Understanding Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane and his relationships with Arya and Sansa
***This is my own interpretation of the character. I also added a few of my personal theories. Some might seem far fetched, but others are backed by proof. If you read this I will love you forever :D. I am not a native English speaker so please forgive the eventual mistakes.
I see a lot of people that have read the books but did not managed to read behind the words. A song of ice and fire is meant to be read behind the lines. It is very cryptic, filled with symbolism and almost every action and word has a second meaning. To understand literature you have to always go behind words.
The Hound is a byronic hero. You might laugh but other byronic heroes are: Bruce Wayne/Batman, Eric Draven (The crow), Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights), Lestat (Interview with a Vampire), Wolverine, Lord Byron, Victor Frankenstein (Frankenstein), Severus Snape (Harry Potter) and so on.
To quote the historian Lord Mcaulay:
’ a man proud,moody,cynical, with defiance on his brow, and mystery in his heart, implacable in revenge,yet capable of deep and strong affection’.
Byronic heroes are not to be considered good nor bad, as they are both and from this springs an inner conflicted duality that torments them. They are grey characters usually mistreated by society, with a tragic past behind that still hunts them and blinded by hatred and revenge. However, when they achieve the revenge they wished for, they do not find peace, but become more tormented. They can find closure through redemption or death or both.
Sandor Clegane is more than meets the eye. He is a ruthless killer,yet still capable of compassion(in his own twisted way). He is portrayed as a disfigured man that enjoys killing. And like most of the Westeros folk, a part of the readers will not look past this facade.
We don’t know what he thinks as he is not a POV character, but we can analyze him through Sansa and Arya.
Through Sansa’s eyes we get to see his knight traits. Of course she is not a reliable narrator as she is a teenage girl developing a teenage crush on the only person that shows her a bit of kindness.
Like it or not..behind his foul language and mockery there is wisdom ,kindness and genuine pieces of advice. He tries to make her realize the cruel aspects of reality, to harden her up. At the same time part of him still believes in true knights and fair maidens and chivalry. The other part of him despises and hates knights because the ones that he knows are far from the idea of true knights.
We can divide this character into two personas: The Hound(the merciless killer) and Sandor Clegane(the boy that was mistreated and burnt).
What intrigues me about this character is his duality. He is bluntly honest,yet lies to the king and the guard to save and cover Sansa. He despises knights, yet he becomes one like those from the songs.
The bond with Sansa is interesting. The knight and the damsel in distress. Beauty and the beast. They are very different characters. He- a drunk,a killer, a weapon in the wrong hands,disfigured inside and outside and she- highborn, polite, beautiful and innocent. And in the end they are both pawns controlled by the ones that hold power.
It is her innocence and the image of her being abused that awakens the real Sandor in The Hound. She reminds him of himself before he lost his innocence and belief in knighthood.
One of my personal theories is that maybe Sansa contributed to change Sandor even more than we are let to know. We know that the Stark kids are wargs and can dive and control beasts and humans alike( Bran wargs into Hodor) and that they create special bonds with their animal 'vessels’. What if Sansa ,while suffering abuse ,unknowingly ,wargs into The Hound? This might be far fetched and I am not in any way claiming that it is true. Again..it’s just a theory. Let’s say she wargs into him and when she leaves she changes something inside him heading the Hound persona to a gradual perdition. We know she prays to the gods 'to gentle his rage’. This speaks volumes again and could be a hint toward his change on the Quiet Island.
Leaving this theory aside. She does change something in him..or rather uncovers something that was carefully hidden under a thick shell.
He confides in her by telling his story and also revealing his vulnerability.Why would he do that? We don’t know for sure as we don’t have his POV. Maybe he doesn’t know either.
When Sansa is stripped of her clothes and beaten, he doesn’t follow orders to beat her and even says 'Enough!’ during the beating…and in the end he is the one who gives Sansa his cloak.
We encounter the cloak and the symbolism behind it twice between Sansa and Sandor. We also know that in Westeros the groom gives his bride a cloak and this means taking her under his protection. Sansa feels secure under his cloaks( although made of rough wool, it felt finer than any velvet). And in the last night spent together after he leaves he covers herself with his cloak and she doesn’t know why. She also keeps it..probably as a token that remembers of him. So we see her accepting and keeping cloaks from the hound and then she refuses to take the cloak from Tyrion. And Tyrion was more courteous towards her with gentler words than the hound ever used.
I see a lot of SanSan hate and a love for TyrionX Sansa, DanyXDrogo, DanyX Jorah. The biggest mistake you can do is filter the story using today’s morality. Remember the story is set in a sort of medieval times. And even in our own Medieval times we have lots of examples of young girls marrying old men. And these customs continued long after into the Victorian Era. All I can think of is Edgar Allan Poe who was 27 when he married his 13 year old cousin. This is about the same age gap that there is between the Hound/Sandor and Sansa.
Dany (13) and Drogo (around 30)=> There is sex and pregnancy. Rough sex to be more precise…between a 13 year old girl and a 30 year old man. And people love as a couple despite their age difference. Dany and Jorah => A man who is 3 times her age and people still root for him to get out of the friendzone and into Dany’s heart.
And let’s not forget the realationships Sansa has with other men: Little Finger that kisses her and makes her sit on his lap and Tyrion who touches her breasts while they are both naked in bed. The Hound seems pretty 'innocent’ as he doesn’t touch her or kiss her in a sexual way.
To think about it there is another duality to Sandor/The Hound. He is a strong cynic man, yet he is emotionally immature. He is as confused as Sansa is about their bond. He wasn’t loved, never loved and he doesn’t know how to behave or how to deal with these new feelings. There are many types of love: romantic love, fatherly love, brotherly love( not the kind Jamie and Cersei have :))), ideal love, love towards a god or a saint,obsessive love, fanatic love, hidden love and so on.
And this will get me to another theory of mine that might not be just a theory. George Martin carefully gives his characters names that show their destiny. He is just that kind of author that drops subtle hints that only part of his readers will pick up and glue together. Sandor comes from Greek (Alexander) and means 'defender of men’. Sansa comes from Sanskrit meaning 'charm,praise,invocation’ and from Latin (Sancia) meaning 'sacred’. I think their names tell their story better than actual words. ***bonus info: Martin might have been inspired by Sancia of Naples, who was married to Gioffre Borgia (Sansa’s first love interest in the fantasy series is named Joffrey, an alternative spelling to Gioffre).
Arya means 'noble,great,truthful’ in Sanskrit and 'lioness’ in Hebrew. Her name implies that she will become a fierce fighter/warrior (like a lioness), while keeping her core noble.
To get back to Sansa and Sandor and how their paths might cross again at some point…There are hints. Small hints. Robert Baratheon tells Ned 'Get her a dog, she’ll be happier for it.’ And no this isn’t just small talk. Martin drops a hint. We know that during the battle Sansa wonders if she will reunite with Lady(her direwolf) when she dies. And right after this thought The Hound reveals his presence. Hint.
They might not marry and be happy as SanSan fans believe…but there is a great chance that he will become a replacement for Lady. In this way he gets a purpose and a good master and she gets the protection she needs and a loyal friend. This kind of relationship is a win-win situation for both of them.
I think he sees her as his child self at first and he might see her as a young woman after she blossomed. It is clearly he is a very damaged individual that drinks himself to sleep/forget/avoid remorse. In fact the night he comes to Sansa’s chamber she thinks it is the drunkest he has ever been. Maybe he was drunker than he had ever been. We know that alcohol gives you courage. I don’t think he drinks just to get courage during the battle.I think that where he really lacks courage is in revealing his emotions. Maybe he also drank to build up courage and ask Sansa to go with him. Of course she refuses and this backfires into a situation where he asks for a song at knifepoint, cries and then storms out of the chamber, leaving his cloak behind. If these mixed and bipolar moods and actions aren’t proof for his broken self, then maybe you never been broken or never met any damaged people. He could have raped her, he could have killed her. But he didn’t. Instead he showed weakness again by crying. I think Sansa’s innocence got through him. Her closing her eyes and waiting for a kiss and touching his face. I don’t know for sure// but this might be the first time Sansa ever touches him. And there we have it: two confused individuals. After he leaves, Sansa covers herself in his cloak and keeps it hidden. She starts building fake memories and dreams about him. And she doesn’t understand why. He is thinking and talking about her.
The duality of his character can be seen in his relations with Sansa and Arya. By extension Sansa is the innocent and naive child that was abused and Arya is what that child becomes: the Hound. He is even harsher to Arya but that is maybe because she isn’t her defenceless sister, she can pretty much think for herself and is able to protect herself. I think Sandor/The Hound sees Sansa as an ideal, something so pure that it is sacred( the good in a malicious world)…something that needs protection, while in Arya he sees an equal, someone that goes through the same transition like he did: from victim to killer.
Arya hates him and she tries to kill him. She has her reasons. And even if at first The Hound wants to ransom her to her family, is that what he really wants? He is a mere stray dog looking for masters, although he claims to be 'his own dog’. He tells Sansa he goes North, and wants to ransom Arya to her family, maybe in the hope that Robb Stark will be his new master. He even states that Robb should make him a lord or something. Behind the mock might be a genuine will to finally become something more than a dog: a human.
He has no purpose in life. The closest he comes to having one is by protecting Sansa and traveling with Arya.
And btw he could have ransomed Arya to the Lannisters, the Boltons or the Freys. The Lannisters might have awarded him with more than gold. But those aren’t the 'masters’/leaders he wants to follow.
He saves Arya at the red wedding. He is violent, but he saves her from a certain death. He, a grown man, shares his food equally with a little girl. And when there is no longer a ransom involved he still protects her in his own twisted way. He calls Sansa 'Pretty’/'Little Bird’ and Arya 'wolf bitch’. He is not a man that uses proper words. The 'wolf bitch’ might show that he thinks of Arya as an equal to some extent. She isn’t polite and weak as her sister. She might be younger but she is clever and already a good fighter. The Hound doesn’t feel the need to sugar coat it for her. He sees her for the tough cookie she really is.
We know that they move around from village to village and when he is wounded she cleans and cares for his wounds. At this point she develops a duality as well. I think that at first wants to spare Sandor’s pain and kill him but doesn’t find the strength to do it. Sandor sees her hesitation and starts provoking her to make her angry and slit his throat. This makes Arya angry and instead of killing him she leaves him to die, while he is spewing contradicting words that might have other meanings than we first think. In essence they are both stubborn characters, strong and courageous,sure,but also very stubborn and dual. Words don’t match the actions. Exterior doesn’t reflect the inner feelings.
Let’s analyze his last words a bit. They are the most misinterpreted ones from the book. People only read the rape and ripped part and never bother to go behind them. And they miss out.
,,He made a queer sound, and it took her a moment to realize he was sobbing.“And the little bird, your pretty sister, I stood there in my white cloak and let them beat her. I took the bloody song, she never gave it. I meant to take her too. I should have. I should have fucked her bloody and ripped her heart out beforeleaving her for that dwarf.”
’he was sobbing' Again we see him show weakness. The only tree times we see him crying it is somehow related to Sansa or fire.
'“And the little bird, your pretty sister’ Always regarding Sansa as pretty, always calling her 'little bird’… This can prove that he does feel something genuine for her, be it love, a crush, a need to protect or pity.
'I stood there in my white cloak and let them beat her’ This is pure remorse for his failure to defend her and her innocence. He might be tall and packed with muscles ,but he isn’t powerful enough to stop the orders of a king. He does disobey by refusing to hit her when Jeoffrey tells him to and he also speaks back to him (Enough!). But he has no power to stop the beating. And for that he loathes himself. He failed as a knight, he failed to protect 'his’ maiden.
'I took the bloody song, she never gave it.’ This again shows remorse and how he is consumed by it. He is also sad and hurt that he had to force her to sing. Regrets all over the place! He regrets the way he asked for a song, he regrets not being good enough for her to give him a song willingly. ** I also feel he is insecure about his appearance. He continuously asks Sansa to look at him, believing that his scars are what scares her away.
'I meant to take her too.’ A lot of people think he said this in a sexual way, forgetting he offered to take her from King’s Landing back to her family, assuring her that he could keep her safe. I do think this part also shows remorse for not having saved her. He feels like a failure.
'I should have fucked her bloody and ripped her heart out before leaving her for that dwarf.’ This is the part that ticks people off and ruins the whole phrase. It’s also tricky and most likely more than meets the eye. Martin doesn’t just handle straight meanings. He wants you to find them and interpret. That is the beauty of words. They can mean a lot of things.
'fucked her bloody’>> If he wanted to rape her he could have done it. But then he would have become just as his brother, the man he hates the most and the one who disfigured him for life. These words could also mean that he is angry he is not good enough for her. He knows he can never have the beautiful maiden. He is not angry at her. He is angry at himself. He is human. A very damaged one. And under that whole macho testosterone filled cover there is still someone believing in love, chivalry,knighthood,maidens and songs.
'ripped her heart’>> These words speak volumes. He wants her heart. Her love. Her admiration. Her acceptance.
'before leaving her for that dwarf’>> We see remorse again. Remorse for not saving her. He feels that her marrying Tyrion(the man who is part of the family that killed her own) is a desecration of her purity. He knows she might be miserable and thinks she might be raped. He knows she was forced to marry him. To Sandor this means destruction of Sansa’s innocence and again he feels angry at himself that he couldn’t help her.
***One of my other theories is a bit far-fetched. We know Gregor Clegane is a rapist and a monstrous killer. We know that his sister mysteriously vanished. We know that their father always covers Gregor’s crimes (he explained Sandor’s burns by stating the bedding caught on fire). Do the math. Think about it. We don’t know much about their sister…but what if Gregor raped his own sister then ripped her heart out and their father covered another of his crimes? What if by fuck her bloody and ripping her heart out he projects himself as monster Gregor and Sansa as their sister? I know this may seem silly…but if you’ve been tormented yourself or met troubled people you probably are aware that they develop weird coping mechanisms.The Hound part of Sandor can be defined as a coping/surviving mechanism as well.
I am not a full time SanSan shipper. Part of me wants romance, but the other part of me wants something deeper. I am certain they will meat again when he tames his rage and she matures and is no longer a pawn. They will both be changed and I think the link between them is beyond a crush. This time they will be equals. The ending might not be happy. I have a feeling he dies for her just like he once said ('A hound will die for you’)…or maybe George Martin will twist it so that Sansa dies protecting the hound. Who knows? I am just eager for them to find closure.
’ I think every writer appreciates attentive reading of his work. We labor over these books for years, after all. Then they come out, and the readers gulp them down in days or even hours. Which is very gratifying, in one sense, but can also be frustrating, if we feel that they are missing all the grace notes and little subtleties and clever allusions and ironies and turns of phrase that we sweated blood over for so long. I try to write books that will stand up to rereading, so that every time you go through you will find more to appreciate… and therefore I’m thrilled when readers tell me that they do reread the books.’ GRRM
*** Don’t read the books superficially or because they are the latest hype. Try to read it with your heart and mind, not just your eyes.
***If you’re in just for the hype…maybe you should just drop it as you will not fully understand them.