Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Sansa V, ASOS

Political Analysis:

There’s an old saw that we campaign in poetry, but govern in prose. If that’s the case, then Sansa V is the campaign speech of the Purple Wedding. While much of the chapter, strictly speaking, is a reaction to the narrative incident of Tyrion VIII, it does so with some of GRRM’s most lyrical writing both in terms of environmental description (I’m a personal fan of the description of Sansa sailing out through the wreckage of the Battle of Blackwater) and character thematics.

Speaking of which, the chapter starts somewhat in media res, with Sansa having already fled to the godswood from the throne room. As it transpires, Sansa managed to get out somewhat early, before Joffrey’s death but while his death was clearly about to happen:

Sansa felt as though she were in a dream. “Joffrey is dead,” she told the trees, to see if that would wake her.
He had not been dead when she left the throne room. He had been on his knees, though, clawing at his throat, tearing at his own skin as he fought to breathe. The sight of it had been too terrible to watch, and she had turned and fled, sobbing. Lady Tanda had been fleeing as well. “You have a good heart, my lady,” she said to Sansa. “Not every maid would weep so for a man who set her aside and wed her to a dwarf.

A good heart. I have a good heart. Hysterical laughter rose up her gullet, but Sansa choked it back down. The bells were ringing, slow and mournful. Ringing, ringing, ringing. They had rung for King Robert the same way. Joffrey was dead, he was dead, he was dead, dead, dead. Why was she crying, when she wanted to dance? Were they tears of joy?

This liminal positioning applies both to Sansa’s position in time and her emotional state, where she finds herself appalled at the “sight…too terrible to watch,” while simultaneously gripped by “hysterical laughter” at the thought of being upset about Joffrey’s death. Too many months in captivity, forced to conceal and deny her reactions to the Red Wedding and other events, have alienated Sansa from her own emotions. She doesn’t know “why was she crying when she wanted to dance,” nor whether the tears she is crying are genuine grief or “tears of joy.”

GRRM’s description of Sansa’s state of mind resonates with descriptions of what it’s like to emerge from the shadow of abuse – while she’s overjoyed that Joffrey was “dead, dead, dead,” part of her mind is still in the defensive crouch after months of living under Lannister surveillance and thus not able to fully express her feelings. At the same time, Sansa feels as if it’s too good to be true, that she “were in a dream” of revenge and deliverance that could pop like a soap bubble if she says the words out loud that might make it true.

Dressing for the Escape

These feelings continue even as Sansa begins preparing for her escape. On the one hand, “it was Robb she wept for,” cut down as he was during the other color-themed wedding. On the other hand, Sansa retains enough basic empathy to allow her to weep for “poor Margaery, twice wed and twice widowed,” scarce realizing how carefully Margaery’s family and Margaery herself (to some extent) have orchestrated matters to keep things that way.

She found her clothes where she had hidden them, the night before last…

The gods are just, thought Sansa. Robb had died at a wedding feast as well. It was Robb she wept for. Him and Margaery. Poor Margaery, twice wed and twice widowed. Sansa slid her arm from a sleeve, pushed down the gown, and wriggled out of it. She balled it up and shoved it into the bole of an oak, shook out the clothing she had hidden there. 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 a deep green, with a large hood. She slipped the dress over her head, and donned the cloak, though she left the hood down for the moment. There were shoes as well, simple and sturdy, with flat heels and square toes. The gods heard my prayer, she thought. She felt so numb and dreamy. My skin has turned to porcelain, to ivory, to steel.

It’s all part of a gradual emotional transformation, whereby Sansa believes that the “just” gods have “heard my prayer” both for escape but also for a form of hardening, whereby “my skin has turned to porcelain, to ivory, to steel.” Starting with a similarity between her pale skin and porcelain and ivory, we get an ascending scale of hardness, from porcelain’s brittle nature through to the warlike resilience of spring steel. Thus, we can see the process of character development – Sansa’s tempering in the world of intrigue and high politics – beginning even before she sees Petyr Baelish or is sent to the Eyrie.

Within Sansa’s preparations for escape, there’s also an interesting theme of clothing as class, where Sansa is disrobing herself of her noble’s garb and instead choosing “a dress of thick brown wool” as well as “simple and sturdy” shoes. However, she finds its difficult to fully divest herself of her social status, noting that the dress’s bodice is “decorated with freshwater pearls,” and will have to be hidden with a cloak if she’s to pass without notice into the night. Thus, we’re already setting the stage for the way that the social status of clothing will play into “Alayne’s” storyline later in ASOS and in AFFC.

Speaking of which, one absolutely critical elements of Sansa’s dress – the hairnet of “black amethysts from Asshai” – now comes to her attention, linking her sartorial endeavors to the broader question of Joffrey’s murder and who bears responsibility for the event:

Black amethysts from Asshai. One of them was missing. Sansa lifted the net for a closer look. There was a dark smudge in the silver socket where the stone had fallen out.
A sudden terror filled her. Her heart hammered against her ribs, and for an instant she held her breath.
Why am I so scared, it’s only an amethyst, a black amethyst from Asshai, no more than that. It must have been loose in the setting, that’s all. It was loose and it fell out, and now it’s lying somewhere in the throne room, or in the yard, unless . . .
Ser Dontos had said the hair net was magic, that it would take her home. He told her she must wear it tonight at Joffrey’s wedding feast. The silver wire stretched tight across her knuckles. Her thumb rubbed back and forth against the hole where the stone had been. She tried to stop, but her fingers were not her own. Her thumb was drawn to the hole as the tongue is drawn to a missing tooth. What kind of magic? The king was dead, the cruel king who had been her gallant prince a thousand years ago. If Dontos had lied about the hair net, had he lied about the rest as well?

…Sansa pulled away from his touch. “You said I must wear the hair net. The silver net with . . . what sort of stones are those?”

“Amethysts. Black amethysts from Asshai, my lady.”

“They’re no amethysts. Are they? Are they? You lied.”

“Black amethysts,” he swore. “There was magic in them.”

“There was murder in them!”

Almost at once, Sansa intuits one of the major elements of the assassination plot, namely how the murder weapon was smuggled into the throne room and then delivered to the king’s chalice. This demonstrates a keener insight than Sansa is usually given credit for, because without the “benefit” of presentism (and remembering the detail from the Prologue of ACOK what the strangler looks like), it’s actually an impressive link to connect missing jewelry to Joffrey’s death.

Note that the theme of lying is already hard at work in the chapter, well in advance of Sansa getting to Baelish’s boat. Here, the tension between the black amethysts as “murder” versus “magic” stands in for Sansa’s larger question that “if Dontos had lied about the hair net, had he lied about the rest as well?” The answer is surprisingly difficult to parse: on the one hand, given that there’s no actual linkage between Sansa wearing the hairnet and Sansa escaping, and that the hairnet really did contain a deadly poison, Dontos definitely lied to Sansa. On the other hand, Dontos didn’t lie about Sansa’s escape being orchestrated for Joffrey’s wedding and the chaos of Joffrey’s murder is key to how Sansa is able to make her escape from the Red Keep unseen and unremarked, so in a roundabout metaphorical sense the black amethysts did contain a kind of magic that will help her go home.

In order to supersede Sansa’s concerns about his truth-telling, Ser Dontos lets slip that she’s in more immediate danger:

“Come, we must away, they’ll search for you. Your husband’s been arrested.”

“Tyrion?” she said, shocked.

“Do you have another husband? The Imp, the dwarf uncle, she thinks he did it.” He grabbed her hand and pulled at her. “This way, we must away, quickly now, have no fear.”

“Tyrion poisoned him?” Her dwarf husband had hated his nephew, she knew. Could he truly have killed him? Did he know about my hair net, about the black amethysts? He brought Joff wine. How could you make someone choke by putting an amethyst in their wine? If Tyrion did it, they will think I was part of it as well, she realized with a start of fear. How not? They were man and wife, and Joff had killed her father and mocked her with her brother’s death. One flesh, one heart, one soul.

“Be quiet now, my sweetling,” said Dontos. “Outside the godswood, we must make no sound. Pull up your hood and hide your face.” Sansa nodded, and did as he said.

This revelation is perfectly timed to send Sansa down a blind alley of frenzied thought and speculation, trying to figure out whether Tyrion was indeed involved in the poisoning. From the way she thinks, we can certainly see that Tyrion is assumed to have opportunity – he brought Joffrey wine that Joffrey drank and then started choking shortly thereafter – and motive – he hated Joffrey for Joffrey’s insults to his person and that of his lady wife. What’s missing is means, and this is where Sansa can’t quite bring herself to admit that the amethysts contained a poison that “could…make someone choke by putting an amethyst in their wine.”

Almost immediately, Sansa perceives the danger to herself, that if the Lannister husband can be accused of murder, then his Stark wife will be viewed as complicit, at least as a source of motive if not as an active accomplice in her husband’s actions. Interestingly, Dontos doesn’t mention that Sansa has already been accused of complicity in Joffrey’s murder, making the question of guilt by association moot. Most likely, this is because Dontos wants Sansa’s mind concentrated on the immediate possibility of escape and the promise of home rather than dwelling on the assassination and how he has made her complicit in regicide. However, it’s also possible that Ser Dontos’ improbable network of informants (consider how little time has transpired between Cersei ordering Tyrion’s arrest and this moment in the godswood, and how difficult it would be to get from there to here while the Goldcloaks are locking down the former) is simply not as good as it first appears.

Making Good Their Escape

After a rather long section where the two of them descend the cliff face, the escapees arrive at the bottom of the ladder where they encounter Owell Kettleblack, who represents the first face of the inner conspiracy that Sansa has encountered so far:

Ser Dontos pulled her back onto her feet. “This way. Quiet now, quiet, quiet.” He stayed close to the shadows that lay black and thick beneath the cliffs. Thankfully they did not have to go far. Fifty yards downriver, a man sat in a small skiff, half-hidden by the remains of a great galley that had gone aground there and burned. Dontos limped up to him, puffing. “Oswell?”

“No names,” the man said. “In the boat.” He sat hunched over his oars, an old man, tall and gangling, with long white hair and a great hooked nose, with eyes shaded by a cowl. “Get in, be quick about it,” he muttered. “We need to be away.”

“How far must we go?” she asked.

“No talk.” The oarsman was old, but stronger than he looked, and his voice was fierce. There was something oddly familiar about his face, though Sansa could not say what it was.

“Not far.” Ser Dontos took her hand in his own and rubbed it gently. “Your friend is near, waiting for you.”

“No talk!” the oarsman growled again. “Sound carries over water, Ser Fool.”

Oswell is something of a clue to Baelish’s larger espionage network, but as of yet GRRM keeps things vague enough that it’s easy for Sansa and the reader to overlook why it might be significant that “there was something oddly familiar about his face.” Regardless, Oswell immediately makes an impression on the reader with his short, declarative sentences (shorn of such decorative features as verbs and gerunds and prepositions) as someone far more concerned with operational security than the drunken ex-knight.

After a lyrical sequence where Sansa is rowed through the consequences of her husband’s actions, as Blackwater Bay has been transformed into a ship’s graveyard, they pull up alongside the ship that will be the locus of events for the rest of the chapter.

As they came alongside, the galley dropped a rope ladder over the rail. The rower shipped the oars and helped Sansa to her feet. “Up now. Go on, girl, I got you.” Sansa thanked him for his kindness, but received no answer but a grunt. It was much easier going up the rope ladder than it had been coming down the cliff. The oarsman Oswell followed close behind her, while Ser Dontos remained in the boat.

Two sailors were waiting by the rail to help her onto the deck. Sansa was trembling. “She’s cold,” she heard someone say. He took off his cloak and put it around her shoulders. “There, is that better, my lady? Rest easy, the worst is past and done.”

She knew the voice. But he’s in the Vale, she thought. Ser Lothor Brune stood beside him with a torch.

This magician-like reveal of Petyr Baelish being the mastermind behind her escape and suddenly present in near King’s Landing is largely responsible for Littlefinger’s fanon reputation as a teleporter, a reputation that became all the more difficult to argue against when the show abandoned its commitment to coherent worldbuilding. But in this specific case, the reveal is less impressive than it first appears. King’s Landing and the Vale are neighboring provinces on the east coast of Westeros, with a common border on the Narrow Sea. They’re only a few hundred miles apart, which makes travel from one to the other a matter of a few days (depending on where in the Vale Baelish started from). It’s honestly not that startling that Baelish was able to take a boat from one to the other unnoticed.

What is more impressive is his ruthless commitment to clearing up loose ends:

“Lord Petyr,” Dontos called from the boat. “I must needs row back, before they think to look for me.”

Petyr Baelish put a hand on the rail. “But first you’ll want your payment. Ten thousand dragons, was it?”

“Ten thousand.” Dontos rubbed his mouth with the back of his hand. “As you promised, my lord.”

“Ser Lothor, the reward.”

Lothor Brune dipped his torch. Three men stepped to the gunwale, raised crossbows, fired. One bolt took Dontos in the chest as he looked up, punching through the left crown on his surcoat. The others ripped into throat and belly. It happened so quickly neither Dontos nor Sansa had time to cry out. When it was done, Lothor Brune tossed the torch down on top of the corpse. The little boat was blazing fiercely as the galley moved away.

With Dontos’ assassination, the genre of the chapter undergoes a sudden shift from lyrical romantic fantasy to gangster noir. Between the ironic inversion of the reward, Lothor Brune acting as Littlefinger’s hired muscle, the gangland-style machine-gun-typewriting of the injuries, and the burning of the body to destroy the evidence, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d stumbled on some bizarre crossover of Game of Thrones and the Sopranos.

However, Ser Dontos’ death serves more of a purpose than just a pretext for another shocking “whacking.” For a book and a half almost, Sansa has trusted the Hollard knight (a bit too much) as a true if not entirely honest friend. And now immediately after his murder, Littlefinger is pushing her to mistrust a man – that he put in her way, lest we forget – in the hopes that she will transmute her previous trust into suspicion:

“You killed him.” Clutching the rail, Sansa turned away and retched. Had she escaped the Lannisters to tumble into worse?

“My lady,” Littlefinger murmured, “your grief is wasted on such a man as that. He was a sot, and no man’s friend.”

“But he saved me.”

“He sold you for a promise of ten thousand dragons. Your disappearance will make them suspect you in Joffrey’s death. The gold cloaks will hunt, and the eunuch will jingle his purse. Dontos . . . well, you heard him. He sold you for gold, and when he’d drunk it up he would have sold you again. A bag of dragons buys a man’s silence for a while, but a well-placed quarrel buys it forever.” He smiled sadly. “All he did he did at my behest. I dared not befriend you openly. When I heard how you saved his life at Joff’s tourney, I knew he would be the perfect catspaw.”

Sansa felt sick. “He said he was my Florian.”

“Do you perchance recall what I said to you that day your father sat the Iron Throne?”

The moment came back to her vividly. “You told me that life was not a song. That I would learn that one day, to my sorrow.” She felt tears in her eyes, but whether she wept for Ser Dontos Hollard, for Joff, for Tyrion, or for herself, Sansa could not say. “Is it all lies, forever and ever, everyone and everything?”

“Almost everyone. Save you and I, of course.” He smiled.

While Sansa’s cri de cœur of “is it all lies, forever and ever, everyone and everything?” is most often analyzed as the thematic thesis of Sansa’s arc from starry-eyed, song-loving innocent in AGOT to budding political power-player in TWOW, it’s important not to ignore the immediate context of this quote. Namely, that Littlefinger is systematically trying to isolate Sansa from the people around her as part of a long-term grooming process aimed at getting her to first adopt his own wounded-romantic-turned-nihilist viewpoint and then accept him as the only source of truth in her world.

An integral part of this process is, Jorah-like, discrediting any other man around her who might provide an alternative source of information that would allow Sansa to exercise independent judgement rather than being entirely reliant on Littlefinger. One almost has to admire the Magnificent Bastardy involved when Baelish uses the fact that he, Baelish, cultivated Dontos Hollard as his catspaw specifically to manipulate Sansa using her previous act of kindness – and eventually, to turn that act of kindness into a weapon he can use to further disillusion her – and that he, Baelish, bribed and then murdered Dontos Hollard as a reason that only he, Baelish could be trusted.

Now that he’s got the business of the day over with, Littlefinger takes the opportunity to monologue to Sansa all about how clever his plans are:

As he led her below, he said, “Tell me of the feast. The queen took such pains. The singers, the jugglers, the dancing bear . . . did your little lord husband enjoy my jousting dwarfs?”

“Yours?”

“I had to send to Braavos for them and hide them away in a brothel until the wedding. The expense was exceeded only by the bother. It is surprisingly difficult to hide a dwarf, and Joffrey . . . you can lead a king to water, but with Joff one had to splash it about before he realized he could drink it. When I told him about my little surprise, His Grace said, ‘Why would I want some ugly dwarfs at my feast? I hate dwarfs.’ I had to take him by the shoulder and whisper, ‘Not as much as your uncle will.'”

The deck rocked beneath her feet, and Sansa felt as if the world itself had grown unsteady. “They think Tyrion poisoned Joffrey. Ser Dontos said they seized him.”

Littlefinger smiled. “Widowhood will become you, Sansa.”

As a masterstroke goes, this falls somewhat short of the mark; we’ve already discussed how the jousting dwarfs failed to really draw Tyrion and Joffrey into a particularly noticeable public clash, and how even afterwards it was only Cersei’s malice, and not Littlefinger’s machinations, that led to Tyrion being seized for murder. Nevertheless, there’s something to be learned from this passage: first, we get the first hint of many that Sansa’s marital status is key to Littlefinger’s ultimate plans, which is why having Tyrion take the fall for Joffrey’s murder was so much more important to Littlefinger than it was to the Tyrells. Second, it’s yet more evidence that something deeply personal underlies the Tyrion/Littlefinger machinations; it’s not enough for Tyrion to be implicated, it must happen in the maximally humiliating fashion possible.

And here at last, we get the closest thing we get to an explicit discussion of Littlefinger’s motivations for this entire conspiracy, although one can has to be very careful in how one parses his “confession” to get to the truth:

He had this all prepared for me. “My lord, I . . . I do not understand . . . Joffrey gave you Harrenhal, made you Lord Paramount of the Trident . . . why . . .”

“Why should I wish him dead?” Littlefinger shrugged. “I had no motive. Besides, I am a thousand leagues away in the Vale. Always keep your foes confused. If they are never certain who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are like to do next. Sometimes the best way to baffle them is to make moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you. Remember that, Sansa, when you come to play the game.”

“What…what game?”

“The only game. The game of thrones.”

While there’s more than a little bit of Heath Ledger’s Joker in this passage, it’s mostly surface level rather than deep substance. It’s not actually the case, for example, that Baelish “had no motive” or was making “moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you.” Rather, Littlefinger’s motives are hidden from the reader and the Westerosi observer until Alayne II of AFFC, when it’s made clear that his objective is to put the Vale behind Sansa’s claim to the North. To a re-reader’s eye, Littlefinger’s actions fit with his long-term motivations: he wants to gain control over Sansa to use as his figurehead, so he arranges for her escape from King’s Landing; he wants to destabilize the Lannister/Tyrell alliance, so he arranges for Joffrey to be assassinated by the Tyrells (which he can reveal at any point); he wants Sansa to be free to marry again, so he does his level best to see that Tyrion is accused of Joffrey’s murder.

While he manages to conceal his immediate motivations, Littlefinger is less able to hide how he feels about Sansa:

He brushed back a strand of her hair. “You are old enough to know that your mother and I were more than friends. There was a time when Cat was all I wanted in this world. I dared to dream of the life we might make and the children she would give me . . . but she was a daughter of Riverrun, and Hoster Tully. Family, Duty, Honor, Sansa. Family, Duty, Honor meant I could never have her hand. But she gave me something finer, a gift a woman can give but once. How could I turn my back upon her daughter? In a better world, you might have been mine, not Eddard Stark’s. My loyal loving daughter . . . Put Joffrey from your mind, sweetling. Dontos, Tyrion, all of them. They will never trouble you again. You are safe now, that’s all that matters. You are safe with me, and sailing home.”

For all that Littlefinger has the reputation as someone who always plays his cards close to his vest, he’s never been able to hide the fact that he has something of a fixation on Sansa. Given how often he boasts in court of sleeping with Catelyn Tully and how often these advances on Sansa have been made in public settings (and once in the presence of the small council), it’s really only Cersei’s narcissism and Varys’ patience* that has prevented more from being done with this information. (*While Varys probably didn’t know about the plan to smuggle Sansa out of King’s Landing with Ser Dontos’ help ahead of time, he certainly puts two-and-two together quickly enough, and manages to get his chosen knight to the Vale first despite Littlefinger’s attempt to cover-up any connection between himself and Ser Dontos.)

However, it’s here we get the most extended treatise to date on how Littlefinger views Sansa. At his most (arguably) wholesome, Petyr sees himself as a paternal stand-in figure for a teenage girl who’s been violently bereft of both of her parents; to him, Sansa is the dreamed-of “loyal loving daughter” whom “in a better world…might have been mine.” It’s still bound up in his obsession with Catelyn Stark, an idée fixe that’s absolutely running riot throughout this speech, but it’s at least a solicitous motivation. The problem is that he can’t leave it there. Threaded throughout a speech that is supposed to be about how he views Sansa as a daughter is a running sexual theme; how Catelyn and he were “more than friends,” how she gave him “a gift a woman can give but once,” and so on. Needless to say, none of this is appropriate for a grown man talking to a thirteen-year-old, but it does make sense as part of a campaign of desensitization aimed at turning Sansa into the second coming of a teenaged Catelyn Tully, a Catelyn Tully who this time won’t reject him due to “Family, Duty, Honor” because he’s made her so dependent on him personally. And that’s the terrifying truth at the heart of Littlefinger: his desire to be her substitute father competes with (or rather queasily co-exists alongside) his desire to possess her sexually.

If Littlefinger is in some ways inspired by Jay Gatsby, this is Gatsby by way of Phantom of the Opera. He’s more right than he knows; Sansa is now safe from everyone but him.

Historical Analysis:

Unlike last chapter, there isn’t a specifically-mentioned historical parallel that GRRM is borrowing from for Sansa V. However, I think that one possible inspiration for Sansa’s escape from King’s Landing can be found in the annals of the Anarchy, one of GRRM’s favorite sources for historical anecdotes.

In 1142, the Empress Matilda was ensconced at Oxford Castle, her temporary capital in England (after having been expelled from London before her coronation could take place), having dispatched a chunk of her forces under her half-brother Robert Fitzroy, the Earl of Gloucester, to Anjou to bring over her husband’s fighting men to England. King Stephen, having recently recovered from a serious illness, unexpectedly raised an army in the North of England that outnumbered Matilda’s forces and put the castle under siege, hoping to end the civil war by capturing the Empress during her moment of weakness.

A photograph of St George's Tower taken in 2007

Stephen’s pursuit of the siege was impressively vigorous; after taking the city of Oxford through an unguarded postern gate, he looted and burned it, and then pillaged the surrounding area to prevent Matilda’s outnumbered forces from supporting themselves by foraging. Using the pillaged resources to build siege towers, battering rams, and mangonels, he put Oxford Castle under suppressing fire and settled down to starve out the garrison over several months.

With supplies running low, Matilda embarked on a desperate gamble to prevent herself from falling into her enemy’s grasp. In the middle of the night, Matilda climbed down St. George’s tower on a rope, using a white cloak to disguise herself among the December snowfall. Accompanied by four knights, Matilda managed to pass unseen through enemy lines, walking twenty miles through the snow to safety at Wallingford.

The next day, her garrison surrendered to Stephen, who had won the siege of Oxford, but failed utterly in his goal of ending the Anarchy in one swift stroke.

What If?

As you might expect from a chapter involving dramatic escapes and murders, there’s a good deal of room for hypothetical scenarios in this chapter:

  • Sansa doesn’t make it out? If for whatever reason Sansa is stopped in the throne room or the godswood, or doesn’t make it down the cliffside ladder, things change dramatically. It’s quite possible that Sansa would be put on trial next to Tyrion due to Cersei’s accusation, although Tywin’s larger plans would suggest that he would be manuevering to see that Sansa is acquitted of her charges so that she could be remarried to a Lannister upon Tyrion’s death. Tyrion’s escape at the end of ASOS would leave Sansa in an uncomfortable no-man’s-land, where it would be a tossup whether she would remain Cersei’s prisoner or whether Jaime could manage to smuggle her out to be returned to her family.
  • Ser Dontos doesn’t die? Given that Varys knew of Dontos’ role almost immediately, the main change that this hypothetical makes is that the Lannisters would learn of Littlefinger’s role in the escape. This is a more subtle change than it first appears, because the Lannisters don’t really have a free hand to deal with the Vale, what with Euron attacking the Reach, mop-up operations in the Riverlands and Stormlands, and the arrival of the Golden Company. However, it would change things if the Lannisters were counting on the support of the Vale in the forthcoming fighting in and around King’s Landing. Moreover, it might force Littlefinger to act more quickly in setting up his Harry the Heir, Marry the Heir plot.

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79 thoughts on “Chapter-by-Chapter Analysis: Sansa V, ASOS

  1. lluewhyn says:

    Thanks again for the essay!

    “However, it’s also possible that Ser Dontos’ improbable network of informants (consider how little time has transpired between Cersei ordering Tyrion’s arrest and this moment in the godswood, and how difficult it would be to get from there to here while the Goldcloaks are locking down the former) is simply not as good as it first appears.”

    I’m thinking it’s possible that GRRM’s just fudging a bit here. Ser Dontos’s role is not to ensure the assassination goes off successfully (that’s the Tyrells), but to get Sansa to Littlefinger. As soon as she leaves the party (along with many other guests who can sense what’s going to happen), it seems like it would be likely Dontos would be leaving to meet up with her as well. It’s not until several minutes (2-3?) after she leaves that Joffrey finally dies, Tywin tells Cersei to let Joffrey go, and Cersei has Tyrion arrested. Was Dontos hanging around this whole time while Sansa is already on her way out of the Red Keep?

    And yet, knowing Tyrion’s been arrested is crucial here for the Sansa/Littlefinger dynamic, so Dontos needs to know this information.

  2. jedimaesteryoda says:

    1. Jay Gatsby and the Phantom of the Opera is a good description. I would add that he’s more the guy in a HS rom-com who is the protagonist who competes for a pretty girl against a jock, but loses the girl, and never gets over it even in adulthood, convincing himself that she liked him when she never saw him as more than a friend. He’s a middle-aged man still holding onto HS drama.

    And he’s trying to relive or rather rewrite his past with Sansa.

    2. “One more stair took them to an oaken door banded with iron. ‘Be strong now, my Jonquil, you are almost there.'”

    Brings to mind the prayer: “Oak and iron guard me well, or else I’m dead and doomed to hell.” It goes with Sansa hardening herself.

    3. “In a better world, you might have been mine, not Eddard Stark’s. ”

    Why do I get the feeling that Ser Bonnifer Hasty will think the same thing when he meets Daenerys?

  3. Ciaran Fullerton says:

    1. I don’t think Dontos has a spy network so much as Littlefinger telling him that Tyrion would be blamed and that he would need to move fast. Sansa shouldn’t be a suspect at this point, at least until she’s escaped.
    2. I always assumed Littlefinger was never in the Vale and had been waiting in Blackwater bay the whole time. I don’t remember anyone at the fingers mentioning him having been there recently.
    3. Does Varys know Littlefinger has Sansa? Ser Shadrich doesn’t work for Varys so much as he’s a bounty hunter, one who offered to join Brienne and needed to take a job protecting a merchant on the way. I always assumed he felt Sansa would run to Lysa like Brienne did initially and got lucky.
    4. I like yourthe hypothetical of Jaime freeing Sansa. Do you think that he would betray his family like that for the vow rather than for Tyrion?
    5. You’ve called Petyr Baelish a psychopath before (no arguments here) but do you think that he was already like that on some level at Riverrun? We see how twisted his love for Catelyn is now but was he ever capable of caring for someone else in a healthy way in your opinion?

    • Grant says:

      2. From how they talked to him at his ancestral home, doesn’t sound like he was back there, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in a safe house instead of on the water. Easier to get and receive messages that way.

      4. I’m not sure if he ever thinks about it, but it didn’t sound like sending Brienne out for Sansa was related to Tyrion. Telling Brienne to go and protect Sansa, giving her a specifically named sword, that seems to me to be about keeping oaths (and doing the right thing).

    • Keith B says:

      1. There’s no way that Littlefinger could know that Tyrion would be blamed. No doubt he hoped that would happen, and hired the dwarfs in an attempt to bring it about, but he’s not a magician who can control all the details of a plot remotely. Dontos had to have stayed around long enough to hear Cersei’s accusation before leaving to join Sansa.

      3. I agree, there’s no good reason to believe that Varys knew Littlefinger was behind the plot. If he had known, he would have sent the Mad Mouse and probably several others to the Vale directly. Shadrich didn’t say that anyone had sent him to find Sansa. He heard about the reward and decided to look for her in the Riverlands, same as Brienne. After a while he gave up and took service with Littlefinger. He probably does know or strongly suspect who “Alayne Stone” is, though, but that’s just luck. He didn’t expect to find her in the Vale.

      • godot123 says:

        Shadrich does know who she is. I suspect it is no accident that when talking to her in TWOW sample chapter he utters: “A good melee is all a hedge knight can hope for, unless he stumbles on a bag of dragons” to Sansa.

    • 1. That’s a possibility, although Ser Dontos is in a position to be there in the present.
      2. I don’t think he’s been in the bay all this time, he had to meet up with Lysa.
      3. I this Shadrich does work for Varys, and I think Varys knowing about LF is what explains how Shadrich winds up in the Vale instead of wandering around the Riverlands.
      4. I mean, symbolically that’s what he’s doing when he sends Brienne out looking for Sansa in OTL.
      5. It does seem to have become obsessive pretty early on.

      • Ciaran Fullerton says:

        2. I’m not so sure Lysa has met Petyr. I’ve just read the chapter where they land on the fingers and Lysa updates Petyr on Bronze Yohn pressuring her for war and the rest for marriage. It doesn’t seem like they’ve talked since the war began.
        3. It might be presentism on my part but the Eyrie is where I’d look for Sansa. Lysa is the only known relative she has left and is the most likely candidate. It’s where Brienne planned to go before getting sidetracked. As for Varys why would he tell Tyrion he has no idea, why is Shadrich protecting a merchant due to lack of funds and why send one knight to kidnap Sansa without any means of getting her out of the vale?

  4. teageegeepea says:

    While Varys probably didn’t know about the plan to smuggle Sansa out of King’s Landing with Ser Dontos’ help ahead of time, he certainly puts two-and-two together quickly enough, and manages to get his chosen knight to the Vale first despite Littlefinger’s attempt to cover-up any connection between himself and Ser Dontos.

    Are you referring to Ser Shadrich? Referring to a reward doesn’t make him “chosen” by Varys.

    • I think he’s closely linked to Varys, as I’ll explain when I get to that Brienne chapter.

      • Keith B says:

        That could be a long time. Can you give us a hint?

      • lluewhyn says:

        I would love to hear this theory. Ser Shadrich has always bothered me as this magical “knows all the pertinent facts” all-seeing bounty hunter. It would make more sense if Varys was involved, who actually *does* know a good deal of the facts and could point him in the right direction.

  5. Sean C. says:

    Sansa doesn’t make it out? If for whatever reason Sansa is stopped in the throne room or the godswood, or doesn’t make it down the cliffside ladder, things change dramatically. It’s quite possible that Sansa would be put on trial next to Tyrion due to Cersei’s accusation, although Tywin’s larger plans would suggest that he would be manuevering to see that Sansa is acquitted of her charges so that she could be remarried to a Lannister upon Tyrion’s death. Tyrion’s escape at the end of ASOS would leave Sansa in an uncomfortable no-man’s-land, where it would be a tossup whether she would remain Cersei’s prisoner or whether Jaime could manage to smuggle her out to be returned to her family.

    I disagree on what Tywin would do. Tywin would think she was guilty (which she was, technically), he would be enraged and set on brutal punishment for offenses against his family.

    As far as the escape, Varys would have taken her along with Tyrion, I imagine.

    • Keith B says:

      She was technically guilty. The worst kind of guilty!

    • Grant says:

      Would Tywin really think she’s a credible suspect? For all that he has serious blind spots, he’s still a very capable politician and any amount of time interrogating Sansa would show she doesn’t have actual knowledge of what happened or the nerve to pull it off.

      Sure Cersei would insist Sansa was involved, but Tywin already knows Cersei isn’t exactly capable. Besides which, it’s politically useful to rush Sansa into a wedding with Lancel or some other relation since if she dies then the North is left with ‘Arya’ married to Ramsay and only the word of the Lannisters that she’s a fake.

      • Sean C. says:

        Sure Cersei would insist Sansa was involved, but Tywin already knows Cersei isn’t exactly capable.

        He believed Cersei on everything relating to Tyrion.

        And in this scenario she’s caught wearing the murder weapon.

        • Grant says:

          Cersei’s worst claims had the advantage of being true (albeit leaving out his own massive efforts to salvage the situation) and Tyrion admitting it, and Sansa wearing it doesn’t prove she was party to it.

          Then there’s Dontos almost certainly disappearing in this situation since Baelish is not leaving him alive for questioning, along with her testimony stating he was the one who provided it.

          • Sean C. says:

            Most people would think it was much more credible that she was part of it. If you divorce yourself from Sansa’s POV and got the seeming details of this crime in real life, her guilt would seem obvious.

          • Grant says:

            As I said, even briefly interrogating her would show she really doesn’t know anything about what happened or have the nerve for the assassination. You don’t need to see her perspective to think that, even if Tyrion killed Joffrey, bringing her in on the hit wouldn’t be a good idea.

            And again, there’s the matter of Dontos, who Sansa would definitely name and would almost definitely turn up dead if the Lannisters didn’t reach him first, indicating someone was using her.

        • Secretary of Balloon Doggies says:

          He’s hated Tyrion from the time he was born as Tyrion is a mirror of everything Tywin hates about himself and in Tywin’s mind cost him his wife. He’s never judged Tyrion using reason.

    • Her guilt aside, he still needs her claim to Winterfell.

      • Sean C. says:

        If he believes she’s a regicide, her use as a political pawn is minimal, even aside from his desire to punish her.

        • Grant says:

          If he does that, he’s signing away the North to the Boltons. Sure it’s not a stable reign at first, but they’ve got a possible Stark and the Lannisters don’t, which means the best the Lannisters have is the unverifiable claim she’s not a Stark and trying to offer Winterfell to someone else. Not the best situation when the Lannisters are trying to balance the Tyrells and can’t count on the Freys.

          • Sean C. says:

            I didn’t say it was ideal, but if he believes she’s a regicide she is realistically too dangerous to be used as a pawn for her claim long-term.

          • Grant says:

            He would definitely think Tyrion was the one behind the murder, and Sansa is very easily surrounded by people with no reason to work for her and a husband whose only ambition is getting her pregnant.

            Heck, even if Tywin somehow overlooked how completely out of her depth she would be in this situation, the only reason she could possibly be involved in regicide was because her important husband hated the king.

          • Sean C. says:

            Heck, even if Tywin somehow overlooked how completely out of her depth she would be in this situation, the only reason she could possibly be involved in regicide was because her important husband hated the king.

            That was the only reason she could commit regicide in this particular way. There would be nothing stopping her from walking up to any member of the Lannister family and stabbing them in the jugular with a utensil, if she wanted to.

          • Grant says:

            I’d say there’s a fair amount stopping her from doing that, such as the fact that it isn’t that easy to do, especially in an environment where servants and guards would definitely be told to watch her.

        • David Hunt says:

          “If he believes she’s a regicide, her use as a political pawn is minimal, even aside from his desire to punish her.”

          If the trial clears her, she’s not a regicide anymore. Then he can marry her off to another Lannister. One who will actually produce an heir to Winterfell on her. After they’ve got that, he was probably going to have her killed off, anyway. If he believed that she really had something to do with Joffrey’s death, he’d probably arrange for the death to be horrible in some sort of sexually humiliating manner. That’s how Tywin typically deals with women who stymie him

          • Sean C. says:

            If the trial clears her, she’s not a regicide anymore.

            We are obviously talking about the actuality, not the legal finding. A woman who you believe committed regicide is a huge danger.

            After they’ve got that, he was probably going to have her killed off, anyway.

            This is an aside, but there’s really no basis for this.

    • David White says:

      I would think that if Sansa were on trial next to Tyrion, then Tywin could declare Sansa guilty but Tyrion innocent. From Tywin’s perspective, this would allow him to protect the Lannister name from regicide (because I can’t imagine Tywin stomaching a second “kingslayer” in the family). With Sansa guilty, he could attaint her, removing the Stark claim from Winterfell/The North, and then gift the North to whomever he wanted. Whether it would go to Tyrion or a different Lannister nephew is an open question, but that would definitely thwart the Boltons. (From Tywin’s POV).

      Whether the North would accept a Lannister in Winterfell under those conditions is another matter.

      • Grant says:

        Roose would make a (decent) argument that it’s pretty hard to claim a captive teenager like Sansa could carry out a poisoning without her husband being at all aware of it, and that even if she was a murderer any inheritance should go to the last living Stark’s descendants (meaning Roose’s grandchildren).

  6. Brett says:

    So is the general consensus that being sent to the Wall is basically “social death”, and your marriage counts as annulled because of it leaving your wife free to re-marry? I’m just wondering about that, because if it isn’t then Tyrion is doomed if Sansa doesn’t make it out – Tywin would want him gone to make sure Sansa can be cleanly married to another Lannister.

    I love Littlefinger’s monologue in this chapter. I especially like his description of how he played the Tyrells – talking up Joffrey in person to them, while having his men spread accounts of how awful he was to the Tyrell men so that it seemed like it was “organically” making its way known to them.

    • Grant says:

      Since you can take the black at apparently any age and your vows include you not having family ties, I’d say so. Certainly there’d be a lot of incentive for everyone relevant to agree since otherwise Sansa’s not available.

    • It works that way with succession (see Jeor and Jorah Mormont), so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work the same way with marriage.

  7. Sam says:

    I actually think Varys doesn’t know about Sansa being in the Vale since he doesn’t mention that to Tyrion when he asks about her and he has no reasons to lie then.

    Honestly I think this is actually Littlefinger at his most cunning. He has successfully got his hands on Sansa, destabilized the Lannisters/Tyrell alliance, effectively removed Tyrion from the game (at least until he comes back with Dany in the far future, and the only people who know for certain he’s behind it the Tyrells involved with the assassination can’t talk without exposing themselves. All in all he wins pretty big this chapter.

    • Varys knows she escaped with Dontos. And then all of the sudden Shadrich pivots from looking for Sansa and Dontos in the Riverlands to the Vale. I think Varys is the reason.

      Littlefinger does do very well with this chapter.

      • Keith B says:

        But by the time Shadrich shows up in the Vale, Varys is no longer Master of Whispers. So what does he plan to do about Sansa if he finds her? And why would Shadrich participate in Varys’ plan when he can get a bag of gold by handing her over to the Lannisters?

      • Sampson says:

        In the released Alayne TWOW chapter, Ser Shadrich refers slyly to “stumbling upon a bag of dragons” when speaking to “Alayne”. Stumbling suggests it was accidental

  8. artihcus022 says:

    Littlefinger gloating to Sansa has a sense of him going “I’ve been waiting forever to gloat” it’s quite obvious he’s a narcissist who wants to be admired for how smart/cunning/clever he’s been and how he masterminded crimes and murder and gets away with it and now gets to bask in his evil lair. Varys generally doesn’t have that (though that does make his confession speech to Kevan at the end of ADWD a little out-of-character because he channels LF there). That anecdote about Matilda’s escape is pretty interesting, classic case of tactical victory versus strategic failure.

    I actually wonder what GRRM’s plans for Littlefinger were because he’s another character who wasn’t there in the original outline and obviously “grew in the telling” because by the end of ASOS he becomes established as the mastermind of the Wot5k and the Big Bad of that entire story arc but the narrative points to him having a marginal role after that, so it’s a big lopsided in terms of what his overall ‘arc’ is. As a villain-manipulator who plays different factions against one another, Littlefinger feels out of Renaissance Drama and of course as many literary scholars have noted, the bad guy who manipulates stuff and pulls strings is a double for the author, so I wonder if LF in a way is a kind of mirror for GRRM in terms of creating a sense out of these KL politicking.

    • Bail o' Lies says:

      Littlefinger will run his course once Sansa and the Knights of the Vale land in the North. Instead of conquering the lands of the house that stole Cat from him with his former liege lord’s army. He’ll have to deal with an army of the undead he can’t trick. As well a lot of the living don’t put up with his antics and scheming like the Small Council did.

      Also, Sansa will slowly realize on some level she not alone anymore and that people are fighting for her over Baelish. As well as people from her past: Jon Snow, her little brother Rickon, and Jenye Poole.

      Discoveries. Realizations. Then an execution.

  9. Adam says:

    I’m not sure about the timescale but I had always assumed Littlefinger never sailed to the Vale at all, but merely anchored close-ish to Kings Landing for the weeks between him leaving and the Purple Wedding. How likely would thay have been?

  10. Kandrax says:

    Had Cersei don’t accuse Tyrion, what do you think Tywin would do? In my opinion, he would told Pycelle to stay silent about poisoning.

    • Jim B says:

      I don’t think Tywin would let a good crisis go to waste.

      I suspect he would have blamed “unknown agents of Stannis Baratheon.” After all, Stannis is already rumored (correctly!) to have had his own brother assassinated, so it will have some credence, and further poisons (pardon the pun) Stannis’s reputation.

      Down the road, if anyone at court is causing headaches for the Lannister-Tyrell alliance, Tywin can use them as a scapegoat just as Tyrion was in the original timeline. “Oh, we discovered the identity of Stannis’s assassin!”

      Also, if the official explanation is that Joffrey, a seemingly healthy teenager, just died of natural causes, that’s not going to be very satisfying to the public. People don’t like believing that stuff like that just happens randomly. It’s bound to cause whispering that the gods themselves must have struck Joffrey down. Perhaps they’re displeased with him and the Lannisters? Hmm, what was that accusation that Stannis made?

      • Sean C. says:

        This seems to overlook that Tywin would be very concerned about finding out who murdered Joffrey, because that’s an urgent threat to the regime.

        Tyrion wasn’t used as a scapegoat, they thought he was guilty.

        • Jim B says:

          I’m not suggesting Tywin wouldn’t be concerned about finding out the murderer. Publicly blaming Stannis doesn’t preclude conducting an investigation; in fact, it’s entirely consistent (hence the “unknown agents” part). Certainly it’s an easier fit than hushing up the info about poison.

          As to whether Tyrion was being used as a scapegoat, that may depend on who the “they” is there, but I really don’t remember if it’s made clear whether Tywin truly believed in Tyrion’s guilt or not, so you may be right.

    • If Cersei hadn’t accused Tyrion, I think Tywin would have accepted a verdict of “natural causes” and moved on with Tommen.

  11. Rake says:

    Littlefinger is trying to manipulate Sansa to isolate her and make her not trust anyone but him, that’s bad because he’s not trustworthy but I wonder if this advice is that bad in context after all almost everyone Sansa has trusted until now betrayed her or intended to betray her, if Littlefinger is right the Tyrells could very well pin her as guilty of Joffrey’s death, Sansa was wrong to trust Cersei in the first book and Dontos was most likely not to be trusted, and part of her family he died trusting the wrong people (with Baelish himself being one of those people), more realism and less romanticism would benefit Sansa (always distrusting Baelish of course).

    Maybe I’m wrong but by the end of book four Baelish seems to have managed to make Sansa dependent on him and also seems to have “brainwashed” her (but incomplete), I wonder how she’s going to get out of it.

    I never perceived this change in Sansa’s clothes as very significant, she will become a bastard but she will still have the standard of living of a noblewoman, and will also continue to act and be treated like a noblewoman, only of lower nobility status, in addition she will be betrothed to the heir of the Vale.

    The whole relationship between Baelish and Tyrion seems very artificial, Baelish seems to have a very personal hatred towards Tyrion, just see everything he did to humiliate and kill Tyrion, but apparently there is no reason for that, it is never said that Tyrion has already harmed Baelish or has offended him, Baelish just hates Tyrion irrationally, this is so poorly explained it seems contrived, I always thought this was Martin’s fault (yes, he makes mistakes), hope he explains this in the future.

    Despite the show’s fame, in the books it sometimes seems like the characters simply teleport to one place, the best example being the fateful encounter of Catelyn and Tyrion, it seems to me that Martin made Tyrion teleport to the inn as he leaves Castle Black almost at the same time as Catelyn left King’s Landing but they still found themselves in the middle of the Riverlands, meaning Tyrion crossed the entire North in a short time.

    Who is the knight Varys sent to the Vale?

    • lluewhyn says:

      There’s no reason for Littlefinger to hate Tyrion in AGoT when he pins him with owning the dagger, but Tyrion’s just a convenient political target at that point.

      However, early on in ACoK, Littlefinger receives a VERY good reason to personally hate him: Tyrion tricks him by playing on his personal insecurities and vanity when trying to ferret out Cersei’s informant. Littlefinger’s whole deal is that he believes that he has hacked the noble “code” and can easily manipulate them by understanding their needs and weaknesses while completely overlooking him as a threat. He’s been largely successful, with the embezzlement of the treasury being a major accomplishment. It doesn’t matter to him if some schemes don’t bear fruition and/or a noble does something he doesn’t want, as that’s just part of the game (see his comment about pawns having their own mind) and he can just try again.

      And then Tyrion pulls the same gambit on him. He just out-conned the conman. This doesn’t garner his respect like Varys doing something of this nature would (who has his own similarities to Littlefinger), it deeply upsets his worldview and is a deep slight against Petyr’s ego. So, Tyrion has to be brought down and made to suffer.

      As far as the knight Varys sent to the vale, see the conversations above about Ser Shadrich.

      • David Hunt says:

        I agree with everything you wrote regarding LF’s grudge against Tyrion. I hope you won’t take offense by my adding a proposed addendum. The prize that was dangled in front of LIttlefinger for Tyrion’s con was Harrenhall. I don’t know how fully fleshed out LF’s plan to marry Lysa so he could gain power in the Vale was. But it was clear when Tyrion made the offer, that LF was VERY interested in Harrenhall.

        Having something that he wanted dangled in front of him and snatched away, by being made look a fool no less, was a personal slight to LF. Tyrion pulled off the sting by running a con, making it clear that LF WASN’T the smartest man in the room that day, which is contrary to his personal needs. Finally, it’s clear that Tyrion figured he could get away with it because LF was a nobody as nobles go. No lands. No armies. No threat, so he can be pushed around without consequence. Just like Hoster Tully did. I think THAT is what made it so personal against Tyrion.

        • Richc77 says:

          And Tyrion is a member of a great house who is married to a woman Littlefinger is fixated on, which triggers his insecurities as well.

      • Rake says:

        I don’t know, the fact that Littlefinger told Catelyn that Tyrion owned the dagger already indicates that he had something personal against Tyrion, if that was the only thing he did against Tyrion I would think it was an isolated case but we know he didn’t was (and the humiliation he put Tyrion through was completely unnecessary, if Tyrion didn’t escape he wouldn’t even know it was Littlefinger), marriage to Sansa may have increased the hatred but I think that hatred already existed.

        Which brings me to another question, Tyrion always knew Littlefinger framed him in the dagger case, so why in the second book did he never do anything to Littlefinger? Honestly this was the biggest mistake Tyrion ever made, maybe he thought Littlefinger was necessary but he never tried a damn thing against Littlefinger.

        • Jim B says:

          Re your last paragraph: I think the “real” answer is that LF has very good plot armor. In-universe, the best explanation I have is that Tyrion was so preoccupied with the threats posed by Cersei, Joffrey, and Stannis, that he either wasn’t focusing enough on LF, and/or didn’t think he could afford to open yet another front. So he slotted LF somewhere in between the categories of “immediate threats I have to deal with” (C/J/S) and “possible threats who are useful to me now” (Varys).

        • lluewhyn says:

          When Littlefinger tells Catelyn Tyrion owns the dagger, he has no reason to believe that Catelyn is going to run into Tyrion later. The other 2 of 3 Lannisters that were in Winterfell are currently in King’s Landing, which might blow up in his face rather soon.

        • Grant says:

          Even weirder, Tyrion NEVER tells Tywin about this. You would assume this would be one of the first things he would tell his father about his arrest by Catelyn because it makes very clear that a major figure in the regime has some kind of anti-Tyrion agenda for some reason. Even if Tywin hates Tyrion, this would still be a very suspicious thing and an anti-Tyrion agenda might mean an anti-Lannister agenda.

        • Tyrion never acted against Littlefinger because he viewed Littlefinger as indispensible given his financial acumen and control over patronage.

    • Yes, it’s still bad for Sansa to trust someone as predatory as Littlefinger.

      The clothes continue to be important to Alayne’s story, we’ll get into that in future chapters.

      I don’t think it’s artificial; sometimes people just hate each other for no reason.

      Shadrich is the knight Varys sent to the Vale.

    • godot123 says:

      As to why Petyr hates Tyrion, maybe he heard Tyrion joke about Petyr being an commoner or having a “little finger”, and Petyr decided to add him to his personal vendetta list. I think Petyr has the same disproportionate grudge retaliation sense as Walder Frey or Tywin Lannister.

  12. Michael S says:

    Fantastic as always. Thank you!

  13. Brian Bowles says:

    It’s been a while since I read them so I can’t remember, but who is Varys’ chosen knight that he sends to the Vale first?

  14. Thank you for another great analysis! I wanted to say, not only are your chapter analyses informative and give me new perspective on characters, but I think your writing itself is also very nice and you have some very poetic sentences.

    Something I didn’t appreciate about this chapter at first, is that I think it adds another fairytale allusion to Sansa’s story, in addition to some Beauty and the Beast and Snow White references. Sansa fleeing the royal celebration, beginning to discard the attire of nobility and her transformation into “Alayne Stone” reminds me a lot of Cinderella fleeing at midnight and changing out of her magical dress into her plain clothes. Except the prince (or rather, king) is dead, and the people searching for her are planning to arrest her for regicide (except for Brienne), not marry her. And it has elements of Snow White running into the forest with the queen ordering her death. This is something that I really like about how fairytales are incorporated into ASOIAF, that they are alluded to without it being a straightforward retelling.

  15. Richc77 says:

    The amount of info Dontos was trusted with is pretty reckless on Littlefinger’s part. He knew of the date of the assassination, the murder weapon, and he could at least identify Oswell Kettleblack. An inspection of the hairnet would have found the poison and confirmed his testimony. What if he tried to go double agent and sell this to the Lannisters?

    • Jim B says:

      That strikes me as a reasonable calculated risk on LF’s part. Certainly compared to some of the other gambles he has taken.

      Although Dontos is doing this in part for money, he has other motivations. Joffrey has continuously humiliated and abused him for months (?) now, and the other Lannisters haven’t done anything about it. The only person who’s been kind to him or tried to help him is Sansa. “Get a big bag of gold, Joffrey dead, and Sansa safely away from these people tormenting her” is a lot better deal for him than “Joffrey alive, Sansa possibly killed, and maybe you’ll get a big bag of gold and maybe Joffrey will be less of an asshole to you.”

      LF is right to be concerned about Dontos betraying him in the future. But that’s because Joffrey is now dead, and Sansa is safely away. Then Dontos’s choice becomes “keep silent” vs. “maybe get a big bag of gold, unless the Lannisters just kill you,” and his need for money might cause him to risk that second option.

      • lluewhyn says:

        And there’s no guarantee that Dontos doesn’t end up dead or exiled for helping the Lannisters anyway. One way or another, they seem to have a track record for screwing over their allies, or planning to do so.

    • That’s a good point. On the other hand, as Jim B. notes, Dontos does have a pretty good reason to want Joffrey dead.

  16. Manuel S says:

    Thanks for the first essay of the year!

  17. Pandoddle says:

    You’ve not addressed a couple of things I found intriguing in this chapter :

    1. Dontos Hollard : “Dress dark, he’d said, yet under his brown hooded cloak he was wearing his old surcoat; red and pink horizontal stripes beneath a black chief bearing three gold crowns, the arms of House Hollard.” & “”I wanted to be a knight. For this, at least.”

    2. Dontos Hollard : “I was drunk and fell off my horse and Joffrey wanted
    my fool head, but you saved me. You saved me, sweetling.” & then, Sansa : “He’s weeping, she realized. “And now you have saved me.” ”

    Why does Hollard want to be a knight “for this”, and why does he weep when helping Sansa to the cliffs and out ?

    • Bail o' Lies says:

      It is to show that Dontos, while on some level is doing it for the money, he was truly grateful that she saved his life, and for once in his life he is acting like a true knight, rescuing an innocent maiden from certain death.

      The thing about Dontos is ‘his intentions were never pure.’

      He was the one person Sansa could talk to, but he never told her the whole truth.

      The reason he constantly asked for kisses from Sansa? Well, that’s part of the chivalric romance, “a noble lady kissing her loyal knight,” even if its a chaste kiss, BUT he also wanted to be kissed by a cute girl that was way out of his league.

      ‘Yes he wanted to help save & protect Sansa, but he wanted to get paid as well.’ He could have easily kept his mouth shut about the Tyrells’ plan and she would have been saved from Joffery…but then he wouldn’t get paid. And that’s what killed him in the end. He rescued Sansa, but got killed for his greed…also to cover up for Baelish.

      Dontos (a knight & fool) like Tyrion (husband & enemy) or Sandor (guardian & thug) wanted to help Sansa in someway but they had their problems. Baelish wants Sansa to see only the negative in them so she will rely on only him. I suspect part of her breaking from Littlefinger’s hold is realizing the good and the bad in people.

      ‘There can be bad in the noble knight, and there can be good in the devious rouge.’

  18. Sweet says:

    Has there been an issue with viewing the essay? Neither this one nor the next (Jamie) is displayed on the page.

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