Playin’ with Ice and Fire – A Game of Thoughts | Sansa Stark Chapter 15

She’s new, I’m the re-reader. Together we are rereading George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones and getting our POV on. First Sansa Stark chapter!

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A Game of Thrones Chapter by Chapter Read and React

Elena –

This was a chapter that didn’t really give me a whole lot to speculate about, because whatever salient points in the larger plot came in with the three-knight escort are still obscured for me. So I spent my reflecting time on this chapter on a more personal level trying to decide how I feel about Sansa, and her way of looking at the world, and some of the other characters now that I’ve seen them a bit more up close and personal.

Up front, I do not dislike Sansa the way I dislike her mother. (At least, not yet.) I didn’t even go into this chapter particularly predisposed to dislike her based on her interactions with my girl Arya, because siblings picking on one another and feeling put-upon and victimized by their sister’s/brother’s behavior is just part of being a sibling when you’re growing up. So I was willing to take Sansa on her own terms. As far as that went, well, I didn’t dislike her. In fact I felt sorry for her by the end of the chapter, but it’s that pitying kind of sympathy, the one that I’m bestowing on her in a condescending sort of way. I don’t relate to her. At all.

Seeing the world as she sees it made me roll my eyes at her; I found her insipid, and annoying as a cultural construct (the sort of delicate, women are to be protected and to obey the orders given to them by those they’re answerable to, and to follow the societal strictures to the letter for fear of being “different” type). So I didn’t like her, either, but she seemed harmless, if a little pathetic, and I felt sorry for her at the end of the chapter when she has her illusions shattered. She hadn’t really done anything to deserve that.

On the other hand, it’s an unkind world to people who live inside of illusions, so perhaps it’s best she learn that now. I hope she’s got enough of her father in her to survive it and become strong enough to deal with the world–that would make her infinitely more interesting as a character and as a woman–but she might be too fragile to do anything except become embittered and a permanent victim of a cruel world. (I have known women of this type who ended up that way, so I see it as a distinct possibility.) If that happens, any current sympathy I have will wither faster than her hopes and dreams. I am way too practical, pragmatic, and realistic to waste time caring about someone who isn’t strong enough to roll with the punches.

Speaking of people who can, though, let’s talk about Arya. I was already inclining to like her, and I like her even more after this chapter. I like that she isn’t afraid to make friends outside of her station, and I like that she doesn’t waste time on idle daydreams but sets about to make something happen. I love that she won’t take any shit from a bully.

I found Sansa’s resentment of Arya’s ability to flout the rules to be interesting. It smacks of which parent has the controlling interest in each of them. Sansa is their mother’s favorite, so she is encouraged to be a lady and actively discouraged from being anything else; she has also probably from a young age been taught to self-identify as Catelyn’s daughter (rather than Ned’s), so she has absorbed her mother’s values and perspectives as her own. And 11 is not really old enough to have started questioning them yet as part of the transition to adulthood. Arya, on the other hand, is Ned’s favorite girl, and has learned to self-identify as her father’s daughter.

Was this a conscious thing on either his part or Arya’s, or something that happened because of Catelyn’s focus on Sansa, possibly to the exclusion of Arya? Sansa’s comment about Arya having the Stark coloring, of being small and brown, is laced with derision–who the hell could she have learned that attitude from except her mother? Which implies that either consciously or sub-consciously, Catelyn mocked Arya to Sansa; the only question is, did she do it because Arya was drawn to her father, or was Arya drawn to her father because her mother rejected her?

As a former DLG (daddy’s little girl), myself, the concept of seeking approval from Father and using that as a shield against Mother’s displeasure resonates with me. Because she has Ned’s approval, Arya either isn’t punished for her behavior or doesn’t really feel chastened even if she has to jump through the hoops of a punishment doled out by someone with Catelyn’s value system. Thus she is allowed, either explicitly or implicitly in that a punishment not accompanied by Ned’s disapproval means little to her, to go off and grub with the butcher’s boy, get dirty roaming the countryside, and ignore summons to ladylike engagements.

Ned either thinks it’s funny or harmless in a girl that young, or it shows him that she is a girl after his own heart and he takes pride in that. Either way, it’s all the permission Arya needs to keep pursuing her own interests rather than the ones her social status dictates she should have.

Honesty does compel me to admit that while I was like Arya as a child and still identify with her on an emotional level, the truth is most of my choices now are Sansa style. Which is not to say that I won’t ever get dirty or that I can’t rough it without complaint–or really even thinking twice about it–just that, 9 Saturdays out of 10, I’m not doing anything that will break a nail or require me to wash my hair again. If you met me, unless I’m wearing a dress that shows my knees (covered with scars from various bike wrecks and other accidents), I don’t think you would guess how wild and dirty my childhood was.

I think I was more a tomboy because I wasn’t really given girly things to do than because it was truly my natural inclination. Or maybe it was my natural inclination as a kid, but one that I grew out of later as I grew into my sexuality and adult sense of self. So, as I think I said in the last Arya chapter, I’m quite curious to see what Arya is like when she’s older–if she will become a lady at least on the surface but be more interesting than her sister because she has a depth of world experience Sansa doesn’t, or if she will forever be something of an outsider.

One last thing on Arya–she has revealed to Sansa that she is practicing swordplay. I was very happy she didn’t have Needle with her, but I worry that in the aftermath of this incident one of the adults might search her things and take it away from her. Or would Ned be a liberal enough father that he would actually give his daughter an instructor?

Finally, to the last person I want to talk about, which is Joffrey. To repeat Tyrion’s oh-so apt phrase: what a little shit. He had moments where he seemed all right, though it was hard, given the filter of Sansa’s projections, for me to decide if he was really sincere or just behaving as he had been taught. But he was quite charming to stand up for her to the knights who had ridden in, and it seemed like he was maybe enjoying taking her out for a ramble.

The point where things went bad was when he decided to act the bully, either to show off for Sansa or because it is simply who he is, and instead found himself mauled by Arya’s wolf and divested of his prized sword. I think that was good for him; but how he responds to it will depend on whether he’s just a spoiled boy or truly a nasty one. I honestly couldn’t tell. There’s a part of me that wants to hope for the best for him, that thinks his last look of “pure hatred” is really not hatred of Sansa but hatred of his own humiliation in front of her. That part thinks that getting knocked down a time or two will be nothing but good for a prince who will be king. Perhaps no one has ever stood up to him, and if that’s the case I can’t really blame him for his attitude; he is what he has been taught to be, and in that case all I can judge him on is whether he learns from this incident.

But there is also a part of me that thinks he might be inherently cruel and bullying, and that getting knocked down will only make him hate the person who did it, and learn nothing except to be even more cruel in retaliation.

The one moment that made me wonder, is this a seed for future plot complications?, was Sansa’s reaction to the king’s brother, thinking him the handsomest knight she’d ever seen.  She gonna toss over sociopath Joffrey at some point?  One can only hope….

All in all, I’m curious to see what the results of this little altercation are for each of the people involved. And as a general note, I find it a subtle piece of storytelling that most of the chapters that make me think politically are from the adults, not the kids.

– Readers, if leaving a comment for Elena please direct (@Elena) them at her – and lead your comments with your messages for her.  Please do not direct spoilers at her. Thanks!

–Do not read on if you have not read the series through A Feast for Crows and want to avoid spoilers–

Jay –

I’m prepping this for final posting and I’m watching the NBA Dunk Contest (which I thought was pretty wack) and I just heard Charles Barkley say,”if a pretty girl dumb it don’t matter”. That’s a great intro for a Sansa chapter, one that’s seemed very short to me.

I like Sansa.

I always have. Or rather, I was probably initially indifferent but when confronted with pervading opinion of her, it  made me view her more closely on later rereads. I think that by A Feast for Crows some may have turned around on her  (I think she’s on the verge of gangster). I want to stress “initially” because it’s key to the fluff (majority) portion of  my breakdown of this chapter. It’s important because I was what I’d call an epic virgin when I first read A Game of Thrones.

No, not in that way, but what I mean is that I picked up Thrones totally on my own, having never heard of it or any praise of it before—it was pre-net for me.

This means a couple of things. One, I entered this series blind of hype, never having heard of it before the day I saw it at a public library. Two, because of this I was not forewarned that I had to pay special attention to Fantasy, that I didn’t have to take my epic at face value, even if a pretty one. Epic Fantasy was no longer just post-Tolkien, it now had another notch defined on the timeline: pre-Martin. Indeed, Martinesque would become a word long searched for since. I no longer had to be Sansa.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Sansa is the kid all parents are proud of. She’s exactly and exceeds all mothers and fathers of position would want from their first born (or any) daughter. We knew people like this in high school, the rich girl in school who made good grades, was the local in-crowd and an obvious hottie, both presently and in-waiting (mother’s hot). We know Sansa is not just a pretty face and that she excels in all things she’s supposed to excel at (except numbers).

She’s done everything asked of her and doesn’t seem a bitch about it—she’s taken on responsibility and it payed off in the biggest way possible: she’d wedding into the royal line. I think this is very important when considering future occurrences because Sansa has to feel justified in what she had “accomplished” so far in her life. We all know people like this in high school and often these people share this similar trait of lacking what we call street smarts. Sansa has no reason to not believe that she has conquered life. She did what she was told was important, graded high, and got the best job. I know some may argue it, but given where she was in the beginning, I kind of like and even admire how she’s taken her lumps.

That’s the extent I want to get into Sansa outside of this chapter (so we don’t get repetitive) but would just add that unlike her mother, she has the excuse of being a child and having no reason not to trust the guidance of her parents and Septa.

It is the extremely dramatic situation she’s placed into that exposes her, but I see no reason why she wouldn’t have been an ideal lady of some holding that wasn’t on a collision course with being in the middle of a war. Thus far we’ve been given a couple of “reasons” to possibly not like Sansa beyond simple vanity (a trait I have no issue with if it’s properly backed), namely, the way she treats Jon and Arya. I guess what should be noted is that she feels and has probably been told that she is right/correct. Her own mother, a high born lady like she herself is, doesn’t appreciate Jon’s presence.  She doesn’t dislike Arya, she just wants her to be more like her (I.E. “right”) and their interaction doesn’t exceed rather base sibling interaction.

If we accept Cateyln’s treatment of Jon it’s not a stretch to do the same for Sansa, though I think the former’s is more personal and the latter’s reasoning is more about form, though one  she has had little reason to question.  So, sure, Sansa is limited but not because of her own doing. Arya rebels because she’s not “Ideal”, is a tomboy, who should be a lady and a potential Princess. Sansa is in some sense potential realized, to the extent that is asked of her (or if you want to drag it out to woman in general in this setting).

What I find very interesting is that Cersei , while certainly less good natured to begin with, shares this ascension and a part of me wonders if there was purpose to her treatment of Sansa because of what happened to her own fairy tale (be it with the failed Rhaegar proposal or how her marriage with Robert turned out). They were both promised Kings that they didn’t get.

Speaking of, Joffrey leaves little doubt of his bitchiness. We get that early and it doesn’t stop. Yet, it is through Sansa viewing him:

He took her by the arm and ledher away from the wheelhouse, and Sansa’s spirits took flight. A whole day with her prince! She gazed at Joffrey worshipfully. He was so gallant, she thought. The way he had rescued her from Ser Ilyn and the Hound, why, it was almost like the songs, like the time Serwyn of the Mirror Shield saved the Princess Daeryssa from the giants, or Prince Aemon the Dragonknight championing Queen Naerys’s honor against evil Ser Morgil’s slanders. The touch of Joffrey’s hand on her sleeve made her heart beat faster.

And

It was a glorious day, a magical day. The air was warm and heavy with the scent of flowers, and the woods here had a gentle beauty that Sansa had never seen in the north. Prince Joffrey’s mount was a blood bay courser, swift as the wind, and he rode it with reckless abandon, so fast that Sansa was hard-pressed to keep up on her mare. It was a day for adventures. They explored the caves by the riverbank, and tracked a shadowcat to its lair, and when they grew hungry, Joffrey found a holdfast by its smoke and told them to fetch food and wine for their prince and his lady. They dined on trout fresh from the river, and Sansa drank more wine than she had ever drunk before. “

…that we are reminded that this non-fantasy (but really) fantasy has a romantic perspective and history. We got the Old Nan references earlier and now we get another part of history told in almost a fairy tale manner.

Not everything is “stark”. Giants? Dragonknight? Champions? Mirror Shield? It sounds awesome, much like Sansa would on description, but we do not yet know they’re depth, and though we are with Sansa in some manner almost throughout the series, we don’t truly start testing the surface of the water, I feel, until A Feast for Crows.

Sansa strikes me as someone who felt that her life would be storybook, she worked hard to give herself the chance, so I just have this feeling we are going to get something big from here because while on the surface (and perhaps beyond) she may seem the most nonessential of the Stark brood, or the one we least want to see grand things from (Jon and Arya I think have proven themselves to be fan favorites, and Bran kind of has this built in odd, cripple destiny thing going on) but I find myself wanting Sansa to get her mention in some other young girl’s dreams or stories later and I don’t much care that it will no doubt leave a false impression, mostly because I know those stories at some point had value.

“The battleground is right up ahead, where the river bends. That was where my father killed Rhaegar Targaryen, you know. He smashed in his chest, crunch, right through the armor.”

The setting here is kind of important. We now know what kind of shit Joffrey is but it must have stung even worse for the boy who has daddy issues to have got his ass kicked by a girl near the same spot where he just told Sansa that his dad gained the crown by killing the continent super pimp, Rhaegar Targaryen. If we believe Joff sent the killer too kill Bran for reasons involving his father, this entire episode had to be even a bigger embarrassment, one that we couldn’t at first possibly know the gravity of and it better explains  his maltreatment of Sansa even beyond the normal level of cruelty he for sure had in him anyway.

Bully is a right word. He picks on dwarfs, girls, and Mycah (thoughI”d bet only when he had steel, as I’m taking a butcher’s son knuckle to knuckle against Joff–though that is a total guess, Joff was/is described as tall and graceful, so he could be a natural athlete.)   It’s also striking as a reread item in terms of giving us an early example of how un-Robertly he is. For sure, we know that many true sons are not their father’s reflection (a classic example with Sam in this very series) but since we know this is part of a significant plot intrigue it does now ring to me as a blatant sign that I’ve made up in my mind.

Not only is he inadequate in his own mind, but he’s also measuring himself against a man who isn’t even his father. If he wasn’t such a prick it might resemble being sad.

“No,” he said, “don’t hurt me. I’ll tell my mother.”

Okay…it is sad.

From and since my first read, I’ve always enjoyed the introduction of Renly, Barristan and Ser Ilyn and admired the game of it that allows Sansa to show her strengths while also  allowing for a very conversational introduction that let us know everything what we need to know about all three.

It’s extremely effective because we get strong initial impressions of all three, though Elena seems not to agree.  It has no real bearing, but two we meet represent one who offered his sword to help Ned (Ned’s choice is the single dumbest decision in the entire book, and I cannot wait to see how Elena –a Ned lover at this point – views it) , and the other, who while respected Ned, stood beside Joffrey later.

The other guy? Cut Ned’s head off. We – or at least I – kind of forget that while Payne rides with Jaime in A Feast for Crows. While his speaks to the strength of the Jaime narrative for me, it also showcases how Martin passes on the blame of the murder to the event itself and not a person. Even on a reread I don’t approach Payne as the killer of Ned.

A couple of Elena’s comments:

Sansa’s comment about Arya having the Stark coloring, of being small and brown, is laced with derision–who the hell could she have learned that attitude from except her mother? Which implies that either consciously or sub-consciously, Catelyn mocked Arya to Sansa; the only question is, did she do it because Arya was drawn to her father, or was Arya drawn to her father because her mother rejected her?

I never considered this angle at all but I kind of love it. Kind of because  I don’t think it was because it didn’t strike me, but more because I must have thought that in the smaller world of powerful families, certain traits and truths of them were well known. I’ve been in small towns even in our world where people know certain stock are prone to have good looking kids.

You know what I’m talking about, those families in small southern towns that keep spitting out Junior Miss winners two or three times a generation or whose son’s are prone to go play Triple A ball somewhere.

The one moment that made me wonder, is this a seed for future plot complications?, was Sansa’s reaction to the king’s brother, thinking him the handsomest knight she’d ever seen.  She gonna toss over sociopath Joffrey at some point?  One can only hope….

For obvious reasons to veteran readers this is amusing.. For me, Renly – as Ned will experience himself – is a reminder of part pre-coronation Robert. I like Renly, and though we can’t know his true motives I loved him when he offered himself and his swords to Ned, because it came off as not just backing Ned, but his brother…his family.

Oddly, he’d go to war with his other brother. I do wonder…did you think Renly was playing it straight with Ned when he made the offer (remember spoiler tags!). What I do dig about Elena’s observation here is that if I take it a step further, there is that possibility where you might conclude some warped mirror of history to occur – A Baratheon running off with a Stark girl, promised to a would-be King. Hell, in this scene, he even seems chummy with his own THE knight of his day here with Barristan, ala Rhaegar and Ser Arthur Dayne.

One last thing on Arya–she has revealed to Sansa that she is practicing swordplay. I was very happy she didn’t have Needle with her, but I worry that in the aftermath of this incident one of the adults might search her things and take it away from her. Or would Ned be a liberal enough father that he would actually give his daughter an instructor?

Ned certainly does have his moments that make us love him. I’m trying to think if Catelyn has such moments. I’m not talking about episodes of competence, but moments that endear her to us outside of an appreciation for her grief. None come to mind at the moment, but I must be forgetting something.

Ser Ilyn Payne shouldered two men aside, and stood before her, unsmiling. He did not say a word. Lady bared her teeth and began to growl, a low rumble full of menace, but this time Sansa silenced the wolf with a gentle hand to the head. “I am sorry if I offended you, Ser Ilyn,” she said. She waited for an answer, but none came. As the headsman looked at her, his pale colorless eyes seemed to strip the clothes away from her, and then the skin, leaving her soul naked before him. Still silent, he turned and walked away.

It’s so wonderful because it shows the power of the POV chapters, as Sansa’s perspective adds so much to a Payne who probably  is merely looking at her (he can’t help the silent part) and presenting himself.

Sansa’s world is so poetic, as can be compared from this passage and the above Joffrey depiction. Indeed, this entire chapter seems a story and has a harmony to it, stocked even with “storybook” “villains” in it with  Payne and the Hound. A story thus far has been in tune, skips and stops with a dose of reality when Sansa’s soundtrack seems to “snap” off at the end:

His eyes snapped open and looked at her, and there was nothing but loathing there, nothing but the vilest contempt. “Then go ,” he spit at her. “And don’t touch me .”

In the next chapter, Sasha  lies to make keep her own story true. Fin.

While we’ve agreed quite a bit thus far, this chapter feels like it took both Elena and I – the reader and rereader –  in the same way, so much so I want to label it as purposely and uniquely  functional in a way, thought that’s my own mind needlessly reaching at and for  more meaning. Damn it though, that’s what we do. That’s how we have fun reading, it make these shared experiences our own. This chapter was Sansa’s song, but not on her album. A pre-Martin epic fantasy soliloquy, a song that we all know knew before Martin kills it.

Drowns it. Makes it harder, stronger. A large mound of rebound.

Next? Ned Stark in who let the dogs out.

Author: Elena Nola and Jay Tomio

Elena Nola is the imperial editrix for the Boomtron empire. She likes genre books, weird movies, and obscure references. She lives in New Orleans, where almost every day is good enough for good times. You can follow her reviews and commentaries at Boomtron. Jay is a silent partner in Extensive Enterprises, a bastard child of Amber, an Eleint Soletaken, a probable Targaryen, and was the second-to-last Starfighter.

47 thoughts on “Playin’ with Ice and Fire – A Game of Thoughts | Sansa Stark Chapter 15”

  1. *SPOILERS*

    I didn’t like Catelyn early on, but once she get moving on the road I did find a lot more to like about her. Even though a lot of moves she made ended up hurting the Starks, based on the information she had they were usually clever. And while Cersei always thinks of herself as acting for her children, but is often motivated by pride, Cat really does make all her decisions based around protecting her family. It’s hard to see Cersei fighting off an assassin with her bare hands to protect one of her kids.
    So much of Catelyn’s personality is based around the losses of those she loves. Brandon, then Ned, and then most of her other kids as far as she knows. Throughout the whole thing even while she grieves, she’s still trying to get her family through it.
    Most of the other characters are able to go do cool things to make us like them. Tyrion gets to plot and scheme and make snarky comments, but he wouldn’t be nearly as snarky if he was worrying about kids to protect. Arya only has to look after herself, and she’s still too much of a kid to truly understand the stakes of everything that’s happening. Catelyn meanwhile has to be the one who’s worrying about the consequences for all the characters, and grieving for all the deaths. And she’s not in charge of any troops, she can’t fight with a sword… She has to work hard just to make the decision-makers listen to her at all. It’s a pretty tough hand to be dealt.

  2. @Elena

    As an unapologetic Sansa supporter, I always find it interesting that she often comes under fire for doing the things she was taught to do since birth. But one thing I had never really considered was that Catelyn was the direct Cat-alyst to this rather than simply living the noble’s life. Sansa at Winterfell is surrounded by polite and well-behaved friends, after all; the Jeyne Pooles and the Beth Cassels, et/al. And she took little Princess Myrcella into her graces with ease, back when the King’s thousand-man entourage visited the north. So my assumption for years was that this sort of behavior was the norm, that Arya was the freak.

    And yet the north is the North. Just flipping back through my memory circuits, every early mention of Sansa’s various perfections came either from herself or her mother’s PoV; all we really get from Ned is the “Sansa is a proper lady and will be married well” mindset. I cannot seem to recall him saying she was a proper Northern lady. Ned’s view on what a “lady” entails could be everything he sees–and loves–in Catelyn. So if Catelyn says Sansa sets the perfect example, perhaps he just shrugs, bemused, and agrees. I don’t see him correcting his wife and saying Sansa would be better acclimated at Riverrun. And yet it shouldn’t be overlooked that Catelyn’s view on All Things Proper comes from her upbringing, not the things she learned since moving north. So when Catelyn says Sansa sets the good example, she’s certainly not wrong; Sansa does everything that’s asked of her, while Arya does not.

    (Aside: It occurs to me now the most shrewd observation came from Cersei at the feast, who noted very early on that Sansa would flourish in the south. I hadn’t really considered it before, but now I think Cersei was doing more than offhandedly mocking Catelyn for being “stuck” in the north; in fact, there could have been a compliment tucked in there, in a backhanded sort of way, implying that she was impressed that Catelyn had somehow managed to raise a proper girl despite the obvious northernly disadvantages.)

    Ned himself does not ask much of either daughter–mostly that they obey their mother, because it is her job to rear them, not his. And yet we do see that little glint of pride when he deals with Arya and her penchant for finding trouble. And I truly do think he sees a strong link between Arya and himself–but more so between Arya and his dead sister Lyanna, so willing and fierce.

    My wife, like you, has put her stakes firmly in the Team Arya camp; she too was a tomboy as a child, but has since “civilized” (for lack of a better whatever), and I think a part of her so strongly roots for Arya because there is a part of her that remembers those days quite fondly; back when a skinned knee was not just a peripheral worry but the only worry. There’s a freedom in that thought. Sansa’s trials, while seen through storybook eyes, are still arguably more adult than Arya’s.

    Great stuff as ever, Elena. Do you think you will get through the book before the HBO show comes to it’s season’s end? Hopefully the various casting announcements regarding the show haven’t spoiled too many things for you; the casting of certain people in certain roles can sometimes act as spoilers all their own.

    1. Hi Axechucker,

      Well, I really can’t disagree with your points about Cat and Sansa both being proper ladies, and to some extent even in Winterfell Arya is a bit of a freak–case in point, Sansa. She COULD have had the same freedoms Arya did, she just didn’t want them.

      Interesting point about Cersei. I am not sure Sansa will do well with the politicking of the South, but in terms of being an ornament in a setting where people appreciate ornamentation…absolutely. And she may turn out to have more substance and intelligence than she came off with in this chapter. Nothing there that says she couldn’t…just not much that said she did.

      And give your wife a high five for me. 🙂

      1. Regarding outsiderism in Winterfell, Yeah, but don’t we think Arya is reacting to Sasna more than the other way around. I’m neither a girl or a sister, but I think Arya is in some part reacting to the ideal in that society but it’s mostly because she doesn’t feel to be her sister’s equal. So, like any other kid she acts out, though in her case she’s not destructive about it (not a teenager). While I don’t think ti will be the case forever, for now Arya may have a little ugly duckling going on. If Arya was Sansa’s near twin at a young age I think she acts VASTLY different.

        Sansa doesn’t act like Arya because she is and has been taught that she the ideal and has no reason to question it given how much she’s praised and has accomplished (promised to the future king)

        1. It may be the case that Arya rejects trying to be like Sansa because she feels like she can’t measure up. Which if that is true, then it’s either because her mother and/or the instructers her mother hired tell her so, or because Cat isn’t sensitive enough to her insecurities to say remind her that Sansa is, what, 2 years older? A huge difference in childhood.

          But it may also be the case–and this is how I read it, because this is what was true for me–that Arya finds herself bored by the activities that Sansa loves and rejects them because they bore her. Perhaps if they interested her she would try harder to be like her sister. For example, maybe she’s too restless to sit quietly, while Sansa is a more calm personality. ADHD vs not style. Or maybe she’s not the same kind of daydreamer that her sister is, so Arya needs action and stimulation from the world vs being content to sit indoors, lost in her own thoughts. I attribute it more to a fundamental difference in personality, that was exacerbated by a situation that made the differences between them as extreme as they could be, than something driven mostly or entirely by the situation.

          But again a lot of that is my own projection . 🙂

    2. As to whether I’ll get through the book before the series: I hope to with write ups (again I am ahead of where we are with posting) but if that’s not feasible then I will just finish the book quickly in order to watch the show. Worst case scenario is I blow through the book making tons of notes on my reactions and finish the chapter write ups retroactively.

      And to be honest I really haven’t paid that much attention to the hype and news on the show, for that reason. 🙂

    3. I have to agree with you that Ned does feel that little rush of pride in Arya, especially as her resemblance to Lyanna becomes more pronounced. That struck me the first time it occurred to me, and I have to say I enjoy it immensely. 🙂

      1. Ned certainly gives her a “longer leash” than he might normally give one of his other kids. With Bran, for instance, he felt much more stern.

        But that could simply be the father / son relationship as well.

        1. Hmm, yes, he strikes me as slightly harsher with his sons. Remember how he was slightly displeased to learn that Rickon was a tad diffident about his direwolf? Winter is Coming means get your Bad Ass Attitude on!

          SPOILERS!!

          Nevertheless, when Ned hired Syrio, I was dancing in the streets!

  3. This is a chapter that doesn’t really leave much to comment on. Considering how long I was waiting for it, I can’t help but be a bit disappointed that it was this chapter that came next. So the only non-spoilery thing I can ask is, when do you expect the next chapter will be ready?

    ++SPOILERS++

    It’s probably not important as such, but you missed to mention this sentence: Jon’s mother had been common, or so people whispered. (I didn’t put it in a paragraph so that E. wouldn’t accidentally catch it) This wouldn’t be anything special if Sansa said Jon’s mother had been common, and ended it there, but it seems like Martin intentionally added the whispers, adding to the R+L=J theory. I just thought it was worth mentioning.

    Moving on…

    I don’t believe Joff sent anyone after Bran…I still think it was all an elaborate plan devised by Littlefinger, though I can’t imagine how he could find out in a matter of weeks. Maybe with the help of Varys?

    I think Renly played it straight up to a point. I think he would help Ned, in exchange for Ned helping him against Stannis. He did always believe he had the right to be king, simply because he was the people’s favorite. As to the gay thing, I somehow missed that whole angle. I never figured anyone in the series was gay unless it was explicitly said so. And even then I probably forgot. Only now that the series is launching and they said it would be emphasized, did I start thinking about it. It just didn’t seem that important to me before…

    ++END SPOILERS++

    @Elena: Next up Eddard…can’t wait for your thoughts on this chapter 🙂

    1. Actually it was my favorite chapter to write about thus far.

      Write ups are basically done for next two, they will be out whenever I don’t have other content to put up from others and I start editing them down and rearrange them.

      Spoilers

      I don’t buy the Littlefinger theory at all. Everybody want to attribute everything to Varys and/or Littlefinger but I’m willing to take Jaime’s and Tyrion seperately reached conclusions on the matter. I could be making this up, but I think Martin clarified this specific point when asked, but I recall it not being very concrete when I saw it mentioned (maybe Ran knows more).

      I think Varys mentioned that he didn’t want the Starks and Lannisters at odds with each other so early.

      Spoilers End

      1. –spoilers–
        You’re right about Varys, I forgot about that…but Tyrion is to smart and had no reason to send a killer, and Littlefinger was obviously lying since Tyrion never bets against his family so he couldn’t have won the knife from him. Jaime could possibly be rash enough, while Cersei could certainly be rash enough, not to mention she would be likely to bribe the killer with a pretty knife, not realizing how stupid that is.

  4. @Jay

    Time for the Team Sansa Tee-Shirts, brah.

    SPOILERS:

    I am still of the opinion that Sansa may very well end up being the Last Living Stark. Her trials have taught her more than enough to survive the Game of Thrones if any sort of luck holds with her, Littlefinger’s plans regardless. And who knows if he really intends for her to wed Harry the Heir? This is Baelish we’re talking about; nothing is ever 100% the truth, coming out of his mouth. I still think he wants her for himself, no matter his bigger schemes.

    And if he does marry her off, you know Unca’ Petyr is going to try for a few illicit conjugal visits. But after the wedding; if he’s not keeping Sansa for himself, he’s at least keeping her for her maidenhead. Tyrion practically screamed to the heavens that he never consummated the marriage; if no one knows where Sansa Stark is, they at least know she’s still a maiden.

    But who really knows what Littlefinger is planning? The fact that he’s so hard to read is one of Littlefinger’s most fascinating qualities. I just know he’s got Big Plans, and those Big Plans include Sansa. Dude’s plots go way back. As Tenatie just commented above, we never did get confirmation that Joffrey was behind the attempt on Bran’s life; all Joff did in the face of Tyrion’s accusation was stare dumbly back, really, and stammer a lot. So I suspect Petyr, if not directly involved, certainly nudged. But then I suspect his hand in a lot of things.

    He’s also had a run of incredible luck, which is bound to run out sooner or later. The only question is if Sansa will be a fast enough thinker, quick enough on her feet to detach herself from him when it’s most opportune. No one can say Sansa hasn’t learned, and she’s proven adroit when forced into roles where her charisma can be put into play (calming worried nobles when Cersei could not; getting bratfaced Sweetrobin to do her bidding, etc.).

    So the Arya / Sansa contrast, in some ways, parallels violent vs. nonviolent protest. Arya fights back hard, tooth and nail, lunging at the face of her enemies with the pointy end well placed. Sansa remains quiet, hands tucked, and uses her wiles.They’re both fighting authority, both underdogs. We still don’t know who will have the greater success.

    Fucking fuckity fuck, I want A Dance with Dragons! (Though really, I probably want The Winds of Winter more.)

    1. how about a dream of spring? 🙂 I just know that the second GRRM announces that he’s finished Dance, before it’s even published, someone will go on a rant, asking when’s the next one coming out 🙂

    2. Spoilers

      I think Sansa is in a pretty safe place in the eye of storm with Petyr. I don’t see him risking her unless it’s to directly save his own ass, and at this point he’s been very good at not becoming anyone’s primary focus. He’s also marginalized her enough to where she’d never really be able to be used against him unless she herself initiated it. I do wonder if Petry’s weakness is enough that he’d fail because he can resists such a base desire to fuck the Catelyn line. I think its obvious he has some bead on Dany, so I’m interested in how he falls there. I’m also interested to see the Sansa post learning about the Harry the Heir situation.

      I think that along with Jaime, Sansa made a huge jump in AFFC as a character of interest.

      SPoilers end

      1. SPOILERS!!!

        What do you think are the odds that Sansa WILL initiate some kind of plot against LF? At this point I’m not sure. She made a huge jump in the last book, but we have seen her get proactive yet. I’m hoping that’s the direction she goes! Hell, between her and Arya, I can easily see the decimation of both the Freys and the Boltons!

        1. SPOILERS

          I don’t know. I think Littlefinger has to keep her endeared to him because the plans (as he lays out) potentially makes her quite powerful. Obviously, he’s not so stupid to know that and she is in debt to him as is.

          I’m trying to figure out if Petyr has done anything that I find overtly offensive and not so sure that I can.

          1. SPOILERS!!

            To me, LF’s betrayal of Eddard, lies to Cat, and general manipulation are overtly offensive, especially as they establish him as an enemy to the Starks. I realize I’m in the minority there, however. 😛

            I will also admit to hypocrisy in that I’m creeped out by LF’s advances on Sansa, but NOT by The Hound’s advances on her. Yes, hypocritical. I accept it. I embrace it! But anyway…

            I do see your point about Joffery being sad. I had wondered if there was anything that would make The Hound so defensive of him, besides looking for an excuse to fight. He had close contact with the prince and would have seen him in unguarded moments. I wouldn’t be surprised if he figured out that the queen’s children weren’t Robert’s.

          2. SPOILERS!!!

            Oh, and I wouldn’t count on her gratitude lasting too much longer if she figures out he had anything to do with Eddard’s fall.

    3. ***Spoilers***

      RE: Arya = violent, Sansa = Nonviolent

      I think you might have hit the nail on the head as to why I just.. loathe Sansa. To the point where sometimes I just couldn’t bring myself to read her chapters

      She’s sooooo stereotypically “female” (especially at the beginning)… I hate her. I hate that Martin wrote her. I hate that she exists. She’s everything I fight against. This idea that women are peaceful and men are violent, that women are peacemakers BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH *loathe* Sansa IS that. Her greatest “weapon” is her ability to manipulate and comfort.

      Although I’m very intrigued by this idea that she could be the only Stark left alive at the end… INTERESTING. There is great merit in that idea. That could def happen.

      1. SPOILERS:

        Sansa fights with what she’s been taught to fight with (when she does finally have to fight back), so in many ways she’s by far the most realistic of the two girls; Arya is the “out of place” creature in this setting and time.

        But I still love every kill Arya makes. Her escape from Harrenhal was chill-inducing. I want to see them do THAT on the HBO show.

  5. @Elena, I share your opinion of Sansa, in that I don’t dislike her, but I don’t identify with her. Not at this point, anyway. While I’m bull stubborn in my Cat dislike, I often excuse Sansa because a)She’s acting the way she’s been taught and told to act and b)she’s eleven years old, and as you pointed out, it hasn’t even occurred to her that the world might not work as she’s been told it works. In all honesty I often blame both her parents for never once trying to tell Sansa that life isn’t a story or song. But then I remember…she’s a Highlord’s daughter. There’s no reason in the world that her life WOULDN’T be reasonably fairy tale-ish. Her betrothal to the crown prince is an example of how her life is actually SUPPOSED to go, according to my impressions of this reality. Her disillusionment, to my mind, was supposed to be more gradual, and not that bad.

    Her interaction with Arya made me grin. The stark (pun intended) differences between the sisters is never so vivid to me as in this encounter. Sansa is disgusted and terrified by these surroundings, while Arya is wild to see all she can. Sansa keeps only to other genteel people, while Arya’s running amok around everyone and making friends with the servants. Sansa’s disapproval of this and her puzzlement over what Arya found so fascinating among the wilds and small folk made me laugh helplessly. She is exactly who she was taught to be, and she enjoys it to some extent, and she is different from her sister. I was forcibly reminded of how my mom speaks about how very different all of her daughters are from each other, and how much she loves that. I guess in that moment I accepted their relationship as is, and hoped they would too, one day.

    I’m very intrigued by the question of whether Cat might have inadvertently pushed Arya away, causing her to self identify with her father and causing Sansa to view her sister with derision. That would be bad, but I also think unintentional. Whatever my feelings for Cat are, I do firmly believe she loves all of her children. But it’s set up a fascinating conflict between the sisters, and it makes watching them and their interactions that much more interesting to me, especially with their father.

    As a young girl I was a huge daydreamer, and so I guess I CAN somewhat identify with Sansa’s view of the afternoon. Jay pointed out that it has a harmony like a story, and I agree. The magical event of spending time with her prince…what every princess dreams of. She didn’t deserve Joffery’s wrath at the end, but I found the things she was shouting at them to be interesting; “You’re spoiling it”. I really had to wonder at that point just how desperately Sansa wanted to be in a song.

    SPOILERS!!!

    Not really much more to say, except my fears that built in this chapter were realized in the next. I didn’t think I could hate any characters the way I hated Joffery and The Hound at the end of it, and Eddard too for not fighting back and sneaking Lady out. This was the beginning of my Joff hate that culminated in a deep satisfaction at his painful death in ASOS (and made me wonder if maybe I was a bad person). The Hound’s turnaround took time, but I’ve been convinced that, once he started travelling with Arya, Micah started haunting him.

    In any case, great discussion!

    1. Raquel,

      What you just said? I agree with like every word.

      The fact that Arya and Sansa are clearly different people is why I can’t really like or dislike Sansa. Right now, there is nothing for me to grab onto with her, either way.

      I think the reason I wondered about Cat being more distant from Arya came in one of her first 2 chapters, where she describes Arya as looking like a Stark. In the context it seemed a bit of an insult, not either a neutral observation or a compliment. And if Cat can’t see herself in Arya physically, in the context of this being a book it makes a neat metaphor for her not being able to see herself in that daughter in personality, either.

      Interesting comments, as always. 🙂

      1. Thanks Elena! I do love discussing the sisters, for some reason, lol!

        Hmm, you make a good point on Cat’s observation. Perhaps this is unconsciously tied to her resentment of Jon? Hmmm…

  6. @ Elena: Sansa is acctually one of my favorite characters. Not on the first read, then I hated her. She reminded me to much of people I knew in school. But on rereads, her chapters are great. I think you understand her well, and have little to add to the analysis.

    SPOILERS:

    Ah, the 3 knights. Nothing is at it seems here, and Sansa colours everything with her fairytale dust and twists reality to fit her view. The “terrible” headsman, the “beautiful” knight indeed.

    I like Renly too, mostly because I dislike Stannis. But I think Noye had him, he is copper, far to flexible for any real use. I think he was sincere in his offer to Ned, but once he was refused he promtly fled. I also agree that refusing Renly was the most stupid thing Ned did, and that is saying something. Ahh, that selfish, stuck-up fool.

    That Renly is gay is pretty obvious once you see it, but on my first read-through I missed it completely. Still, by ACoK and the prayer sceen it is indisputable, and I also think he is not bi. He is, however, Lord of Storm’s End, and not in a position to not marry and father some sons.

    1. SPOILERS

      Man don’t get me started on Ned’s refusal of Renly! I don’t knock Renly for fleeing afterwards though, it was certainly in his best interest and he lost any legitimacy/position of strength when Ned refused him.

      End spoilers

  7. @Elena – I have to disagree with blaming Cat for Sansa looking down at Arya. While Cat certainly tries to curtail Arya’s tomboy ways, she never speaks ill of her. Sure, she wishes Arya was more like Sansa – but given the norms of the day, most mothers (especially one that is a Lady) would wish the same. Tomboys don’t get much respect amongst the upper class in Westeros. But maybe I’m just showing my bias, b/c I 100% dislike Sansa, and have never thought ill of Cat (don’t like her perse, but never hated her like so many others).

    1. Cat scolding Arya’s behavior or telling her to be like her sister is expressive of disapproval, even if it was not said with the intention of being an insult. and it might have been expressed to sansa as a “you’re so lovely like the women in my family” positivity, with it being left unsaid but still obviously there that arya, by extension, is unlovely because she does not look that way. children are quite perceptive to what is not said as well as what is…i don’t think catelyn had to speak down about arya to express to sansa that she felt it. and i think she does. not that she doesn’t love her, but that she doesn’t LIKE her the way she likes sansa. some children get along with parents; some don’t. i see sansa catelyn having a bond of commonality, like arya does with ned, while arya and catelyn have a more antagonistic relationship bc they do not share that commonality.

  8. Here’s the thing about Sansa Re, “Team Sansa”

    Even if you give her the benefit of her ubringing, and the expectations upon her and the expectations she has for herself.. she’s still not likable or even relatable. She’s a spoiled brat. She’s a snob. She’s a milksop. She’s naive and disinterested in all the actually interesting characters.

    ***Spoilers****

    Now.. this is great from a story persepctive because her innocence and naivete help to contrast against some of the more horrible people she interacts with.

    Sansa is the type of character that needs to grow and change and go thru some serious shit before you like her. Maybe that’s going to happen (the growing and changing part.. b/c mostly I feel like she’s still grieving for the life she could/should have had)

    Anyways.. I will never like Sansa. I have higher hopes for my gender.

    PS – Renly is so not BI.. he’s just gay. Renly/Loras needs an epic poem. Stat.

        1. Not A Spoiler:

          #DarthRachelMustDie

          SPOILERS:

          But she’s right, if Renly were bisexual, he would at least have consummated his marriage with Margaery.

          And how do I know he did not?

          Because the Tyrells told me so.

          Fact!

          1. SPOILERS

            Even if Renly were gay (and not bisexual), that doesn’t preclude the marriage having been consummated. There are plenty of gay people in our world who come out of the closet after having been in a marriage for years, with children.

    1. “Even if you give her the benefit of her ubringing, and the expectations upon her and the expectations she has for herself.. she’s still not likable or even relatable. She’s a spoiled brat. She’s a snob. She’s a milksop. She’s naive and disinterested in all the actually interesting characters.”

      I don’t think that’s true at all. I think she’s just not sympathetic to readers of fantasy. She’s a kid, she’s got dreams that don’t match reality. She’s not a brat because she DOES care about others, she just doesn’t understand her sister. Arya is pretty bratty too for all that people love her. But people who read fantasy don’t tend to be the people who like the idea of being pampered and pretty and following the rules. The women especially don’t want to have to be forced to be a princess or a lady. They like the idea of the rogue and the rebel who can wield a weapon. I think it’s remarkably brace of GRRM to make a POV character like this and not make her a simpering idiot.

  9. @Elena

    I have been waiting for a Sansa chapter since you guys started! If you remember, I’m a huge Sansa fan. I was a huge princess-oholic (maybe still am a little bit…)! I never liked pants, even jeans very much, until college. When I was 11, it was so intense, I probably would have fed my family rat poison if someone came along and told me that’s what it would take.

    Sansa, of course, would never willingly do something so foul, she’s too much the lady. She has a naïveté that I find charming, rather than “stupid” as some other readers do. I cannot fault her for it; she’s a much nicer person than I am. She’s eleven, she’s become engaged to a handsome prince, and she’s lived a happy, comfortable, sheltered existence so far. Arya is actually much more cognizant of the world and how it works by the mere fact that she’s had contact AT ALL with the lower classes. I think Sansa has probably never had a real conversation with anyone other than her family, the family’s “upstairs” staff like the Septa, Maester Luwin, and Old Nan, and her few friends like Jayne Poole and Beth Cassel (as Axechucker noted earlier). I cannot imagine she’s ever done more than exchange a few words or pleasantries with everyone else in Winterfell.

    I love the way she describes everyone in this chapter, and I hope you keep it in your mind to compare with things to come.

    @Jay (SPOILERS)

    I certainly think Renly was wholeheartedly ready to follow through when he made his offer to Ned. I think everyone who had come to know Ned by that point realized what an honest and loyal person he was. Renly could not have found a better ally to his purposes in King’s Landing, and he had no choice but to flee when Ned turned him down. If he knew Ned, he must have known Cersei even better. Renly knew trying to reason with her was foolish and suicidal; Ned couldn’t see that, because he did not understand Cersei, and it cost him his life.

    One of the saddest things to me is when I see readers blaming Sansa for Ned’s death. Sansa is probably the most similar in temperament to her father than ANY of the children. They both are so honest and loyal that they cannot understand the extent of how UNtrustworthy and treacherous other people can be. One of my only hopes for the series is that Sansa openly realizes that she cannot trust others (in Feast for Crows she “pretends” at it, but she hasn’t fully let go of her childhood yet, so she has not committed to it yet). In this chapter, Sansa IS living in a song. Even though the Hound tells her that life is not a song, and some part of her knows that, she fears fully accepting that truth. She fears being left with only despair and unhappiness.

    That is why she refuses to grow up and “see” or “understand” adulthood at any more than an unconscious level.

    1. SPOILERS!!

      Hmm, I actually like the way you see Sansa, it’s forgiving for reasons I can actually relate to on some level. I guess I get so irritated because Ned was killed. Bad, I know. 🙂

  10. @Elena and Jay

    I think there is another candidate for the person who taught Sansa about Stark and Tully coloring: Septa Mordane.

    Remember the North does not worship the Seven, so it’s very likely she came to Winterfell with Catelyn from Riverrun, and given that she probably grew up in Riverrun as a subject of the Tullys naturally have a greater regard for Tully traits than what is to her strange Northern traits.

    I have had some experience with children whose parents are very well off and have nannies who do a large portion of the raising, and to my observation often at that a young age they reflect and taste and value system of their nannies on many minor things even more so than their parents because they spent more time with their nannies and are influenced by them.

    I want to give Catelyn the benefit of the doubt that she would not openly disparage one of her daughters’ appearance to another.

    1. interesting point…one that also helps Elena’s case I think, because septa Mordane clearly loves Sansa and clearly hates the way Arya acts…

    2. I guess that’s possible and perhaps a personal bias (even one that’s universally regarded to be true) might be in play but I always figured Septa Modane might have come down hard on Arya because it reflected negatively on her professionally (regarding Arya’s lack of social”grace”). Though admittedly the two thoughts don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

  11. I think Sansa gets a massively unfair reputation. Most of it is because the people who read these books are NOT that kind of person or don’t want to think o themselves that way. Not many of us want to be the princess, we want to be the adventurer. But the world takes all kinds of people and Sansa is one of those kinds. She’s also nice to pretty much everyone but two of her siblings. And we can excuse sibling hatred.

    Her character development throughout the series is nothing short of amazing. While she doesn’t truly bloom and and become an incredibly interesting character until A Feast for Crows (and anyone who can’t see what she’s turning into there is blind) it’s only because until that book she is trapped. But that trap, while stifling, confining and terrifying allows her to grow and become something quick and sharp and dangerous.

    She’s never been stupid, she’s just not sympathetic to the traditional readership of fantasy books.

  12. As a young person, I was both a tomboy and a would-be princess, and definitely a storybookaholic and reader. I find myself identifying far more with Sansa than Arya, though both are interesting, vital characters. Sansa reminds me both of myself and some of my female relatives in my mother’s generation, sheltered, reared gently to become a lady and a worthy wife to a man of high station, someone who trusts and believes the world to be a beautiful place that will treat her kindly. And when Sansa goes South to be betrothed to the Prince of her dreams, she is, as I think some might forget, not a young woman, but a child, 11 or 12 if I remember correctly. Her character is still forming; she is not yet committed to being a superficial snob. And her life’s path, through her parents’ decision, throws this sheltered kid into a hornet’s nest and leaves her there; worse, leaves her there alone.

    I don’t blame Sansa for her actions before her father’s death; as I said, she is a child, and I might have made some of the poor decisions that she did, as well. She loved her father and thought she could help him. The twin blows of his death and the revelation that her Prince Charming was a monster devastated Sansa. And after that, she was stuck as a captive pawn in the hands of her father’s murderers.

    Women in the world of this saga have it worse than men; they are usually second-class citizens and subject to rape. Even the dragon princess, Daenerys, starts out as trade goods, sold to a barbarian warlord at the age of thirteen, before she begins her journey to power. Sansa does not have the fierceness of rebellion that was born into Arya and nurtured by a loving father; but she does not lack a certain grit. Some young girls in her position, as a victimized hostage in a corrupt court, might have turned vicious or self-destructive; Sansa tried her best to hold onto high standards, to remain gentle and courteous, in the face of considerable persecution. Whether it might have served Sansa better to have rebelled, to have learned to rely on herself rather than male protectors, is something that can be debated. It seems to me that in terms of survival in a very hostile world and in societies that are intent on holding them captive or killing them, Sansa and Arya have, so far, done equally well, or equally poorly, depending on how you view their situations. They are both still learning. I think Martin is subtly setting the lesson of the importance of self-reliance before Sansa; and I think she will learn it.

    I still entertain a wistful hope that Sansa might grow up enough, in a few years, to come to love Tyrion; what a couple they might make. I’m not sure that will happen; frankly, Martin is capable of very surprising twists and turns; for all we know, in terms of romantic/marital partnerships, Tyrion might end up with Daenerys; couldn’t you see them ruling the world, or at least half of it?

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