what are your thoughts on King Aerys's Kingsguard? Do you think they were honorable knights are toadies who didn't uphold their vows?
Oof, that’s a loaded question. Bear with me because I have thoughts.
The Kingsguard are vital to GRRM’s interrogation of knighthood and his definition of a true knight; we’re meant to see how hard it is to live up to the ideals of knighthood in a world that allows for conflicting vows, how good knights in service to a bad cause handle it, how many of them dare to question the system itself, and how that reflects on their view of themselves and of the institution as a whole. Living up to the chivalric code is freaking hard which is precisely why it is the mark of a true knight.
So we have the kingsguard as a model of how crooked the current system is - this is an institution that is universally viewed as the embodiment of the
code but its fundamental flaw - the fact the their vows to the king are taken to supersede their original vows to “be just [..] protect the young and the innocent [..] defend all women” even though the knighthood oath is the foundation on which the Kingsguard oath is built upon - effectively compromises that same code, exposing its oath to be hollow and presenting a conflict of morality that so many of the revered knights in Westeros fall to.
So. Sansa. I hear some people think she’s not very clever. This is a view shared by several characters in the books.
But there’s no reason the readership should share those views. Sansa is a very clever individual who makes increasingly good use of several skills she started the series with, and develops greatly as an observer and an actor over the course of the story.
Putting everything under a cut, for reasons of four books of brainpower.
He did not hate her, Sansa realized; neither did he love her. He felt
nothing for her at all. She was only a … a thing to him. “No,” she said,
rising. She wanted to rage, to hurt him as he’d hurt her, to warn him
that when she was queen she would have him exiled if he ever dared
strike her again … but she remembered what the Hound had told her, so
all she said was, “I shall do whatever His Grace commands.”
“As I do,” he replied.
“Yes … but you are no true knight, Ser Meryn.”
Sandor Clegane would have laughed at that, Sansa knew. Other men might
have cursed her, warned her to keep silent, even begged for her
forgiveness. Ser Meryn Trant did none of these. Ser Meryn Trant simply did not care.
I’m thinking about the specific way Meryn Trant’s character was changed on the show from someone who will beat a young girl because it’s his duty to someone who actively enjoys doing those things. And I think this misses a big theme which I’ve long thought was present in the series. It’s not that monsters exist within the framework of chivalry, it’s that chivalry itself is monstrous and upholds an institution where men are glorified for being monsters. I think this says a lot about how patriarchy works, and how men who benefit from the patriarchy or who are apathetic about it are often left off the hook because they themselves do not hurt women, or, like Trant in the books, are just following someone else, or simply don’t care.
I’m not as versed with the minor characters of the series so it could be that I’m forgetting Trant’s characterization and he really is a monster of the same caliber that he is on the show. But it seems to me that the show was setting him up as a straw misogynist for Arya to kill rather than the books’ much more subtle and insidious depiction of the way misogyny is perpetuated.
Ser Boros was short-tempered, Ser Meryn cold, and Ser Mandon’s strange dead eyes made her uneasy, while Ser Preston treated her lackwit child. Arys Oakheart was courteous, and would talk to her cordially. Once he even objected when Joffrey commanded him to hit her. He did hit her in the end, but not hard as Ser Meryn or Ser Boros might have, and at least he had argued. The others obeyed without question … except for the Hound, but Joff never asked the Hound to punish her. He used the other five for that.
Sansa Stark’s thoughts on the pride of Westeros, the Kingsguard of King Joffrey (and that was sarcasm)