A Game of Thrones • A Song of Ice and Fire NWN2 Persistent World • Low Magic Role Play

Sansa Stark

World of Westeros - People
Thursday, 15 April 2010 19:49

2nd Level (Noble 2)

“Some septa trained you well. You’re like one of those birds from the Summer Isles, aren’t you? A pretty little talking bird, repeating all the pretty little words they taught you to recite.”
Sandor Clegane to Sansa Stark, A Game of Thrones

Sansa StarkPretty, courteous, demure, and obedient, at 11 Sansa Stark is everything a lady should be and everything her proud mother could hope. When Robert Baratheon reveals his plans for marrying her to Joffrey, his son and heir, Eddard may have reservations, but Catelyn sees only Sansa’s glorious destiny as queen and mother of a royal House. It is more than Catelyn could have presumed, but ironically, it is all that Sansa could ever do. She has been given no training to be anything other than a great man’s wife.

The Stark girls have a tutor, Septa Mordane, whose main duties include teaching etiquette, behaviour, and needlework — the perfect grooming for perfect noblewomen. Sansa is by far the Septa’s favourite. Almost a model pupil, Sansa’s practical knowledge of stewardship is somewhat inadequate (math is a seldom emphasised part of her education) but, when it comes to romance, Sansa could outsing the most fanciful bard in the Seven Kingdoms.

From dawn to dusk, her head is stuffed full of heroes, knights, tourneys, and tales of wooing. All her focus is on fi nding the perfect love to sweep her away to a castle in the clouds. Neither her mother nor her tutor considers this an odd or limiting attitude. Across Westeros, marriage and motherhood are accepted as the only real reasons for a woman’s existence. In other times, Sansa would have adapted perfectly to life in the south, and made some man a beautiful trophy wife.

Sansa has no shortage of pride. She gently disdains Jon Snow because he is a bastard, and she resents her little sister, Arya, for being a tomboy and getting away with it. Sansa has a very fixed idea of how things should be, and will trust anybody as long as they fit the picture book in her mind. She falls headlong into the claws of the Lannisters, because they look gorgeous, act with regal perfection, and shower her with charm. Joffrey Lannister, heir to the throne, looks just like a prince out of legend. When
Sansa sees him, she sees a host of minstrel’s tales come true. She does not see one element of the real human being in front of her. Love is blind, and Sansa is determined to be in love.

If there is one incident that should prove the ultimate revelation for Sansa, it is the death of Lady, her direwolf pup. The chain of events that starts with Sansa and Joffrey’s picnic ends in disaster for all involved. Joffrey loses his sword and his dignity, Arya’s friend Mycah is killed by the Hound, and Cersei, venomous for vengeance, insists on the death of a Stark wolf. Arya threw stones at her own wolf to drive her away, but there is another present, a ready target for Cersei’s vengeance. Lady is the gentlest and most trusting of the wolf pups — Sansa’s own well-trained pet, beautiful and tame. Still, Cersei wants blood and she gets it. Eddard himself kills Lady, and the instinct she represents dies with her. All the Stark children have a deep, primal link to their wolves. Sansa is left without the friend of her innermost heart, and her link to the wilds of Winterfell and to her own true self seems sundered forever.

Still, Sansa cannot give up her dream. She cannot bear to see Joffrey as the vicious coward he is, and she will not admit the cruelty of Cersei Lannister. So she misplaces the blame, and it all becomes Arya’s fault — Arya’s wolf who should have died. She never lets herself consider that a prince bullying a butcher’s boy is an unworthy act, and she makes herself forget the hatred on Joffrey’s face when he told her to go. Few people can avoid an ugly truth more thoroughly than Sansa.

It would be easy to find Sansa irritating in her continued refusal to see Joffrey as anything other than her perfect prince, but it should be remembered that she is very young. The problem is that Joffrey, his looks, his manners, his family and his heritage all look exactly like Sansa’s dream future. The dream of the perfect love has got to be real because she wants it to be; the dream of the perfect love has occupied so much of her mind for so long, she needs it to be real. She has nothing else to take its place in her head, her heart, or her life.

Besides, although Joffrey can’t be given credit for much, he is a total Lannister in his ability to act. He plays the part of a gallant prince for her especially, a role he relishes because he gets to strut in front of this pretty girl who wants very much to be impressed. Neither of them realise they are role-playing. Sansa’s role of sweet damsel is going to become the mainstay of her existence, but Joffrey can seldom maintain the illusion of chivalric competence in the face of a challenge. The incident at the river is just the beginning.

Sansa’s denial of reality continues until it reaches its apex, with her father’s announcement that she and her sister are to return to Winterfell. Sansa has what can only be described as a tantrum, and then makes an innocent, but very stupid mistake. She sneaks away, disobeying her father. Her hope is that the king can be persuaded to order her father to let her stay, but Sansa is afraid of the king so she goes and talks to Cersei instead. Cersei listens, speaks sweetly, and has Sansa removed to a guarded room. Sansa is a prisoner almost without knowing it, as outside the scions of House Stark are butchered and betrayed.

At first, Sansa remains desperate to cling to her imagined love of Joffrey. If she is not ready to believe her father a traitor, she is at least easy to confuse on the issue. Some might say the girl is too quick to dissolve her bonds of blood, too quick to put
blame on her sister, and accept the guilt of her father, but it should be remembered that her family betrayed her first. Eddard killed her wolf; in doing so, he killed the wild at the heart of the girl. What power is left to her?

Sansa believes she has the power of love on her side and that she can persuade her prince to spare her father. What then follows is possibly the most salutary lesson of Sansa’s life. Joffrey agrees to show Eddard mercy if he confesses to treason. Eddard does so, to ensure the safety of his daughters. Joffrey has him killed anyway, smiling at Sansa as he speaks the words. It is only then, finally, that she understands.

Up until this point, Sansa’s innocence has been her undoing. Now it becomes her armour. Sansa Stark remains a valuable hostage, and her gentleness makes it obvious to all that she can be a well-behaved pawn. She is no trouble to keep alive and she may be useful. The death of her father is the point at which she separates the behaviour of a model princess from her own, very real feelings. Joffrey takes her to see the remains of those he calls “traitors” — a grisly collection of rotting heads that includes her father’s and septa’s. At that moment Sansa understands how to defy Joffrey. “He can make me look at the heads,” she realises, “But he can’t make me see them.”

Sansa may never have developed the winter’s strength of the North, but she is true Stark iron when she gazes at the heads impassively and asks how long he wants her to look. This is a power she will develop — the power to mask her feelings behind courtesy, to smile when a smile is needed, to stand straight when required. She cannot stop the pain, but she can stop Joffrey from enjoying it. It is a terrible moment for her but it is also the beginning of power, the way to survive.

Unable to wring more heartbreak from Sansa, Joffrey seeks other ways to hurt her. Sansa has learnt the truth about her prince. Now she learns the truth about his knights, who punch and beat her at his behest. Unfortunately, she has no way to defend herself. All she can do is tell them they are no true knights, a ridiculous accusation to make to a gang of armoured thugs. Growing in painful wisdom, Sansa has only her dreams to sustain her. That very helplessness, however, brings her an unlikely ally.

Sandor Clegane, called the Hound, is the most openly repulsive of Joffrey’s men. A straightforward murderer with neither honour nor valorous reputation, nor even good looks to make him more palatable, Sandor carries out many of Joffrey’s less savoury orders. He kills the butcher’s boy, and when Joffrey orders Sansa taken out of her bed unclad, Sandor is the one who picks her up. Sandor never hits her, though, or is more unkind to her than his nature demands. He even dabs the blood from her split lip, and tries, in his rough way, to be kind to her when he may. These acts of kindness are so rare Sansa might even think she imagined them, but they are nonetheless real. After a night of too much drink, he tells her the secret of his scarring. Caught between terror at his brutality and sheer pity for his pain, Sansa has no idea what to feel or think, but she does an interesting thing. She puts her hand on his shoulder and tries to comfort him. Even while shuddering at his scars, she tries to be kind.

The reason Sandor grows very slowly more protective and more vulnerable to the influence of Sansa is because she is in fact the real thing: a damsel in distress, a maiden of pure heart, a cliché of a thousand stories with sweeter endings than those of
true life. Songbirds do not rule kingdoms. The worlds they sing of may not exist. But even a man like Sandor Clegane can understand how wonderful it would be if they did.

Last Updated on Friday, 15 April 2011 20:01