Sansa and Sandor’s REAL (figurative) Wedding

Sansa and Sandor’s REAL (figurative) Wedding




Here’s Dontos and Sansa in the Red Keep’s Godswood:

“Who’s there?” she cried. “Who is it?” The godswood was dim and dark, and the bells were ringing Joff into his grave.

“Me.” He staggered out from under the trees, reeling drunk. He caught her arm to steady himself. “Sweet Jonquil, I’ve come. Your Florian has come, don’t be afraid.” (SOS S V)

Here’s Ramsay’s wedding in the Godswood:

“Who comes?” [Ramsay’s] lips were moist, his neck red above his collar. “Who comes before the god?”

Theon answered. “Arya of House Stark comes here to be wed. A woman grown and flowered, trueborn and noble, she comes to beg the blessings of the gods. Who comes to claim her?

“Me,” said Ramsay. “Ramsay of House Bolton, Lord of the Hornwood, heir to the Dreadfort. I claim her.” (DWD PoW)



Sansa and Sandor’s REAL (But Still Figurative) Wedding

A few years back, /u/cantuse crafted a post arguing persuasively that when Sansa tries to hide her bloody menstruel sheets by burning them in her fireplace in ACOK, she in effect uses fire-and-blood-fueled bloodmagic—definitely figuratively, maybe even literally—to summon herself a hero to save her from her marriage to Joffrey, and is “given” Sandor, whom she symbolically marries, thus passing into his protection, when she imagines kissing him and when she huddles under the stained Kingsguard cloak he leaves in her room:

She found his cloak on the floor, twisted up tight, the white wool stained by blood and fire.… A chill wind was blowing, banging the shutters. Sansa was cold. She shook out the torn cloak and huddled beneath it on the floor, shivering. (COK San VII)

More recently, /u/7th_Cuil revived this theory as part of a larger post on Sandor.

It’s my belief that there is actually strong evidence that Sansa doesn’t “really” figuratively marry Sandor when she first “huddled beneath” his cloak, but that instead she transforms Sandor’s abandoned Kingsguard cloak into a facsimile of Sandor’s personal cloak, which she later dons as a figurative bride’s cloak during a different figurative marriage ceremony than the one posited by cantuse and 7th: a proper northern wedding in a godswood, before a heart tree.

(Note that this has nothing to do with whether Sansa and Sandor will end up “in love” or literally married or anything of the sort. It’s straight textual analysis of some pretty blatant symbolism.)

White Ain’t Sandor’s Color

First thing’s first: A knight of the Kingsguard can’t marry, so a white Kingsguard cloak being a symbolic wedding cloak feels a bit off.

Moreover, Sandor doesn’t just forget his Kingsguard cloak. Nor does he give it to Sansa. Instead he discards it, abandoning it as he does the Kingsguard. The white cloak Sansa shivers in isn’t truly Sandor’s cloak anymore, literally or figuratively, nor does it represent Sandor as an individual. At least not literarily, to us. Not while it remains a white Kingsguard cloak, anyway. (That said, it certainly may represent Sandor to Sansa, and thus the scene works as an expression of her subconscious, inchoate desire for him.)

There is, of course, a mundane sense in which the cloak is nevertheless still “Sandor’s”. Certainly the text refers to it accordingly as “his cloak”, so the idea of Sansa wearing “Sandor’s” cloak as in a Westerosi wedding is certainly immanent here, even if it’s only being gestured at. But it’s my belief that this idea isn’t anchored in strong symbolism until the aftermath of the Purple Wedding, when Sansa and Sandor get figuratively married for real (so to speak).

The Hound’s Green Cloaks (and plain brown roughspun clothes)

While a White Cloak hardly embodies Sandor, he does show a strong personal preference when it comes to his fabric choices. Here’s Sandor early in AGOT at Ned’s Tourney—that is, at an event in which men expressly dress themselves in their personalized, identifiable colors:

Sandor Clegane was the first rider to appear. He wore an olive-green cloak over his soot-grey armor. (GOT E VII)

He wears a green cloak (over soot-grey armor).

Here’s Sandor late in AGOT:

“You will attend me in court this afternoon,” Joffrey said. “See that you bathe and dress as befits my betrothed.” Sandor Clegane stood at his shoulder in a plain brown doublet and green mantle, his burned face hideous in the morning light. Behind them were two knights of the Kingsguard in long white satin cloaks. (GOT S VI)

Again, a green cloak (i.e. “mantle”—see below), this time implicitly contrasted with the Kingsguards’ white cloaks, thus showcasing Sandor’s chosen cloak color.

Make no mistake: a “mantle” is a cloak.

A mantle (from mantellum, the Latin term for a cloak) is a type of loose garment usually worn over indoor clothing to serve the same purpose as an overcoat. Technically, the term describes a long, loose cape-like cloak worn from the 12th to the 16th century by both sexes, although by the 19th century, it was used to describe any loose-fitting, shaped outer garment similar to a cape. (wikipedia)

Notice, too, that Sandor’s clothing here is otherwise “a plain brown doublet”. Even after he’s a Kingsguard, Sandor wears “his brown roughspun tunic” under his white cloak. (COK S I) I know it’s only cloaks that are changed at a literal wedding, but as you’ll see in a minute, some people don’t stop there when the wedding is symbolic.

To clarify: I’m not arguing that in-world Sandor necessarily wears these/this green cloak(s) to declare his identity that same way a Lannister might so wear a red and gold cloak. I’m only saying that as a practical matter of fact, Sandor’s personal cloaks are green (and that he seems to favor simple brown wool garments under the cloak, when he’s not wearing his “soot-grey armor”). He may view green cloaks as his own hallmark, but whether he does or not isn’t important to the present hypothesis, which is about a symbolic/figurative wedding (cloak).

Much later, when Sandor is traveling to Riverrun with Arya, he is in disguise, and what do we see? His coloration symbolically reflects that he is in hiding, reversing itself like Oberyn’s daughter Sarella disguising herself as “Alleras” the Sphinx in AFFC. Now his body, which was garbed in soot-grey armor at the tourney, is garbed in green like his old cloak and mantle, while his green cloak and mantle are replaced by a cloak the color of his soot-grey tourney armor:

…the Hound himself was garbed in splotchy green roughspun and a soot-grey mantle with a hood that swallowed his head. (SOS A X)

Notice that he still favors simple roughspun. Note, too, that Sandor’s disguise “mantle” has a huge hood. Did the cloaks he wore earlier have hoods as well?

One might ask, “What happened to the green cloak/mantle he wore before?” It will be my argument that it was figuratively passed to Sansa, who dons “it” in a symbolic wedding ceremony in the Red Keep’s godswood. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Finally, as Sandor is “dying”, a green cloak manages to find him again:

When the time came to leave, [Sandor] needed Arya’s help to get back up on Stranger. He had tied a strip of cloth about his neck and another around his thigh, and taken the squire’s cloak off its peg by the door. The cloak was green, with a green arrow on a white bend, but when the Hound wadded it up and pressed it to his ear it soon turned red. (SOS A XIII)

The Hound wadding up this green cloak and getting it bloody naturally recalls the unintentional “bloodmagic” ritual by which Sansa at least figuratively “summoned” Sandor:

Snatching up her knife, Sansa hacked at the sheet, cutting out the [blood]stain . . . She pulled the torn sheet from the bed, and the stained blanket as well. I’ll have to burn them. She balled up the evidence, stuffed it in the fireplace, drenched it in oil from her bedside lamp, and lit it afire. (COK S IV)

Weddings and the Boles of (Ancient) Oak Heart Trees

Sandor is also associated with the color green when he “is” a green leaf during Arya’s “prayers” in the Harrenhal godswood:

The queen and Ser Ilyn and Ser Meryn and the Hound were only leaves, but [Arya] killed them all as well, slashing them to wet green ribbons. (COK A IX)

Notice that the vivid image of Sandor as a “wet green ribbon” just so happens to rework the verbiage describing Sansa’s first menstrual period, which of course produces the bloody bedsheets Sansa tries to burn (which we’ll see mirrored in several interesting ways):

The knife plunged into her belly and tore and tore and tore, until there was nothing left of her down there but shiny wet ribbons.

When she woke, the pale light of morning was slanting through her window, yet she felt as sick and achy as if she had not slept at all. There was something sticky on her thighs. When she threw back the blanket and saw the blood, all she could think was that her dream had somehow come true. (COK A IV)

Arya’s “prayers” ultimately focus on Joffrey—Sansa’s betrothed at the time—and “the bole of an oak”:

[Arya] slashed at birch leaves till the splintery point of the broken broomstick was green and sticky. “Ser Gregor,” she breathed. “Dunsen, Polliver, Raff the Sweetling.” … “The Tickler,” she called out one time, “the Hound,” the next. “Ser Ilyn, Ser Meryn, Queen Cersei.” The bole of an oak loomed before her, and she lunged to drive her point through it, grunting “Joffrey, Joffrey, Joffrey.” (A X)

Arya’s attack on an oak bole representing Sansa’s betrothed is curious in light of several links between oak boles in godswoods, weddings and Sansa.

Consider Sansa first meeting with Dontos in the Red Keep’s godswood:

Ser Dontos placed a hand on the gnarled bole of the heart tree. He was shaking, she saw. “I vow, with your father’s gods as witness, that I shall send you home.” (COK S II)

Dontos is swearing “on the gnarled bole” of the Red Keep’s “heart tree”, which we know is also an oak:

The [Red Keep’s] heart tree there was a great oak, its ancient limbs overgrown with smokeberry vines; they knelt before it to offer their thanksgiving, as if it had been a weirwood. (GOT E V)

By taking an oath (“I vow…”) on the bole of the “ancient” heart tree, which is explicitly compared to a weirwood, Dontos reminds us of the northern custom of saying ones wedding vows before a heart tree, and thus of weddings in general.

Both trees are described using the term “bole”. Bole is just a fancy way of saying tree trunk, but that’s the point. It’s notable verbiage, and I’m convinced GRRM uses specific verbiage to tag and connect things in his story. While the word “bole” doesn’t make many other appearances in ASOIAF, most of them point in the direction of “Northern Weddings”. First, there’s a Northern clan named Bole:

The army covered twenty-two miles the first day, by the reckoning of the guides Lady Sybelle [Glover] had given them, trackers and hunters sworn to Deepwood with clan names like Forrester and Woods, Branch and Bole. (DWD tKP)

Second, there’s a weirwood described in the same terms (“gnarled and ancient”) used to describe the Red Keep’s heart tree:

From one such island rose a weirwood gnarled and ancient, its bole and branches white as the surrounding snows. (DWD tS)

Third and most important, it just so happens that during “Arya’s” wedding to Ramsay, Theon thinks of “hiding his treasures in the bole of an ancient oak” in Winterfell’s Godswood. The idea of hidden treasure makes us think of women’s sexuality: Shae is Tyrion’s “secret treasure”; the Watch calls the whores of Moletown “buried treasure”; and…

“…the way [Cersei] guards her cunt, you’d think she had all the gold of Casterly Rock between her legs. (GOT E VII)

Note that Theon’s oak and its reference to women’s sexuality is verbatim “ancient”, just like the oak heart tree in the Red Keep (and Winterfell’s heart tree in AGOT C I). Thus the ancient “bole-tagged” oak heart tree on which Dontos says his vow to Sansa at the Red Keep prefigures the ancient “bole-tagged”, treasure-guarding oak of Winterfell we see when “Arya”, Sansa’s sister, says her wedding vows before Winterfell’s ancient heart tree.

Why describe these trees so similarly? Perhaps because the real wedding of the fake Arya echoes the fake/figurative wedding of the real Arya’s sister before the Red Keep’s Theon’s-oak-esque heart tree (or perhaps its textual equivalent, as will be discussed).

Sansa’s “Marriage” to Tyrion

Consider what Sansa wears to her actual wedding to Tyrion:

[T]he gown itself was ivory samite and cloth-of-silver, and lined with silvery satin. The points of the long dagged sleeves almost touched the ground when she lowered her arms. And it was a woman’s gown, not a little girl’s, there was no doubt of that. The bodice was slashed in front almost to her belly, the deep vee covered over with a panel of ornate Myrish lace in dove-grey.… They brought her new shoes as well, slippers of soft grey doeskin that hugged her feet like lovers. (SOS San III)

Stark colors, plainly. Meanwhile, her maiden’s cloak (i.e. the cloak in the maiden’s colors that gets replaced by the bride’s cloak, in the groom’s colors) is characterized by being “heavy with pearls”:

“The cloak,” [Cersei] commanded, and the women brought it out: a long cloak of white velvet heavy with pearls. A fierce direwolf was embroidered upon it in silver thread. Sansa looked at it with sudden dread. “Your father’s colors,” said Cersei, as they fastened it about her neck with a slender silver chain.

A maiden’s cloak. (ibid.)

Bank that. It’s important.

Now, what happens to Sansa after her actual wedding to Tyrion, when she’s removing her clothing and thus preparing for the consummation of her wedding?

“And my clothing?”

“That too.” He waved his wine cup at her. “My lord father has commanded me to consummate this marriage.”

Her hands trembled as she began fumbling at her clothes. She had ten thumbs instead of fingers, and all of them were broken. Yet somehow she managed the laces and buttons, and her cloak and gown and girdle and undersilk slid to the floor, until finally she was stepping out of her smallclothes.… (SOS San III)

Her hands quake and fumble as she disrobes. Bank that too.

Sansa’s Purple Wedding Garb

The clothing Sansa wears to the Purple Wedding, just before her escape via the godswood with Dontos, sounds curiously similar to what she wore to her wedding to Tyrion:

Sansa wore a gown of silvery satin trimmed in vair, with dagged sleeves that almost touched the floor… (SOS Ty VIII)

That “gown” sounds a helluva lot like her wedding “gown”. It’s almost blatantly symbolic of it:

  • “lined with silvery satin” : “silvery satin”
  • “long dagged sleeves almost touched the ground” : “dagged sleeves that almost touched the floor”
  • “soft grey doeskin” : “vair” (i.e. greyish-blue squirrel fur/skin)

Sansa’s “Marriage” To Sandor

Summarizing a few key facts:

  • Sandor’s favors green mantles/cloaks (worn with “soot-grey” armor)
  • Sandor pairs his cloak with “a plain brown doublet”, and later a “brown roughspun tunic”.
  • In disguise, Sandor later wears “green roughspun” with a soot-grey mantle, reversing his colors. In a sense, his green mantle is “missing”, as is his brown roughspun tunic.
  • Sandor is given a “green” cloak; he “wadded it up” and got it bloody, much as Sansa wadded up the sheets stained with her menstrual blood and burned them, a la bloodmagic.
  • Arya’s “prayers” associates the Hound with green.
  • They also associate Sansa’s bethrothed with the bole of an oak in a godswood.
  • Dontos swears a vow on the bole of the Red Keep’s “ancient” oak heart tree, which is likened to a weirwood.
  • “Boles” are associated with the north, and with a weirwood described like the Red Keep’s heart tree.
  • Theon hides his treasures in the bole of an “ancient” oak in Winterfell’s godswood.
  • Theon remembers this during the wedding of a woman posing as Sansa’s sister, which takes placed before Winterfell’s (also “ancient”) heart tree.
  • Sansa’s fingers fumbled with her clothing after she was married to Tyrion.
  • Sansa wears an outfit to the Purple Wedding that reminds us of her wedding outfit.

Now, here’s what Sansa does in the Godswood after the Purple Wedding. Remember, at a Westerosi wedding ceremony the bride removes a cloak of her father’s colors and dons a cloak of her husband’s colors.

She found her clothes where she had hidden them, the night before last. With no maids to help her, it took her longer than it should have to undo the laces of her gown. Her hands were strangely clumsy, though she was not as frightened as she ought to have been. “The gods are cruel to take him so young and handsome, at his own wedding feast,” Lady Tanda had said to her.

The gods are just, thought Sansa. Robb had died at a wedding feast as well. It was Robb she wept for. Him and Margaery. Poor Margaery, twice wed and twice widowed. Sansa slid her arm from a sleeve, pushed down the gown, and wriggled out of it. She balled it up and shoved it into the bole of an oak, shook out the clothing she had hidden there. Dress warmly, Ser Dontos had told her, and dress dark. She had no blacks, so she chose a dress of thick brown wool. The bodice was decorated with freshwater pearls, though. The cloak will cover them. The cloak was a deep green, with a large hood. She slipped the dress over her head, and donned the cloak, though she left the hood down for the moment. There were shoes as well, simple and sturdy, with flat heels and square toes. The gods heard my prayer, she thought. She felt so numb and dreamy. My skin has turned to porcelain, to ivory, to steel. Her hands moved stiffly, awkwardly, as if they had never let down her hair before. For a moment she wished Shae was there, to help her with the net.

When she pulled it free, her long auburn hair cascaded down her back and across her shoulders.… (SOS San V)

Holy motif memories. Where to begin?

Sansa has her clothing hidden just where Theon remembers—during “Arya’s” wedding—hiding his treasures as a youth: in the bole of an oak.

Standing next to the bole of this oak, Sansa’s hands get clumsy and stiff, exactly as they do when she is wed to Tyrion. Not once, but twice.

Sansa repeatedly thinks of the gods, as you should at your wedding, finally thanking them for hearing her prayer.

She thinks of three different weddings.

Then she takes off her Stark-colored garments—symbolically her maiden marriage clothes and probably literally her wedding shoes, given the remark about the new shoes being “simple and sturdy”, which would certainly be remarkable if she’d just removed the elegant but impractical “slippers of soft grey doeskin that hugged her feet like lovers” she’d worn at her wedding—balls them up (as Sandor balls up the green cloak Arya gives him, and as she balled up her bloody sheets when she “summoned” Sandor) and put them in the bole of an oak, textually the very spot in which Theon thinks about hiding things during the only Northern wedding we’ve witnessed thus far in ASOIAF.

Whether Sansa’s oak is the Red Keep’s heart tree “in world” or not is almost irrelevant: the “bole & oak” verbiage means there’s no mistaking that this shit symbolically takes place in front of the godswood’s heart tree . That said, I find it hard to believe this isn’t the heart tree, given that the heart tree is a singular oak in a decidedly not oaken forest:

Eddard Stark had taken the girls to the castle godswood, an acre of elm and alder and black cottonwood overlooking the river. The heart tree there was a great oak… (GOT E V)

And what does Sansa put on (besides practical shoes)?

A dress of “thick brown wool” that recalls Sandor’s preference for brown garments, “plain” and “roughspun” (i.e. wool).

Just so we don’t miss the symbolism here, since Sansa’s not wearing a cloak to begin with, there are “freshwater pearls” on the dress, just as her maiden’s cloak was “heavy with pearls”. It’s foregrounded that these maiden’s cloak-esque pearls will shortly be covered by the hood of her cloak, which just so happens to be green like Sandor’s favored green cloak and mantle.

To be sure, Sansa hasn’t literally gotten ahold of Sandor’s old green cloak (although that doesn’t mean this cloak isn’t literally Sandor’s, either—see below). It’s that she is replacing her Stark dress with Sandor’s brown roughspun and covering up a symbolic vestige of her pearl-laden maiden’s cloak with the huge hood (like the huge hood of Sandor’s soot-grey cloak) of her Sandor-green cloak, thereby replacing her symbolic maiden’s garb/cloak with a figurative bride’s cloak (and dress) in Sandor’s personal colors.

And again: this all takes place before the “bole” of an oak in a godswood whose heart tree is an oak whose “bole” has been called out in our story—an oak likened to a weirwood, whose “legitimacy” Ned himself accepts:

The heart tree was an oak, brown and faceless, yet Ned Stark still felt the presence of his gods. (GOT E XII)

(Sidebar: Read Ned and Cersei’s godwood meeting again. It totally feels like another figurative wedding, which makes sense since Ned is trying to protect Cersei.)

Meanwhile, Sansa’s “numb and dreamy” feel mirrors the pointedly odd sensibility Theon has during the wedding of Sansa’s supposed sister at Winterfell (when his mind wanders to the things that can be hidden in the bole of an ancient oak):

[Theon] had never seen the godswood like this, though—grey and ghostly, filled with warm mists and floating lights and whispered voices that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. (DWD PoW)

Sansa’s skin turning figuratively to “steel”—

My skin has turned to porcelain, to ivory, to steel.

—sounds like armor, right? Might this call back to this exchange between Tyrion and Sansa on their wedding night, just before she disrobes?

“Courtesy is a lady’s armor,” Sansa said. Her septa had always told her that.

“I am your husband. You can take off your armor now.” (SOS S III)

More about this line shortly.

When Sansa “stiffly, awkwardly” removes her bejeweled hair net, this simultaneously recalls the removal of her bejeweled maiden’s cloak at her wedding to Tyrion and her “fumbling” disrobing for its consummation.

As she panics about the missing jewel, we get another callback to her fumbling on her wedding night:

She tried to stop, but her fingers were not her own. (SOS S V)

Dontos shows up, and his conversation with Sansa—

“Who’s there?” she cried. “Who is it?” The godswood was dim and dark, and the bells were ringing Joff into his grave.

“Me.” He staggered out from under the trees, reeling drunk. He caught her arm to steady himself. “Sweet Jonquil, I’ve come. Your Florian has come, don’t be afraid.” (SOS S V)

—neatly recalls the formula for a northern wedding in a godswood—

“Who comes?” [Ramsay’s] lips were moist, his neck red above his collar. “Who comes before the god?”

Theon answered. “Arya of House Stark comes here to be wed. A woman grown and flowered, trueborn and noble, she comes to beg the blessings of the gods. Who comes to claim her?

“Me,” said Ramsay. “Ramsay of House Bolton, Lord of the Hornwood, heir to the Dreadfort. I claim her.” (DWD PoW)

—even as the godswood is emphasized and “bells were ringing”, “wedding bells” being a “Thing” in our world if not in Westeros.

Dontos grabbing Sansa’s arm is notable because it smells like both a groom “claim[ing]” his bride and like Theon walking “arm in arm” with “Arya” to be claimed by Ramsay before Winterfell’s heart tree. It’s also notable because it just so happens to be Sandor Clegane’s trademark move vis-a-vis Sansa:

The Hound threw back his head and roared. Sansa stumbled back, away from him, but he caught her arm. (GOT S II)

The Hound caught her by the arm and leaned close. (GOT S II)
Sansa caromed into him and lost her balance. Iron fingers caught her by the wrist before she could fall… (COK S II)
[Sansa] might have fallen, but a shadow [i.e. Sandor] moved suddenly, and strong fingers grabbed her arm and steadied her. (COK S IV)

(Notice that the last time inverts Dontos grabbing her arm “to steady himself“.)

Sansa thinks of how Joff “had been her gallant prince”, and then we read this tantalizing exchange:

“Come, we must away, they’ll search for you. Your husband’s been arrested.

“Tyrion?” she said, shocked.

“Do you have another husband? The Imp, the dwarf uncle, she thinks he did it.” (ibid)

Well? Does she? She’s certainly about to. At least figuratively.

Her symbolic wedding to Sandor is completed, even as she thinks of almost nothing but marriage:

If Tyrion did it, they will think I was part of it as well, she realized with a start of fear. How not? They were man and wife, and Joff had killed her father and mocked her with her brother’s death. One flesh, one heart, one soul.

“Be quiet now, my sweetling,” said Dontos. “Outside the godswood, we must make no sound. Pull up your hood and hide your face.” Sansa nodded, and did as he said. (ibid)

We’re explicitly still in the godswood here, and what happens? Sansa at last raises her Sandor-ish hood and thus covers her maiden cloak-esque pearls, symbolically subsuming a symbol of her maiden cloak with a symbolic Sandor’s-bride’s cloak.

Moments later, Dontos throws up from drinking too much wine and reveals he has for once dressed as a knight. I can’t think of any other drunks with a fraught relationship with knighthood, can you?

Sansa’s Sandor Chastity Belt

It’s pretty plain that Sansa and Sandor are symbolically married in the godswood, not when Sansa merely huddles in the Kingsguard cloak Sandor discarded.

So in-world, where does Sansa get this symbolic Sandor wedding cloak she wears?

Before I address the amazingly cool literal answer to that question, notice that Sansa is given something quite similar immediately after she balls up and tries to burn the evidence of her menstrual blood, thus performing an inadvertent (figurative?) bloodmagic ritual to protect her from Joffrey and “summon” a protector:

In the end it took three of them to pull her away. And it was all for nothing. The bedclothes were burnt, but by the time they carried her off her thighs were bloody again. It was as if her own body had betrayed her to Joffrey, unfurling a banner of Lannister crimson for all the world to see.

When the fire was out, they carried off the singed featherbed, fanned away the worst of the smoke, and brought up a tub. Women came and went, muttering and looking at her strangely. They filled the tub with scalding hot water, bathed her and washed her hair and gave her a cloth to wear between her legs. By then Sansa was calm again, and ashamed for her folly. The smoke had ruined most of her clothing. One of the women went away and came back with a green wool shift that was almost her size. “It’s not as pretty as your own things, but it will serve,” she announced when she’d pulled it down over Sansa’s head. “Your shoes weren’t burned, so at least you won’t need to go barefoot to the queen.” (COK S IV)

Her “green wool shift” isn’t a cloak, to be sure, but it’s a fascinating object of inquiry, as I’ll explain.

GRRM is a nerd and knows his medieval fabrics and clothing. The term “shift” as it was classically used prior to the 19th century meant a sort of loose undergarment. It was basically the original underwear, before underwear was sexy.

Shift began to be replaced by the term “chemise” when shift started to have indecent connotations. Chemise and shift became essentially interchangeable, centuries before either was stylish or sexy or the “shift dress” became a Thing. Wikipedia and some online dictionaries even redirect searches for shift as clothing to “chemise”.

But what else is a chemise?

In medieval castles the chemise (French: “shirt”) was typically a low wall encircling the keep, protecting the base of the tower. (wikipedia)

Now, the whole point of the “cloak ceremony” is to take the bride from “her father’s protection to her husband’s”, right? (SOS Ty VIII) And here Sansa is given a Sandor-colored-and-fabric-ed green wool “shift” AKA “chemise” AKA “low wall encircling the keep, protecting the base of the tower.”

This, in a world in which “come-into-my-castle” is a thing, in which its inherent winking allusion to sex has been lately… well… winked at by Tyrion and Penny:

“When you were a little girl, did you ever play come-into-my-castle?”

“No. Can you teach me?” (DWD Ty IX)

(Also a Thing mentioned in the same breath, by the way? “Hide-the-treasure”, a la Theon and his oak bole.) Symbolically, then, Sansa basically just got a figurative, comfortable chastity belt in Sandor’s color and fabric. She is symbolically protected by Sandor, just as a woman is symbolically protected by her husband after their wedding ceremony. Figuratively, then, the shift could be said to be doing the job a wedding cloak might do. More precisely, perhaps, it symbolically safeguards her chastity from the threat it faces from her marriage to Tyrion and preserves it until she can enact her simultaneously figurative-but-true marriage to Sandor and perhaps ultimately consummate it.

The shift’s link with Sandor may be ironically emphasized by the woman who gives it to her:

“It’s not as pretty as [Sansa’s] own things, but it will serve.

As ugly dogs faithfully do.

Pretty nifty stuff. But I still haven’t told you where Sansa gets the symbolic bride’s cloak in Sandor’s color she puts on in the godswood.

A Dye Job

Thanks to /u/aowshadow, who directed me to this post about Sandor’s bloody Kingsguard cloak, I actually think it’s pretty clear that the cloak Sansa puts on in the godswood is in fact Sandor’s bloody Kingsguard cloak, which Sansa has now dyed dark green in order to obscure its blood stains. (If this somehow isn’t the literal, in-world truth, it’s absolutely the figurative truth, given all of what follows.)

Consider first that we’re told early in ASOS that she has kept Sandor’s cloak:

She had his stained white cloak hidden in a cedar chest beneath her summer silks. She could not say why she’d kept it. (SOS San I)

The cloak then disappears, but after Alayne flees King’s Landing with nothing but the clothes on her back—viz. her deep, dark green cloak and brown wool dress—she thinks of it in a way that’s at least consistent with her still owning it:

[Sandor] took a song and a kiss, and left me nothing but a bloody cloak. (FFC Ala II)

Sandor’s abandoned Kingsguard cloak is specifically (a) bloody and (b) wool, right?

She found his cloak on the floor, twisted up tight, the white wool stained by blood and fire.

Now, recall that in AGOT, Arya ruins Sansa’s “ivory silk dress” (i.e. a white dress that sounds like a real-world wedding dress) with the “red” juices of a blood orange—

“Liar,” Arya said. Her hand clenched the blood orange so hard that red juice oozed between her fingers.

“Go ahead, call me all the names you want,” Sansa said airily. “You won’t dare when I’m married to Joffrey. You’ll have to bow to me and call me Your Grace.” She shrieked as Arya flung the orange across the table. It caught her in the middle of the forehead with a wet squish and plopped down into her lap.

“You have juice on your face, Your Grace,” Arya said.

It was running down her nose and stinging her eyes. Sansa wiped it away with a napkin. When she saw what the fruit in her lap had done to her beautiful ivory silk dress, she shrieked again. (GOT S III)

—causing Sansa to “ball up” the dress (revealing a “bloody” underskirt, to boot!) and throw it into her fireplace—

The blood orange had left a blotchy red stain on the silk. “I hate her!” she screamed. She balled up the dress and flung it into the cold hearth, on top of the ashes of last night’s fire. When she saw that the stain had bled through onto her underskirt, she began to sob despite herself.  (ibid.)

exactly as she does with her bloody bedsheets (which so clearly evoke the “bloody sheet” from a maiden’s wedding night)—

She pulled the torn sheet from the bed, and the stained blanket as well. I’ll have to burn them. She balled up the evidence, stuffed it in the fireplace, drenched it in oil from her bedside lamp, and lit it afire. (COK S IV)

—and very much as she does her Stark-ish maiden’s clothing in the godswood—

She balled [her gown] up and shoved it into the bole of an oak, shook out the clothing she had hidden there.

—when it is metaphorically transformed by the tree into the brown wool dress and “deep green” cloak, which she chose specifically because Dontos said to “dress dark”.

Now, what does Sansa do with her white real-world-wedding-style dress stained “red” with “blood” (orange) after she shoves it into the “ashes of last night’s fire”—”ashes” immediately reminding us of Sandor’s “soot-grey garments and of Sandor’s shadow being called “dark as ash”? (GOT B III) She dyes it a darker color to hide the “blood” stains!

Her gown was the ivory silk that the queen had given her, the one Arya had ruined, but she’d had them dye it black and you couldn’t see the stain at all. (GOT S V)

Dye is foregrounded throughout ASOIAF. We read of dyers and dye over and again. (The first time is when Dany sees a cloth trader buying some green dye. [GOT Dae VI])

Bloodstains that have been partially cleaned out of white wool are often brown-ish with, as ladygwynhyfvar’s essay points out, a greenish hue. Recall that the cloak Sandor wore to tourney was “olive-green”. Sansa having Sandor’s Kingsguard cloak dyed a deep, dark, perhaps olive shade of green to hide the bloodstains perfectly pays off the throwaway detail of her dying her stained “wedding” dress, and transforms a cloak that was wholly unsuitable to be a figurative bride’s cloak symbolizing Sandor Clegane into the apt metaphor we see in the Kingswood.

Remember the odd line about Sansa’s skin from porcelain to “steel”?

My skin has turned to porcelain, to ivory, to steel.

The transformation from “porcelain” (i.e. white) to “steel” mirrors Sandor switching his white Kingsguard cloak for his “soot-grey” escape/disguise-cloak—”soot-grey” likewise being the color of Sandor’s steel armor. The “ivory” in the middle reminds us of the ivory dress Arya ruins—the dress Sansa has dyed to hide its “blood” stains. Together, the allusions here—to (a) Sandor’s (ultimately bloodstained) Kingsguard cloak, (b) Sandor changing his cloak from white to “steel”, and (c) a real world-wedding-esque dress being dyed to hide its stains—cohere to strongly suggest suggest that Sansa has just donned Sandor’s literally blood stained white cloak, which was dyed and “turned to” a cloak and dress in “his” colors.

A final symbolic connection seals it. Remember how the green roughspun clothing Sandor wears when he reverses his colors to disguise himself is called “splotchy”?

…the Hound himself was garbed in splotchy green roughspun

Guess when else green things are explicitly “splotchy” in ASOIAF? When they’re the hands of a dyer’s apprentice, as seen under an oak tree!

They found Lommy where they’d left him, under the oak. “I yield,” he called out at once when he saw them. He’d flung away his own spear and raised his hands, splotchy green with old dye. (COK A V)

GRRM, everyone!

(Did you notice the “splotchy”/”blotchy” wordplay vis-a-vis the original garment Sansa has dyed to hide a “red stain” from “blood”: “The blood orange had left a blotchy red stain on the silk.”? The rhyme hints that both these vignettes are bound up in a greater scheme of figurative “rhyming” between events, one which sees Sandor’s Kingsguard cloak dyed to hide its blood stains, just as Sansa’s dress was dyed to hide its “blood” stains.)

Sandor is a huge man. Only Gregor is bigger. He’s Sansa’s benchmark for size:

The Lord of Runestone stood as tall as the Hound. (FFC Al I)

Thus his cloak would have been way too big for Sansa, but (a) it’s foregrounded that it could be torn when Sandor tears it off and discards it—

Sansa heard cloth ripping followed by the softer sound of retreating footsteps. (COK S VII)

—and (b) as ladygwynhyfvar notes, Sansa spends half of ASOS sewing—

[Margaery’s] cousins took Sansa into their company as if they had known her all their lives. They spent long afternoons doing needlework and talking over lemon cakes and honeyed wine… (SOS S II)

—so she certainly could have made herself a suitably-sized cloak out of the fabric, if not when sewing with the ladies then in her chambers on her own time, which she has in abundance.

What ladygwynhyfvar misses is that there’s a very good chance Sansa’s “thick brown wool” dress with the pearls on the bodice was crafted using fabric from Sandor’s huge, bloodstained cloak as well, dyed brown to hide the blood and decorated with pearls taken from her maiden’s cloak. Sandor’s cloak could easily provide sufficient fabric for a Sansa-sized cloak and dress, and it just so happens that Sansa’s ability to sew a dress is foregrounded when Arya portentously ruins Sansa’s white dress with the “red” “blood” of an orange:

“Washing won’t do any good,” Sansa said. “Not if you scrubbed all day and all night. The silk is ruined.”

“Then I’ll … make you a new one,” Arya said.

Sansa threw back her head in disdain. “You? You couldn’t sew a dress fit to clean the pigsties.” (GOT S III)

It makes sense that Sandor’s abandoned cloak might be notably thick wool. After all we’ve see Meryn Trant, Jaime Lannister and Arys Oakheart all wear “heavy wool” Kingsguard cloaks, and when Sandor throws his cloak around Sansa the first time, after the riot—

The coarse weave was scratchy against her skin, but no velvet had ever felt so fine. (COK S III)

—it sounds thicker than thinner (and not at all like silk). (GOT San IV; SOS Jai VIII; FFC tSK)

Thus when Sansa dons her figurative bride’s cloak and a dress that causes her to more completely mirror Sandor’s green-and-brown color scheme, the garments are likely both made out of Sandor’s cloak, bringing the overarching wedding metaphor all the more sharply into focus.

Two curious details resonate with the idea that Sansa had the cloak fabric washed and dyed without attracting suspicion. First, Cersei makes a comment about “blind washerwomen” in the Red Keep which can be read as auguring that no one pays much attention to the laundry, as seems to be the case in Harrenhal when Arya runs laundry to the washerwomen there. (COK S VI; A X) Second, when Cersei thinks of the “wretched washerwomen [who] had shrunk several of her old gowns so they no longer fit”, it recalls her difficulties being laced into her gowns, which recalls Sansa’s similar difficulties—

Yet the last time she’d gone riding, [Sansa] could not lace her jerkin all the way to the top, and the stableboy gaped at her as he helped her mount. Sometimes she caught grown men looking at her chest as well, and some of her tunics were so tight she could scarce breathe in them. (COK S II)

—which she just so happens to think of at the very moment a seamstress is fitting her for a new wardrobe, including “mantles and cloaks”, leading Sansa to ask “what color” her new gown—which turns out to be her wedding dress—will be.

If ASOIAF “rhymes” as I believe it does, I can’t read the foregrounding and connection of (blind) washerwomen, newly sewn (wedding) gowns and cloaks, color choices, etc., as anything other than foreshadowing the revelation that Sansa had Sandor’s Kingsguard cloak washed and dyed before transforming it into her green “bride’s” cloak and brown dress. Not when GRRM chose to include the following “throwaway” tidbit of “colorful” Red Keep history in Fire & Blood:

[Saera] slipped in the White Tower when she was ten, stole all the white cloaks she could find, and dyed them pink.

Will Sansa and Sandor ever literally consummate their figurative “wedding”? I believe they might, and I believe that moment may be much closer at hand than most suspect. Will they ever literally WED, though? That I am much less sure of. I’ll discuss these questions in my very next post, which will be the long-delayed conclusion of my series on the whereabouts of Tyrek Lannister.

2 thoughts on “Sansa and Sandor’s REAL (figurative) Wedding

    1. I made a major edit since you read it an hour ago. Come back and check out the stuff under the “Dye Job” heading. (There are a few other small changes in the body, too, but that’s the bulk of it.)


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