Sansa, or the deconstruction of the princess trope
One of the things that fascinates me in Sansa Stark’s character is how she is a clear deconstruction of the princess trope.
Sansa starts the saga as a princess in everything except in title. She is beautiful, kind, skilled, she’s the daughter of one of the most powerful family in the kingdom, she lives in a castle with everything she needs and wants,… And later she even gets to marry a prince, what more can you ask ! In every way Sansa, at the beginning of AGOT, was a perfect fairytale princess.
(P.S : I’m talking about the most common version of fairytales, the ones that everyone knows)
In fact, her storyline looks, seemingly, very much like one of these tales. Tt has a lot of the fairytales’ tropes. A young girl kind and beautiful ? Check. Disappearance of the protective/parental figure ? Check. Malevolent protagonist(s) ? Check. Gets locked in a tower/dungeon/castle ? Check. You have to admit her story has a lot in common with those of Cinderella, Rapunzel or Snow-White (Evil Queen/Step-mother everyone ?).
Sansa starts the story as a naive girl whose main goal is to live a perfect life like those in the songs (nothing excessive, right).
« All she wanted was for things to be nice and pretty, the way they were in the songs. » Sansa, AGOT
I told about the reasons why she wants it that way here, so I’m not gonna come back on it. But frankly, her life was pretty much perfect until the arrival of Robert and Dick!Joffrey. She was beautiful, had the admiration of her peers, excelled in the womanly arts, lacked for nothing,… Like a lot a fairytales’ heroines in fact :
Snow-White : born from a queen and king, is said to be beautiful of course, but also kind and humble ;
Cinderella : daughter of a « gentilhomme », is said to have inherited her softness and goodness from her mother (and is beautiful) ;
Ariel : have a fantastic voice, daughter of the king of the ocean, beautiful,… ;
She is the incarnation of what Westeros’ society tells girls to be, like the heroines of fairytales carry features that were asked of girls (the moral at the end was meant to teach values to children). But infortunately she also embodies a lot of sexist ideas behind – I mean she believes they are true and doesn’t see their wrongness, but that’s like a lot of girls/women of Westeros. She believes girls must be obedient and submissive to their husbands, immaculate, somewhat passive in my opinion – a lot of features we find in fairytales’ heroines.
And so like in every story a disruptive element happens that changes the original situation. Here it’s them coming to King’s Landing and of course Ned’s death (the first book in short). After that Sansa finds herself trapped, surrounded by foes, captive – like Rapunzel in her tower, Snow-White in the coffin, Sleeping Beauty with her curse,… - And like a princess she waits for her hero to come and save her…
« Robb will kill you all, she thought, exulting. » Sansa, ASOS
« He is no true knight but he saved me all the same. » Sansa, ACOK
« Home, she thought, home, [Dontos] is going to take me home, he’ll keep me safe, my Florian. The songs about Florian and Jonquil were her very favorites. » Sansa, ACOK
… Except it’s A Song of Ice and Fire and there is no such thing as a happy ending. Robb dies, the Hound leaves, Loras Tyrell (her « perfect knight ») is more interested in his family’s interest rather than save a damsel in distress.
Sansa learns that life is not a song. She little by little loses her illusions ; no one is going to save her.
« There are no heroes… In life, the monsters win. » Sansa, AGOT
Princesses are supposed to be protected from the villains, someone is supposed to come and save them. But no one does. So what is she going to do ?
Well she learns how to protect herself. She learns to read people, to blend, how to use courtesies as her weapons. She learns to watch. When she is with Littlefinger (by the way, another parallel with fairytales because she is literally a princess in a tower – with Robb proclamed King in the North she is a princess by title and the Eyrie is known to be high in the sky and impregnable) she takes his teaching, how to give him what he wants. She learns how to survive. She learns how to save herself.
That’s why I don’t care who Sansa is going to end with, Sandor or Willas or Harrold or the inventor of lemon cakes ; because, unlike society taught her, in the end she doesn’t need any man. She doesn’t need any hero. She only needs herself.
What does it say about our society that the popular discussion about Lemonade is focused on Jay-Z’s infidelity, Beyonce’s anger and Becky’s identity, instead of Beyonce’s strength to forgive, to heal and to love again?
Love is stronger and more resilient than hate wishes it ever could be.
I’m actually really glad I was bullied when I was younger. At the time I obviously didn’t appreciate it and because telling a teacher never worked I had to learn to defend myself the hard way. As a result I learned when to value someone’s opinion and when to dismiss it as slander and more importantly I learned to defend myself from an attacker. There have been several instances in my life that I could have easily been killed but I knew exactly what to do and it was because I was bullied.
No one should be bullied for any reason but if it does happen to you take it as a learning experience. Try telling your teachers, friends, family or whoever and if it doesn’t help do something about it yourself. Just knowing I could stand up for myself did wonders for my self confidence and the more people realized this, the less I was harassed.