13th Level (Man-at-arms 12 / Brother of the Kingsguard 1)
The right side of his face was gaunt with sharp cheek-bones and a grey eye beneath a heavy brow… his hair thin, dark. He wore it long and brushed it sideways, because no hair grew on the other side of that face. The left side of his face was a ruin. His ear had been burned away; there was nothing left but a hole. His eye was still good, but all around it was a twisted mass of scar… Down by his jaw you could see a hint of bone where the flesh had been seared away.
— A Game of Thrones
There is only one man who wears a helm carved like a snarling hound, and they say his looks improve with the visor down. Sandor Clegane is as vicious as he is ugly, able to kill a knight or a butcher’s boy with equal ease. The Hound has no friends and no love. He does however, have very powerful patrons.
Sandor is an impressive warrior, so much so that Queen Cersei entrusts him to bodyguard her son. Cersei chose well, though his manners could do with a little polish. This grim and terrifyingly efficient guardian would say he works for the heaviest purse and the winning side, but a hound is a strange emblem for a man purely moved by mercenary reasons. Dogs can be strong or weak, fast or slow, but the one characteristic they all share is loyalty.
Sandor has no reason to develop any such quality. At best cold, at worst murderous, the Cleganes are not renowned for their sense of honour. Sandor’s older brother, Gregor Clegane, is the reason for Sandor’s ruined features. When Sandor was seven, he took one of his brother’s toys — a gift Gregor was too old to play with or value. Gregor, a full grown squire at the time, discovered the theft. He found his little brother, picked him up, and twisted his face into a brazier full of hot coals in retaliation, leaving Sandor permanently scarred. The boys’ father hushed the matter up and Gregor was knighted four years later. From that time on, the Cleganes barely acknowledged each other.
At the Hand’s tourney, when Gregor is unhorsed he flies into a murderous frenzy, and it is the Hound who steps forward saving Ser Loras and forcing Gregor to back off. Sandor matches strength with control, and ferocity with restraint. When the king commands them to cease, Sandor instantly goes to one knee, though it gives his brother a potentially fatal advantage. This is not the act of a man looking out for himself, but of a man who knows what loyalty really means. Sandor is ready to lay down his life for the king he respects, yet sneers at the concept of chivalry. No one knows better than Sandor Clegane how false the vows of knighthood can be.
Brave, strong, and loyal, Sandor consistently demonstrates the qualities of a good man behind the attitudes of a bad one. By the double standards of Westeros, it’s a winning combination. Beat a hound badly enough and it will learn to bite first in self-defence, but somewhere under all that anger is a worthy beast despite its uncertain temper. Desperate to protect himself, the Hound covers his decent nature by snarling at the world, as though he sees is better qualities as a weakness others will exploit. His underlying need for some kindness or recognition is revealed when he confides the secret of his disfigurement to Sansa Stark. Sansa is a child, innocent and reckless, with no great amount of common sense. No one knows why Sandor tells her his secret, possibly not even himself. Perhaps some part of him is desperate to make her understand the world behind the banners and trumpets of court and kings, to see the killer beneath the bright armour of a knight before she suffers a similar fate.
Sandor makes Sansa look at his destroyed face and admit that a terrible wrong was done to him. Once, long ago, the brutal Hound was an innocent child, just like everyone else. This is important, because no one else has admitted it in all Sandor’s life. He needs to hear it from someone with no connection to his situation, and yet, even this is a greater vulnerability than Sandor can admit. Having revealed so much of himself to another person, he threatens to kill her if she tells anyone.
Still, even after so threatening a bark, the Hound does not bite. After the death of her father, when Sansa is abused and tormented by Joffrey, Sandor shows her occasional deep kindness. Beaten by Joffrey’s knights, she is forced to recognise that vows do not a true knight make, the very same conclusion Sandor reached when he was seven. He never beats her at the prince’s bidding. He is no storybook hero to risk all for her, but neither is he a brute to punch her with mailed fists. Sandor Clegane is a killer, not a torturer; he kills because he is ordered to, not because he needs to inflict pain. It is this that marks the difference between Sandor and his brother.
Sandor is a complex man, hardened by a world more ugly than he could ever be. He laughs at foolish ideals all the time, particularly those of Sansa, at least until they are torn to shreds in front of her. Once she has lost everything, he tries to show her the lessons he had to learn alone: how to survive, how to keep going when dreams are dead. He tries to protect her and help her to protect herself. In that way, he is almost like a true knight — or a loyal hound.
– A Game of Thrones, Deluxe Edition Role-Playing Game and Resource Book