial king and the triple goddess, as evidenced by references to three Gwenhwyfars in the Welsh triads. All these tales hold in common the idea of a union between masculine and feminine which harks back to the earlier mysteries. But it is the tale of Arthur’s Gwenhwyfar which represents the union of the chthonic themes of Persephone with the romantic notion of the damsel in distress. The Arthurian scholar Roger Sherman Loomis finds that behind the tradition of Gwenhwyfar’s abduction by Melwas (alternatively Meleagant in Chretien’s The Knight of the Cart) lay a myth of “the Persephone type” with the important distinction that Gwenhwyfar is held captive in a tower on an island that stands in for the fairy underworld of the early Welsh Arthurian tale The Spoils of Annwn. In The Knight of the Cart Meleagant challenges Arthur to send his Queen to him with a knight. If he defeats the knight in single combat, he will release a number of Arthur’s subjects whom he holds captive. Arthur sends Gwenhwyfar with his foster brother Kay, who is defeated and Gwenhwyfar is seized and imprisoned. Gawain and Lancelot also set out, separately, to attempt a rescue. Gawain comes upon Lancelot walking behind a cart whose dwarf driver tells him to get in if he would have news of the Queen. Lancelot hesitates for two steps because the cart (or pillory) is a mode of transport reserved for criminals and not befitting a knight. He does mount, in most interpretations owning his treasonous affection for the Queen, and thereafter passes every test of his devotion to her. Ultimately he slays Meleagant and restores the Queen to her husband. Arthur however is diminished, in the same way the annual king of the hieros gamos must be as his year wanes.  At the Tourney of the Hand we are introduced to Sandor as Sansa’s rescuer, when Joffrey commands him to escort her back to the castle. During their brief journey together we learn that Sandor’s early longing to be a knight has been transformed into utter scorn for the institution by his vicious brother’s elevation to that rank. He has become instead the Lannisters’ guard dog, illustrated by his “snarling” and “growling” speech. Yet he foreshadows his future as her personal knight errant when he climbs into the back of a cart with her and returns her to her father’s protection. Just as the tale of The Knight of the Cart symbolizes Lancelot’s willingness to stain his knightly honor in the defense of his true love, so Sandor’s story starkly illustrates that true knights aren’t necessarily without flaws and that rescue can come from places unlooked for.

Running in tandem with themes of sacred love, regeneration and rescue we have the Grail legend. While the sacred marriage tells of the need to maintain balance between masculine and feminine, the Grail legend tells of a distressingly out of balance relationship. Psychiatrist Emma Jung finds in the Grail legend a collective meditation on the particular problems of the medieval society– that the masculine, in particular the warlike masculine, has been elevated at the expense of the feminine at the same time that the dark side of divinity has been denied. By stripping away the mysteries of the Earth mother and making sexuality something to be despised rather than revered and throwing up in its place the snow white image of the Virgin, whose “pure” procreation is at odds not only with the human psyche but with the very reality humans lived from day to day, medieval society (led by the Catholic church) created a psychic wound in the collective that could only be healed through a metaphoric journey to reclaim the feminine. In addition, the separation of light and dark in the divine element simultaneously led to a rift between the sacred and the profane that could not be resolved. To be fair, Jung never claims that the medieval mindset was aware of any such thing. Rather this is the work of a collective unconscious, which brings us to the image of the Grail castle.  The Grail castle, according to Jung, can be seen as an expression of that archetypal concept of the unconscious. The Grail itself, hidden away in the castle, represents the Self, the spiritual experience of wholeness and the process of achieving balance between the conscious and unconscious which is present in all people. The Grail Maiden then is the guardian of Self, while the Fisher King (the Lord of the Castle) represents the wounded unconscious who must die or be healed for the good of the collective, or as Emma Jung put it “the Grail King is, as it were, the archetypal image of Christian man as he is viewed from the perspective of the unconscious.” (Jung and von Franz, The Grail Legend )

In The Snow Queen, Kai receives two kisses from the enchantress. The first makes him forget the cold while the second makes him forget his family. To apply Jung’s ideas to Kai, he becomes lost in a wasteland, out of touch with his Self and with a deeply wounded consciousness.  After Robert’s death, with her father set to remove her and her sister from danger, Sansa disobeys her father and chooses the warmth of the south over the cold north of her birth by going to Cersei seeking help. She ends up a prisoner in the highest tower of Maegor’s Holdfast while Lannisters arrest her father and slaughter his household.  After her second audience with Cersei days later she is convinced to write letters to her family requesting their continued loyalty to King Joffrey. When she returns to her tower room that evening she realizes she has forgotten to ask about her sister. Sansa has received the equivalent of the boy’s two kisses from her own enchantress and become a prisoner in her heart as well as her body. The transformation is symbolically complete when Sansa, dressed in mourning (she has dyed her stained white gown black) kneels on the cast off Kingsguard cloak of Ser Barristan Selmy to plead for her father’s life. Her innocent Self, represented by the white gown, has been wounded, as represented by the blood orange stain. Yet she covers this wound with black dye and presents herself to the Lannisters as their captive, kneeling on the symbol of their disregard for knightly honor (the cast off cloak) In truth, Sansa’s life has gone from song to nightmare quicker than Littlefinger can remind her that life is not a song. So begins her season of despair and torment. Her chapters in Game end with Sandor saving her from pushing Joffrey off the ramparts, and a surprisingly tender moment as he wipes the blood, caused by Ser Meryn’s blows, from her face.

“’Thank you,’ she said when he was done. She was a good girl and always remembered her courtesies.”

AGoT, chapter 67

Her disillusion is complete, but she has learned the valuable lesson that, pawn though she may be, she can find protection in a lady’s courtesy.

While the tale of the Fisher King reimagines the hieros gamos, Perceval’s quest represents the need to connect with the Self, to ask the questions that provide one with a numinous experience of one’s inner center.  That the numinous, or spiritual, must needs be a balance between masculine and feminine, light and dark is what has been lost. To accomplish his quest, he must save the Fisher King by asking the question which reveals the Grail (“Whom does the Grail serve?”) Perceval takes many wrong turnings and fails to save the Fisher King on their first encounter. As renowned Jungian analyst Roger Woolger puts it: “The wound of the Fisher King is the medieval image of that damaged consciousness and the terrible alienation from the Earth Mother it has wrought.” Or to put it another way “The Christian fear of the pagan outlook has damaged the whole con­sciousness of Man.” (D.H. Lawrence, Apocalypse)

The quest then, is a search for sensuality and balance that has been denied. Perceval, the pure simple youth in touch with the sensual, is the only Arthurian figure to truly achieve the Grail through his quest(ion)ing. (For more on Perceval and his parallels to Sandor, see this essay by Ragnorak at Westeros.org.) On the eve of the Battle of the Blackwater Sansa’s relationship with the Hound comes full circle when he breaks during the inferno and seeks refuge in her chamber. In his extremity he offers to take her with him as he flees the city. She finally delivers the song he has been demanding, in that moment inverting their relationship and becoming his saviour, transforming herself from Gwenhwyfar (the captive) into the Grail maiden, the song representing the answer to the question he has asked her many times but not in the correct way until this moment. Sandor suffers from a psychological wound that terrifies her at the same that she possesses the sole power to heal it. It can be no accident that the proposed matches to Willas Tyrell and her cousin Robert Arryn (which precede the actual matches with Tyrion and Harry the Heir) will prompt her to begin to misremember her final meeting with Sandor, fabricating a romantic kiss where none existed. In a further inversion, Sansa now resembles The Snow Queen‘s Gerda, rather than the captive Kai:

“’I can give her no greater power than she has already,’ said the woman; ‘don’t you see how strong that is? How men and animals are obliged to serve her, and how well she has got through the world, barefooted as she is. She cannot receive any power from me greater than she now has, which consists in her own purity and innocence of heart. If she cannot herself obtain access to the Snow Queen, and remove the glass fragments from little Kai, we can do nothing to help her…’”

Andersen, The Snow Queen: Sixth Story

Sansa’s arc in Clash is marked by the continuation of her torment at Joffrey’s hands which at the same time brings about a period of growth and strengthening that can best be compared with Persephone’s months outside of the Underworld of her husband. On the other hand, most of her chapters in Storm represent a period of stagnation which compares with Persephone’s months of captivity with Hades. It is a time of waiting.  She has moments of hope, but overall is in stasis- waiting to be whisked away first by Dontos, then by the Tyrells. After her forced marriage to Tyrion she seems resigned to her fate:

“Tyrell or Lannister, it makes no matter, it’s not me they want, only my claim.”

ASoS, chapter 28

As Gwenhwyfar was rescued from Meleagant’s tower by her white knight (Lancelot) only to be returned to her unhappy marriage, so is Sansa escorted to from Maegor’s to her union with Tyrion by a pair of white knights (Ser Osmund and Ser Boros) For that matter, in her final descent from the Eyrie she is accompanied by Sweetrobin in his white bearskin cloak. Of note is that this chapter and her future descent from the Eyrie deal with the subject of Sansa’s marriage and the Stark maiden cloak as a powerful symbol of her identity as Princess of Winterfell.  In both, there is someone standing in stead of her father who does not have her best interest at heart. Also in both, the groom or proposed groom is a mere surrogate for a larger interest. Sansa has learned to her sorrow that those who wish to claim her are mostly interested in her real estate.  The presence of the white cloaks in both chapters also serves to draw attention to the missing white cloak of the only masculine figure in her life who has no interest in her “claim” and stands as her true protector– Sandor Clegane.

Joffrey’s wedding day dawns with Sansa waking from a dream of Winterfell. When she looks out her window she sees an amazing castle in the clouds– two castles actually, which soon merge and become one. Like another castle associated with Sansa, much analysis has been applied to this scene. In terms of Sansa’s longing the merging of the two cloud castles into one which resembles her home can only represent her unconscious need to continue to be a Stark (her True Self) which is in contrast to her conscious thought moments later

“They have made me a Lannister, Sansa thought bitterly.”

ASoS, chapter 59

The end of the cloud castle passage is also highly reminiscent of this passage from The Waste Land:

“What is that sound high in the air

Murmur of maternal lamentation

Who are those hooded hordes swarming

Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth

Ringed by the flat horizon only

What is the city over the mountains

Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air

Falling towers

Jerusalem Athens Alexandria

Vienna London

Unreal “

T.S.Eliot

Sansa’s own wasteland is her perpetual entrapment. Her unconscious longs for home and to rediscover her Self. Her conscious mind, in spite of brief moments of hope which reveal the Self waiting to be discovered, focuses on her continued captivity.  Sansa’s upset stomach on Joffrey’s wedding morning can no doubt be attributed to nerves as we later learn that she has hidden clothing in the castle godswood, preparatory to her escape in the aftermath of the wedding. She goes to the Lannister wedding on the arm of her Lannister husband telling herself

I must be brave, like Robb

ASoS, chapter 59

The allusion to Robb holds high significance when the parallels with the RW are considered. Sansa has reached an ending, like her brother, and at this wedding a king will die and a new chapter will begin, furthering the parallels with the myth of sacrifice and regeneration.

As Sansa prepares to embark on her journey into the unknown with Dontos, like Gwenhwyfar fleeing her death sentence with Lancelot, she dons a deep green cloak with a large hood. Worrying that the pearls on her bodice will gleam in the dark she reassures herself “The cloak will cover them.” The attention is drawn back to Sansa sheltering under another cloak, on another night

“She shook out the torn cloak and huddled beneath it on the floor, shivering”

ACoK, chapter 62

Sandor has rejected the cloak for symbolizing his failure to her (“I stood there in my white cloak and let them beat her”) but we know that to Sansa the cloak is inevitably the symbol of protection

“She had dreamed of her wedding a thousand times, and always she had pictured how her betrothed would stand behind her tall and strong, sweep the cloak of his protection over her shoulders, and tenderly kiss her cheek as he leaned forward to fasten the clasp.”

ASoS, chapter 28

The cloak is a powerful metaphor of protection. By donning it, she unconsciously acknowledges Sandor’s power to protect her, even as she continues to deny his “knighthood.”  As she unknowingly moves to her new captivity she hides Sansa Stark in a Grail Castle of her own making, as will be seen when she arrives in the Vale.

Gwenhwyfar endures two captivities in most versions of the legend. In the first, her abduction by Melwas, there is much posturing but the real danger seems to be to the knights who present themselves as her protectors (usually Kay, Gawain and Lancelot) In much the same way, Sansa’s time in King’s Landing is marked by danger and defeat to her father, her brother, her husband and ultimately even Sandor and Dontos. In contrast, Gwenhwyfar’s second captivity with Mordred is marked by real sexual menace. In the final tale of the Vulgate Cycle, Mort Artu, the elements of rescue and imprisonment in a tower are separated. Arthur discovers Gwenhwyfar’s affair with Lancelot and condemns her to burn. Lancelot rescues her and transports her to his castle, Joyous Garde. In the process of the escape, Lancelot inadvertently slays Gawain’s brother Gaheris and sets up the next episode in the drama: the betrayal of Mordred (Medraut). Lancelot flees Arthur’s rage, returning to his own lands in France and incidentally once again returning Gwenhwyfar to her husband. Here we have echoes of Dontos, the well intentioned savior who ultimately returns Sansa to captivity when he delivers her to Littlefinger. Arthur and the vengeful Gawain follow him there, leaving Arthur’s kingdom vulnerable to seizure by Mordred. Sly, untrustworthy and calculating, Mordred lurks in the background until Arthur’s attention is occupied elsewhere, at which time he swoops in and seizes the Queen and the Crown. In like manner Littlefinger keeps himself “offstage” until the attention is briefly directly away from Sansa (by a plot allegedly of his own device) at which time he swoops in (almost literally, on a fast ship) and bears Sansa away to her second captivity. Unlike the distinctly liminal (in spite of Joffrey’s childlike threats and her marriage to Tyrion) sexual nature of her time in King’s Landing, her time in the Vale is marked not only by a sexual awakening of sorts, but by true sexual menace in the form of her natural “father.”  As we saw increasingly in her months in King’s Landing, her thoughts remain her own, but she struggles against the pressure for her to be Alayne Stone in her mind and her heart. Her final chapter in Storm begins, as did her final day in King’s Landing, with a dream of Winterfell. As she wakes she reminds herself

“I am Alayne Stone, a bastard girl.”

ASoS, chapter 80

In spite of her conscious thought, she remembers Winterfell as home and the sight of snow falling on the Eyrie brings her back “to cold nights long ago, in the long summer of her childhood.” When she enters the Eyrie’s garden, she finds “a place of whites and blacks and greys.” The imagery of Winterfell is visceral, but it doesn’t end there, as she begins to build a snow castle which she soon realizes is Winterfell. When Petyr discovers her within the castle walls, he asks her “May I come into your castle, my lady?” There are clear sexual connotations here, with the childhood game “Come Into My Castle” seeming to be a Westerosi version of games in which children mimic adult behavior including, though certainly not limited to, the sexual aspects of marriage and adult relationships. Sansa is wary of his intent, but allows him to help her. In a moment of playfulness she throws snow in his face. When he scolds her for being unchivalrous she replies “As was bringing me here, when you swore to take me home.” While his response to this comment leads Lady Lysa directly out the Moon Door, it is her internal response that is so significant: “She wondered where this courage had come from, to speak to him so frankly. From Winterfell, she thought. I am stronger within the walls of Winterfell.” Here she recognizes the power of Winterfell, her own Grail Castle, to nourish her Self.

While her first chapter in Feast begins with a memory of Winterfell and she is still clearly Sansa in her thoughts, her final two chapters illustrate the increased pressure for her to be Alayne all the time. Scholars debate over whether Gwenhwyfar’s abduction by Mordred is a symbolic “wife stealing” (a theme not unfamiliar to the denizens of the North) or an otherworldly abduction (as the Melwas interval clearly is). In the same way that doubt arises over Gwenhwyfar’s intentions during the affair with Mordred (was she willing or was she forced?) we begin to wonder if Sansa will become complicit in Littlefinger’s plans (in particular his plans for Sweetrobin.) In this case we must be content to speculate on the outcome, since the arc is incomplete. What is clear is that as Alayne descends to the Vale, she has grown in ways that we cannot yet fully appreciate. She has become practiced at deception, yet remains Sansa in her heart, in spite of her repeated thoughts and internal exhortations to the contrary. She has grown in strength as well, and in hope. The act of literally descending from a period of growth to what is most likely going to be a period of stasis (“I must be Alayne all the time, inside and out“) has strong elements of Persephone returning to Hades. Like Persephone, Sansa must put aside her true identity for a time and dance with “the devil.” If indeed Sansa Stark is the Persephone of this story, we have the symbolic foreshadowing of her ability to rebuild the dynasty of her family and regain her Self in the snow castle scene. To engage in a bit of prediction, it is easy to imagine her declaring her Self as Gwenhwyfar does in William Morris’ poetic reimagining and seeing her song come true at last because, although life is not a song, Sansa holds a unique position in the Song of Ice and Fire. The maiden in the tower has a knight who has not only been her savior, but whom she has saved as well. The balance of the two would seem to ensure that one day they will be reunited, as certainly if not as romantically, as Gwenhwyfar and Lancelot are:

“She leaned eagerly, And gave a slight spring sometimes, as she could

At last hear something really; joyfully Her cheek grew crimson, as the headlong speed

Of the roan charger drew all men to see, The knight who came was Launcelot at good need.”

William Morris, The Defence of Guenevere

 

Works Cited:

Loomis, Roger Sherman (2000). The Development of Arthurian Romance. Dover Publications. ISBN 9780486409559

Jung, Emma and Marie-Louise von Franz. The Grail Legend.  Translated from the German. Princeton University Press. 1998. ISBN  0691002371

Andersen, H.C. The Snow Queen, from The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen, translated by D.C. Frank and Jeffrey Frank. Houghton Mifflin Co. 2003. ISBN 0618224564

William Morris, The Defence of Guenevere

http://www.bartleby.com/42/727.html

T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

http://www.bartleby.com/201/1.html

D.H. Lawrence, Apocalypse. Page 86.

http://books.google.com/books?id=qpIqaYHpQj0C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Woolger, Roger, http://www.deepmemoryprocess.com/page33.html

Various elements of the Arthurian cycle are referenced here including Chretien de Troyes, Sir Thomas Malory, The Mabinogian and the Welsh Triads. Modern works also consulted include those of Mary Stewart, Marion Zimmer Bradley and Rosemary Sutcliff.

Websites of interest:

http://www.jungatlanta.com/articles/winter06-the-grail-legend.pdf

http://www.heroicage.org/issues/1/habcg.htm

http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot-project

http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Persephone.html