A good question. I’m not sure there are full parallels as such, but there are certainly references.
First of all, let’s get out what we know about Florian (and Jonquil):
- There’s several songs relating their story, though we haven’t heard any verses yet; the story is also frequently related by puppeteers
- Florian was both a fool and a great knight (“The singers say there was another fool once who was the greatest knight of all…”), and wore armor of motley
- He first spied Jonquil bathing with her sisters in a pool near what is now the city of Maidenpool
- He was homely, but not as old as Ser Dontos (so, mid-20s perhaps?)
- Florian was not of noble birth
- There’s a giant involved in the story somehow (almost certainly related to Florian’s victory over a “terrible foe”)
- The story is romantic but also sad
So, we can rule out exact parallels. Sandor is not a literal fool, not a knight, and there’s no pool or anything like it in his history AFAIK. (Although I have read fics with Sansa in the Winterfell godswood pool or the like, but tbh I don’t think the ficcers were doing deliberate Florian and Jonquil references.)
But, not to put a fine point on it, Sandor is homely (and not so old). GRRM has said that without the scars, he’d be plain, not handsome, so you have that. (Though it’s not exactly an exclusive characteristic there, of course.) And Sandor is not of noble birth per se. The Cleganes are a knightly house, but only for the past 3 generations, and were servants before that. Not as lowborn as smallfolk (they have a keep and lands and a maester), but not highborn or “noble” as such.
And… there is certainly a giant involved in his story. And perhaps in Sansa’s as well. (That is, if the Ghost of High Heart’s prophecy was not fulfilled by Robin’s doll; and since Bran’s prophecy of the Mountain being involved in Sansa’s life has yet to happen, it’s probable that the snowcastle was a red herring.)
Though when it comes down to it, it’s not really the parallels in the actual story that get me so much as the way the story has been related. For example, in The Hedge Knight:
This morning the puppeteers were doing the tale of Florian and Jonquil. The fat Dornishwoman was working Florian in his armor made of motley, while the tall girl held Jonquil’s strings. “You are no knight,” she was saying as the puppet’s mouth moved up and down. “I know you. You are Florian the Fool.”
“I am, my lady,” the other puppet answered, kneeling. “As great a fool as ever lived, and as great a knight as well.”
“A fool and a knight?” said Jonquil. “I have never heard of such a thing.”
“Sweet lady,” said Florian, “all men are fools, and all men are knights, where women are concerned.”
It was a good show, sad and sweet both, with a sprightly swordfight at the end, and a nicely painted giant.
(Illustration of that scene here, if you’re interested.)
And then there’s this line, which gives me all the feels and all the fears:
One man-at-arms was dangling the puppets of Florian and Jonquil from his hands as another set them afire with a torch.
So… whether there’s exact parallels or not… I find it interesting that the story of Florian and Jonquil, so important to Sandor and Sansa’s story, has these references. (I also find it interesting that Sandor, despite his dismissal of songs, knows exactly what F&J is about and seems to want to hear that song from Sansa.) All in all, I would love to hear more of the details of the story (and, like, actual verses of the song), though I bet we’ll get them from D&E before we do ASOIAF itself…
I could keep you safe
There’s a fairly common question in this fandom that shows up in the tags—and that is: Why didn’t Sansa go with the Hound the night of Blackwater? It’s usually accompanied by some quip about her apparent lack of intelligence or bravery, or some shippy nonsense about how Sandor Clegane would have kept her safe.
Now. Fandom. Let’s be real here.
Sansa, based off of what she knew and Sandor’s conduct the night of Blackwater, made the correct decision. Let’s review.
What Sansa knew at the moment when Sandor asked her to go:
- The Lannisters were losing, meaning her Joffrey and Cersei problems were about to go away.
- There are rapists out there. Cersei had just finished explaining what happens when cities are sacked.
- She was still a valuable political hostage, meaning that Stannis would treat her better than the Lannisters and would probably bargain with Robb for her on reasonable terms. It’s also logical to conclude that Robb might just go home if Joffrey is off the throne, seeing as the war was against Joffrey in the first place.
- King’s Landing was burning, and the flames were highly volatile. She’d be safe inside her barred room, in a tower. Made of stone.
And then, let’s review Sandor’s conduct that night in Sansa’s room:
- Extremely drunk and aggressive, both verbally and physically
- Threatening, also in a sexual manner, by pinning her to her bed and saying he’ll “take a song” from her. The rape threat is there. Sansa is twelve and our narrator, so she doesn’t pick up on it.
- He holds a knife to her throat. And, “Sing, little bird. Sing for your life.” She has every right to think he’s going to slit her throat.
- Is afraid of the fire they’d be trying to escape. He left the battle. What makes her think he won’t abandon her if the flames get too high?
- Sidenote: can we please stop romanticizing this scene, shippers? It’s not romantic, it’s traumatizing, to the both of them. You can find an emotional connection with romantic potential without romanticizing. Writing off this scene as “romantic” is highly problematic and excusing Sandor’s behavior towards Sansa and only perpetrates this attitude that she was “stupid” not to go with him.
Sansa has no reason to trust him. As far as she knows, if she bars her doors against any would-be rapists and waits until morning, she will be Stannis’ prisoner, not Joffrey’s. She has much higher odds of going home as Stannis’ prisoner than she does as trying to escape with a drunk, violent, triggered and high-profile deserter. Let’s not forget that Sandor isn’t just any Lannister soldier. He’s a member of the Kingsguard and has been Joffrey’s bodyman for most of his life. If the Lannisters catch them escaping it’s their lives, and if Sansa is caught out of her room she could be raped, killed, or spirited out of King’s Landing by another person or by the fleeing Lannisters themselves.
Why is she supposed to trust that a man who is drunk and craven to take her out of the city and to her family? Why is she supposed to trust a ‘Lannister dog?’ This is the part where people point to the riot, or the ‘Enough’ or the cloak or Sandor stopping Sansa from pushing Joffrey off the bridge. But can we recognize that at those moments Sandor wasn’t drunk and sexually violent towards her? And that later, on the Serpentine or at other moments he was? She has no reason to trust his capabilities or the fact that he won’t rape her or make advances. She has no reason to trust anyone. They’ve all proved to her that she can’t trust anyone to keep her safe, which is what Sandor is promising while in no state of mind to actually make that promise.
And she recognizes that.
And yeah, it’d be great for Sansa to be able to have the foresight that we have as readers. She didn’t know that Tywin was coming with the Tyrells. Or that she would be married off. Or be forced under Littlefinger’s thumb. She thought she was making the right decision—and based off of what she knew at the moment, and as a scared out of her wits twelve year old girl facing down rape and murder and assault she was.
But you know who else recognizes that Sandor’s conduct is wrong and he can’t keep his promises and is terrifying a twelve year old?
Which is why he leaves her behind. With his cloak.
And literarily: can we all please recognize that Sansa and Sandor needed to separate for their parallel identity arcs? I have a chart and everything. They needed to separate and grow up and get better, mentally. And if they never separated, then they never would have started to romanticize the other. Sansa going with Sandor that night would have ended with her being truly and forever terrified and disgusted by him, and rightfully so. Read all the AU fic you want, but canon wouldn’t have been so nice to them. Sansa would have been delivered to Robb by the Red Wedding. She could have been the bride instead of Edmure. Enjoy that thought. It wouldn’t have ended well.
Seriously, this. And I have to keep pointing out, again and again and again: Sandor didn’t ask. The show cleared it up (but Sandor expresses himself rather differently in the show in general), but in the books his offer is not clear, he merely says he’s leaving, maybe going north. When she asks why he’s in her room, he only says he wants his song, and threatens her life — moments after saying he’ll protect it! With that kind of example, with their previous contradictory and confusing encounters (recall he’d threatened her life more than once, he’d previously held a sword to her throat)… even if his offer had been straightforward, she has no reason to trust him. (And re the show, where it was more clear, see here for why she didn’t.)
And so Sansa only puts all of Sandor’s words together long after he’s gone; in the heat of the moment, she was too confused and terrified to think. It’s only after the Lannisters have reasserted power, when she’s again a captive for certain, that she wishes the Hound was still around to keep her safe, that she thinks it might have been better if she’d gone with him. (And, you know… it’s interesting Sandor never mentions the offer to Arya. Not that he would have, probably… but it’s something to consider.)
And yes, if there’s anyone who realized that their traveling together would have never ended well, it’s Sandor himself, in the moment Sansa sang for mercy. So, as ofhousadama said, he leaves her, with his bloody Kingsguard cloak, that symbol of broken dreams and empty promises.
Because Sansa wasn’t afraid of Sandor Clegane the night she sang to him and he kissed her, even if she knew he could’ve taken advantage of her.
*before you’d all invade my askbox: yes, we all know that the “kiss” didn’t happen, it was only in Sansa’s head/imagination. but she believes it so it did*
Well … I hate to be the buzz kill here, but I think it’s disingenuous to claim that Sansa wasn’t afraid of Sandor that night. In fact, I think it’s safe to say she was downright terrified and in fear for her life - at least that how I read it. I’ll be first in line to school non-believers on how incredibly strong Sansa is as a character, but she was still a tipsy and frightened 12 year old girl facing down a blood soaked, PSTD-triggered, drunken giant of a man who threw her down on her bed, put a knife to her throat, and fairly explicitly threatened her life (and possibility her maidenhood) unless she gave him a song.
Sansa’s memory of the kiss that never happened was in large part the result, IMO, of her attempt to take a highly traumatic situation and turn it into something less life-threatening and more like one of the romantic stories she loved so well. Much easier to integrate that into her mind-set than being man-handled and threatened by a man over which she had very little (if any) control. It was instinct and empathy on her part - and the affect those qualities had on Sandor - that saved her life that night. And though I understand the desire to interpret that scene as something romantic and thereby more palatable, perhaps, than admitting what an absolute disaster waiting to happen Sandor was in those moments, I think that’s a dangerous path to tread. It denies the lasting impact that encounter had on both of them and makes what was in many ways a very powerful and emotional scene into something far less dramatic and insightful. But maybe that’s just me.
I think what makes Sansa so incredibly strong in this scene is that she does have a moment of feeling for him even while she is at the same time totally terrified of him and what he could do. She knows that he’s a really dangerous man who’s definitely done things as bad as hurting a helpless girl. But after all she’s seen in their interaction up to this point she also feels that there must be some humanity to try to reach out to in him, or at least desperately hopes that there is.
In that moment that “some instinct made her raise her hand to his face,” she intuitively knows that as undeserving of it he may be, her sympathy is what can calm him down right now. And the sympathy is heartfelt and real whether he deserves it or not because they’ve been through a lot of the same hell, and it’s not romantic or even really rational, it’s just there, another world-shattering consequence of everything she’s been through. It seems in hindsight, by the point that she’s actually wondering whether she made the right choice staying behind, she understands that in a way he was just as frightened then as she was and that was what made him act so inexcusably toward her. Of course it really would not have been the best thing for her to leave with him and her judgment was right, but still, this is the kind of thing that puts me in stunned awe of the kind of person Sansa is.
And yeah, I’m convinced the very changed memory Sansa seems to have of how it happened is simply a fantasy she’s constructed to disassociate from the real traumas in her life. And it’s very complicated because of course Sandor has also contributed to those traumas (unlike, say, Loras, who just doesn’t seem to do it for her anymore), and that’s a whole other endless discussion. But seriously, if you don’t define that imagined scenario as him still taking advantage of her even if he didn’t rape her there is something wrong.
Every once and awhile I’ll read an excerpt like this and it hits me all over again how astonishing it is that such a wounded man still retained within him a small spark of goodness and honor. And that it was a young girl who believed in that sort of goodness who was brave enough to question his nihilistic outlook and tap into something within him that he might not have even realized was there.
It’s secondary, really, that I’m an endgame shipper of these two. What makes it truly extraordinary is the ages-old tale of how powerful it can be to find someone who is accepting of you, who can see the humanity in you and who cares about you, despite any outward appearances. It reminds me how important it is to treat people with kindness. I think that’s the greatest gift we can bestow on our fellow human beings.
When he says “Die, maybe” my heart convulses. He always says things like that, things that could be taken as so hard-hearted, but are really utterly depressing because they show how paper-thin his mental/emotional armor really is.
He’s saying “I’m going to kill people tomorrow. There’s a good chance I could die tomorrow.” and I believe that he means his nonchalance about both of them, and that he has come to believe that people are there for the strong to play with. This worldview is very ingrained, and it’s gradually developed over many years to protect his psyche against the discrepancies between his childhood idealism and the realities of his adulthood.
But it’s interesting that it’s such a fragile world view that he feels threatened by a devout, kind, distressed girl just… existing. He feels the need to force his nihilistic worldview on her because as long as this girl really believes things should be like they are in the songs, there is a chance he is wrong, and his way of life is reprehensible, and has been reprehensible for years. He does all he can to show his resentment.
Even through this terrible conversation, (and really, all of their terrible conversations) you can see that he is the vulnerable one. Sansa is just largely confused about his refusal to verbally be nice and play along with his role in the story. His role: a protector, which, lovely enough, is what he actually does for both her and Arya, despite his words. Sansa’s estimation of him and role for him (a human not-quite-knightly protector who would never let her come to harm if he could prevent it) is closer to the truth than his role for himself (a mindless dog that preys on the weak)
So he is the one at risk in these conversations, his very identity is at risk, and everything he says is so goddamn vulnerable I could die. He is the one saying “I’m maybe going to die tomorrow” to Sansa, nonchalantly like he doesn’t care at all.
But I’m sorry. You don’t say “I’m maybe going to die tomorrow” to another person without a part of you hoping they will respond, “I hope that you come back alive.”
He wants her hopefulness gone so it won’t threaten his identity, but he needs her to hope for him more. And he never knows, but she does have enough empathy in her enormous loving heart to pray for him. She’s the only one in the whole world who hopes for him, who has sympathy for him, who wonders about what his fate is afterward. No wonder he came back to her like a homing beacon through the fires of battle.
#and he returns to end it once and for all #one of them will win the argument and define once and for all who Sandor Clegane is #he tries to prove he is that beast by threatening her with the knife #and making her sing (making her realize her songs aren’t true) #but it backfires on him - the song is a song from his childhood a song of innnocence #a pious song #a gentle loving hopeful song #he is too vulnerable against this onslaught #he is wrong #and his way of life is reprehensible #he is a human man who does remember what it was like to dream like that #vulnerable identity shattered he leaves #and Sansa is left with his not-quite-knightly cloak #(cloaks protect against the elements) #(cloaks protect new brides) #(but she knows of a better protector and she is confused and sad that he’s left her with nothing but this substitute)
I’ve talked about the beauty and the beast trope and how it relates to Sansa and Sandor before, but I’m going to do it again, because it seems there’s something people have yet to understand about this trope and why it can be so damn seductive. So I’m gonna spell it out for you.
But first of all, confession time: I love Beauty and the Beast stories. This is more of a grown-up thing than a kid thing for me; Beauty and the Beast wasn’t my favorite Disney movie before the age of 18, because Aladdin and Lion King and Mulan and the more, for lack of a better word, fun, movies existed. But when I watched Beauty and the Beast for the first time since reaching adulthood, it actually made me cry, I loved it that damn much. (The scene where he lets her go so she can save her father gives me shivers.) Oh, is it problematic as hell? Yes it is. The trope is a troubling one. I do have issues with some of the ways the Disney film been critiqued, because some critiques — as with critiques of Little Mermaid that fail to realize it is a billion percent clear that Ariel giving up her voice is a bad thing and Ursula’s suggestion that she win her man via “body language” is meant to be condemned — miss the fairly straightforward morality of the movie; the Beast’s behavior prior to his decision to be a good (better) guy in the hopes of winning Belle’s love are characterized as terrible and Belle doesn’t give him the time of day until he does start straightening out. That doesn’t mean it’s not sending another dangerous message, though, which is that you can change a bad guy into a good guy with the power of love. Belle’s love literally (and magically) transforms him from an inhuman beast into a prince. That’s not a particularly healthy concept to apply to real life.
But I do think it’s a pretty obvious power fantasy.
One of the biggest hurdles in empathizing with Sandor Clegane, or even understanding his function as a character within the narrative, is his close relationship with and willingness to jump for the Lannisters and I’d really like to talk about that (look how good I am at introductions).
The consumption of wine is more than socially acceptable in Westeros, it is encouraged! Particularly under the reign of Robert, food, drink, and all manner of excess are viewed as a right to men and a sometimes acceptable choice for high born women. Concerning Sandor, I think that wine would have begun merely as a thing to do at gatherings as an abused and therefore socially awkward manchild thrust into the court life. The Cleganes are no peasants, true, but they are very aware that they aren’t equals. In the North, the sworn houses seemed to show a very warm allegiance, and we know that Ned at least visited those sworn to him, invited them to eat at his table regularly, and even ventured out to talk with the mountain clans who owed him no allegiance; being sworn to a house in the North means that you are an extension of their family. There is no evidence of this in the South, and since the relationship is almost entirely undiscussed and knowing what we know of Tywin’s nature, I don’t think being sworn to Lannisters is a jolly man hug festive dinners sort of thing. Sandor, while not stupid and no doubt trained enough to know the difference between titles and the like, is wholly unfamiliar with court behavior. His only familiarity would be through stories and songs, which taught him to be a “true knight” and that’s something that, while perhaps not entirely written off by him at the point in which he first comes to King’s Landing, almost certainly churns his stomach. Thusly, “these people are having wine, I, too, will have wine” is a feasible starting point for Sandor’s drinking habits.
It is so interesting to me that Sansa would root for the Hound and not Ser Jaime (the knight incarnate) here. And you can tell that Sansa is rooting for the Hound, too (not just making an idle comment) because she gasps when the Hound is nearly unhorsed at the first pass. Ned describes Sansa as watching this particular joust “all moist-eyed and eager” and “so engrossed she scarcely seemed to notice his arrival.”
Okay this got super long so the rest is under the read more!
(Spoilers for the first four books.)