This writing is the long-promised follow-up to the second post in my trilogy about Ser Byron & Tyrek Lannister, which argued that we seemingly have Every. Reason. In. The. World. to believe that Ser Byron The Beautiful, one of a trio of hedge knights hired by Littlefinger in AFFC, is actually Tyrek Lannister, a Loras-bodied, Joffrey-lookin’, Sansa mirror-figure: the perfect true knight to enchant “Alayne” into going rogue and fleeing the Vale.
(Quickly reiterating a cornerstone of that post: recognition in ASOIAF isn’t nearly as easy as most modern readers assume it is, and just as Littlefinger isn’t worried that “Alayne” will be recognized as Sansa, so is there no reason to think a newly post-pubescent Tyrek would be recognized by Sansa, Littlefinger, or anyone else, especially given that Tyrek is practically invisible—unworthy of individual attention, note or comment—in our King’s Landing POVs prior to his disappearance.)
This core of this was written in April 2017, but it led me to writing a whole bunch of other stuff. Apologies for the delay.
Ser Byron MUST be Tyrek. Right?
Given everything I laid out in my first two posts about Tyrek, it seems hard to imagine that Ser Byron isn’t Tyrek Lannister. After all, if he isn’t, then Tyrek-as-Byron is just an incredibly elaborate and convincing red herring, and moreover one which is itself “protected” by the red herring that Tyrek is the handsome dead man blind Arya “meets” by the pool in the House of Black and White. If GRRM put all that effort went into protecting Tyrek’s current whereabouts and Byron’s true identity, that suggests the truth is a bombshell, and thus that “Byron” must be somebody really important.
But how can he be? What major player is there who looks as much like Byron as Tyrek Lannister does—let alone who would make the thematic sense Tyrek “Miniver Cheevy” Lannister does as Ser Byron? (The lack of any apparent answer is why I was initially sure Ser Byron is indeed the wayward Tyrek Lannister.)
An Absurd Idea
While writing about Ser Byron and Tyrek, I read an idea that initially struck me as wholly absurd. A lengthy comment in a thread on westeros.org by @Blue-Eyed Wolf proposed that Ser Byron is really Sandor Clegane, the Quiet Isle’s Gravedigger, now glamored to look like a random young, dead knight who was buried on Quiet Isle.
That’s ridiculous, right? I mean, we’ve seen that Ser Byron looks exactly like Tyrek Lannister—the son of the physically precocious Tygett Lannister and Darlessa Marbrand—should look at age 14. And we’ve seen myriad other literary and textual tidbits that all seem consistent with the idea that Byron is Tyrek, a “Miniver Cheevy” dreamer and romantic who hates being taunted as “Wet Nurse” and who flees his arranged marriage to an infant, perhaps joining a religious group like the Quiet Isle’s brotherhood (much as his “textual twin” Lancel rejects his arranged marriage and joins the holy Warrior’s Sons), which is headed by an Elder Brother who I have argued is none other than Ser Byron’s companion in the Vale, Ser Morgarth the Merry.
What’s more, if Tyrek is Byron, then Tyrek-Byron mirrors Sansa in certain ways he otherwise does not (with said mirroring suggesting she will fall for him). Likewise, there are ominous notes about Lannister beauty hiding danger that seemingly pay off only if Byron the Beautiful is a Lannister. And Byron makes a far better Loras-figure if he’s secretly a precocious 14-year-old Tyrek Lannister than if he’s just some random “young knight”, with a Loras-ish Tyrek-Byron having all kinds of cool implications for the tournament in the Vale (assuming it’s going to parallel the Hand’s tourney, as many expect), as discussed last time.
Sure, we know Sandor crossed paths with Elder Brother—
“I came upon [the Hound] by the Trident, drawn by his cries of pain. He begged me for the gift of mercy, but I am sworn not to kill again. Instead, I bathed his fevered brow with river water, and gave him wine to drink and a poultice for his wound, but my efforts were too little and too late. The Hound died there, in my arms. You may have seen a big black stallion in our stables. That was his warhorse, Stranger.” – Elder Brother (FFC B VI)
—and most people, including @Blue-Eyed Wolf, think they know that Sandor is “now” Quiet Isle’s Gravedigger—
…higher still they passed a lichyard where a brother bigger than Brienne was struggling to dig a grave. From the way he moved, it was plain to see that he was lame. As he flung a spadeful of the stony soil over one shoulder, some chanced to spatter against their feet. “Be more watchful there,” chided Brother Narbert. “Septon Meribald might have gotten a mouthful of dirt.” The gravedigger lowered his head. When Dog went to sniff him he dropped his spade and scratched his ear. (FFC B VI)
—so at least it’s not a stretch to imagine that Sandor is in cahoots of some kind with Elder Brother AKA Byron’s companion Ser Morgarth.
In that one, narrow respect, then, @BEW’s idea that Ser Byron is Sandor-glamored-as-a-random-young-dead-knight-from-the-Quiet-Isle’s-graveyard is a better fit for the (seemingly) known facts than is the hypothesis that Byron is Tyrek. Still, Tyrek coming to Quiet Isle nicely rhymes with his “textual twin” Lancel’s story and explains his disappearance. Indeed, Elder Brother just so happens to talk about Tyrek’s “twin” Lancel:
“…there is a new young lord in Darry, a pious man who will surely set his lands to rights…” – Elder Brother (FFC B VI)
In light of everything my last post discussed, does the mere fact that we know Sandor knows Elder Brother-who-is-Morgarth trump the deluge of evidence that Byron is Tyrek? I mean, what are the odds some random dead knight would look exactly like Tyrek “should” look “now”?
Then it hit me.
Ser Byron the Beautiful looks exactly like Tyrek Lannister would look nowadays. He seems to be Tyrek Lannister. But that doesn’t mean Ser Byron is Tyrek Lannister. And of course Sandor Clegane is in league with Elder Brother/Ser Morgarth and Ser Shadrich/Howland Reed. Not because Sandor is glamored to look like some random dead knight, though.
Sandor, A Glamor, and the “Beautiful” Gravedigger, Tyrek Lannister
I submit that Elder Brother did indeed save Sandor’s life, and that Sandor has now been glamored by Ned Stark’s “staunchest companion” Howland Reed—a potent magician abroad in the guise of the hedge knight Ser Shadrich of the Shady Glen—to look like Tyrek Lannister, who has indeed walked out on House Lannister and ended up on Quiet Isle, just like Sandor. Sandor knows Sansa, and thus he knows that wearing the guise of a beautiful, near-Joffrey-lookalike with a slender Loras-y body is the perfect vehicle for him—together with “Shadrich” and “Elder Brother”/Ser Morgarth/Lewyn Martell—to pry Sansa Stark away from Littlefinger.
I submit that Tyrek cannot be Ser Byron, who dances ably with “Alayne” in TWOW Ala I—
[Ben Coldwater] was [Alayne’s] first [dance] partner of the evening, but far from the last. Just as Petyr had promised, the young knights flocked around her, vying for her favor. After Ben came Andrew Tollett, handsome Ser Byron, red-nosed Ser Morgarth, and Ser Shadrich the Mad Mouse.
—because Tyrek is permanently lame, his leg crushed when he and his horse were pulled down by the rioting mob in King’s Landing.
I submit that Tyrek, who is indeed as physically precocious as his sire Tygett was—Tygett went to war and killed multiple men at age 10, remember—and who posseses a double-dose of House Marbrand’s “tall genes”, now labors as an awkwardly tall novice on the Quiet Isle, digging graves and treating Dog far more kindly than his quasi-doppelganger and cousin Joffrey treated his “dog”, perhaps seeking to expiate his hitherto unknown role in Robert’s death-by-boar.
That’s right. The Gravedigger is not Sandor Clegane, but rather Tyrek Lannister. Sandor Clegane is glamored to look like Tyrek and is in the Vale with Quiet Isle’s Elder Brother (Ser Morgarth) and Howland Reed (Ser Shadrich) using the name Ser Byron the Beautiful. It’s likely that said glamor is a two-way street, and that Tyrek is thus glamored as Sandor, with the two swapping places like Mance and Rattleshirt in ADWD, meaning that in a certain sense the gravedigger “is” Sandor, after all.
All the evidence that Ser Byron looks just as Tyrek should look remains valid, because Byron really does look like Tyrek looks now (minus the crippled leg).
All the instances of Tyrek/Byron mirroring Sansa still make sense, showing how “Tyrek” is the perfect tool to enchant Sansa (and how Sansa may eventually end up with the real Tyrek, who so happens to be lame like her hoped-for husband Willas Tyrell).
Everything pointing to Ser Byron being Tyrek Lannister is actually pointing to Byron being a glamor of Tyrek Lannister, as worn by The Artist Formerly Known As The Hound, Sandor Clegane.
Likewise, everything pointing to Sandor being the Gravedigger is actually pointing to Sandor being glamored to look like the real gravedigger, Tyrek.
A Dramatic Jackpot
Sandor being “Byron the Beautiful” makes excellent dramatic sense. Sandor and Sansa’s paths have been intertwined since AGOT, with Sandor both threatening and protecting Sansa and Sansa remembering a kiss that (seemingly) never happened. Sandor and Sansa were even figuratively married in ASOS. (If you haven’t read my write-up on this and think I’m talking about Sansa huddling in Sandor’s Kingsguard cloak, you don’t know the half of it.) So it feels right that Sandor and Sansa’s stories remain connected.
Remember those quotes from Part 1 about Lannister beauty being “treacherous” and masking danger?
“Beauty can be treacherous. My brother [Robert] learned that lesson from Cersei Lannister.” – Stannis (SOS J XI)
“Still, beauty can sometimes mask deadly danger,” [Cersei] warned the little queen. “Robert lost his life in the woods.” (FFC C VI)
If Byron the Beautiful is Sandor Clegane glamored to look like a post-pubescent Tyrek Lannister, holy payoff! “Byron the Beautiful” will prove “treacherous” indeed from his employer Littlefinger’s point of view, with “Byron’s” beauty “mask[ing]” the explicitly “deadly” and “dangerous” Sandor:
The Hound was deadly with a sword, everyone knew that. (SOS A VI)
“A caution. I only meant . . . Sandor is dangerous.” (FFC Jai II)
“The man who raped and killed at Saltpans was not Sandor Clegane, though he may be as dangerous.” (FFC B VI)
Notice that both remarks about Lannister beauty being “treacherous”/”mask[ing] deadly danger” refer to Robert being killed by a boar while accompanied by his squire, Tyrek, the very guy whose image is now Sandor’s brilliant disguise. This is no coincidence. (Indeed, we will see that both Tyrek and Sandor newly associated with boars in interesting ways.)
People have been impersonating Sandor for some time—first Rorge, then Lem take on his “Hound” identity—so there’s a nice symmetry if it turns out that Sandor himself is impersonating someone too, after a fashion.
And how delicious is the irony of the knight-hating—
Sandor Clegane snarled at her. “Spare me your empty little compliments, girl … and your ser’s. I am no knight. I spit on them and their vows.” (GOT S II)
—Lannister-abandoning, hideously ugly Sandor playing the role of a beautiful, storybook knight using a glamor of a Lannister who’s a quasi-doppelganger for his old boss, Joffrey? (As Byron, Sandor may even plan to “reveal” not that he is Sandor, but that he “is” Tyrek Lannister and that he turned his back on House Lannister and his arranged marriage out of disgust with Cersei and Tywin, a storybook story which could win Sansa’s heart and trust long enough to steal her away from Littlefinger.)
“Byron” being Sandor in a Tyrek-glamor has interesting implications for the hypothesis that the Vale tourney will “rhyme” with Ned’s Tourney. Recall that the final of Ned’s Tourney’s is canceled when Loras demurs to Sandor after Sandor, who defeats Jaime Lannister, saves Loras from Gregor, whom Loras defeated via trickery. It seems like Sandor is set up to play 3 of the 4 Hand-tourney finalists’ roles in the Vale tournament: as Byron, he’s simultaneously a Lannister (like Jaime), himself and a Loras-figure. The only role he doesn’t seem to be filling is Gregor.
I’m getting way ahead of myself. Let’s quickly deal with the
elephant beast in the room, and then answer some basic questions.
(Byron the) Beauty and the Beast (Sandor Clegane)
If this is true—if the horribly disfigured Sandor “the Hound” Clegane is now wooing Sansa in the guise of Ser Byron the Beautiful—let’s call a spade a spade. GRRM is reworking the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, with the beast (Sandor) magically turned into a handsome knight rather than vice versa.
GRRM wrote for the television show of the same name. The 1946 film adaptation was directed by Jean Cocteau. GRRM bought and owns a movie theater named Jean Cocteau Cinema. And who was GRRM’s personal choice to play Sandor Clegane? Ron Pearlman, who played the Beast on the TV show GRRM wrote for. (http://www.westeros.org/Citadel/SSM/Entry/1259/) Given all this, why wouldn’t GRRM decide to glamor Sandor as Tyrek Lannister and call him Ser Byron The Beautiful?
True, Sandor himself is never called a beast, but his successor as The Hound—the guy playing the role he was playing—is called a “beast” twice:
The Hound is dead, and in any case he never had your Sansa Stark. As for this beast who wears his helm, he will be found and hanged. (FFC B VI)
“There is nothing good about that helm, nor the men who wore it,” said the red priest. “Sandor Clegane was a man in torment, and Rorge a beast in human skin.” (FFC B VII)
Sandor’s horse Stranger is also called a “beast” twice. It’s called “a handsome beast” right when we learn it’s been renamed “Driftwood”. (Recall that Ser Byron is “handsome”.) And what happens to driftwood on the Quiet Isle?
All were made from driftwood… polished till they shone a deep gold in the candlelight. (FFC B VI)
Sounds like a metaphor for dark-haired Sandor Clegane transformed into “handsome Ser Byron” with Lannister “gold” hair, doesn’t it? Speaking of which, isn’t it curious that Stranger bit a holy brother who just so happens to reveal himself (as if removing a disguise) as both notably blond, like Byron, and missing an ear, like Sandor:
Brother Gillam lowered his cowl. Underneath he had a mop of blond hair, a tonsured scalp, and a bloodstained bandage where he should have had an ear. (B VI)
Shadrich and Morgarth and Green Man Glamors
As alluded to already, I have long believed that Ser Shadrich is Howland Reed and that Ser Morgarth is the Elder Brother. Like @Blue-Eyed Wolf, I think Sandor is working in concert with these two men to extricate Sansa Stark from Littlefinger’s machinating hands. The idea that Elder Brother is the “late” Prince Lewyn of Dorne (see Morgarth link, above), who was “killed” by Lyn Corbray before being reborn on Quiet Isle is consistent with Elder Brother effortlessly disguising himself as a knight and allying with Ned’s friend Howland Reed to try to rescue Lewyn’s friend Rhaegar’s niece Sansa from a guy whose right hand man is Lyn Corbray.
Meanwhile the idea that Ser Shadrich is Howland Reed introduces the possibility of a glamor, because if anyone other than Melisandre knows how to pull off a glamor, it’s Howland Reed, magic-user:
“[H]e could breathe mud and run on leaves, and change earth to water and water to earth with no more than a whispered word. He could talk to trees and weave words and make castles appear and disappear.” (SOS B II)
Making castles appear and disappear sounds awfully glamor-y.
To that Howland added the mysterious powers of the green men, who the super-psychic Bran “coincidentally” speculates could “turn him into a knight”:
“The lad knew the magics of the crannogs,” she continued, “but he wanted more. Our people seldom travel far from home, you know. We’re a small folk, and our ways seem queer to some, so the big people do not always treat us kindly. But this lad was bolder than most, and one day when he had grown to manhood he decided he would leave the crannogs and visit the Isle of Faces.”
“No one visits the Isle of Faces,” objected Bran. “That’s where the green men live.”
“It was the green men he meant to find.” …
All the tales agreed that the green men had strange magic powers. Maybe they could help [Bran] walk again, even turn him into a knight. (SOS B II)
The last line about the green men helping the “broken boy” and “cripple” Bran walk again and turning him into a knight positively sings if indeed Howland the Green Man glamors Sandor to look like Tyrek, who just so happens to be a “cripple”, thereby turning Sandor, a “broken man” if there ever was one, into a “knight”: “Ser Byron”. (SOS B IV, I) (From a certain point of view, then, we might also say the glamor causes the “cripple” Tyrek to “walk again”, as Bran imagines.)
Speaking of Tyrek, I suspect his presence on Quiet Isle and participation in the scheme is vital, per Melisandre’s explanation of how glamors function:
“The bones help,” said Melisandre. “The bones remember. The strongest glamors are built of such things. A dead man’s boots, a hank of hair, a bag of fingerbones. With whispered words and prayer, a man’s shadow can be drawn forth from such and draped about another like a cloak. The wearer’s essence does not change, only his seeming.” (DWD M I)
@Blue-Eyed Wolf’s argument that Sandor is glamored to resemble a dead knight from Quiet Isle’s lichyard makes far too much of the fact that Mel mentions “a dead man’s boots”, etc. Glamors need not resemble only a dead man. Mel was merely speaking of a dead man at the time. After all, before he’s killed, Rattleshirt is glamored to look like the still-living Mance Rayder.
Now, if a relic from a dead man’s body helps a glamor’s efficacy, how strong might a glamor be when it is woven with the willing complicity of the person whose “shadow” is being “drawn forth”? How good might it be if said person provides all the “hanks of hair” you need? Pretty, pretty… pretty good. (The idea that Tyrek provided a hank of hair certainly jibes with the attention lavished on Ser Byron’s hair.)
The Quiet Isle’s Rubies
@BEW rightly points out that gemstones seem to play a key role in glamors: A ruby anchors Mance’s Rattleshirt glamor; a moonstone anchors Bloodraven’s Maynard Plumm glamor in The Mystery Knight (about which I will have much more to say). It just so happens Elder Brother has rubies:
“[M]any strange and wondrous things are pushed toward us, to wash up on our shores.… We have found silver cups and iron pots, sacks of wool and bolts of silk, rusted helms and shining swords . . . aye, and rubies.”
That interested Ser Hyle. “Rhaegar’s rubies?”
“It may be. Who can say? The battle was long leagues from here, but the river is tireless and patient. Six have been found. We are all waiting for the seventh.” (FFC B VI)
Seven royal rubies suggests the Kingsguard, of which Sandor was lately a member.
Sandor, Shadow, and Cloaks
Let’s refocus a moment on this line about glamors:
…a man’s shadow can be drawn forth from such and draped about another like a cloak.
It so happens Sandor Clegane is often likened to shadows:
A shadow fell across his face. He turned to find [Sandor] Clegane looming overhead like a cliff. His soot-dark armor seemed to blot out the sun. (GOT T I)
“I’ll tell you what it was, girl,” [Sandor] said, a voice from the night, a shadow leaning so close now that she could smell the sour stench of wine on his breath. (GOT S II)
One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. (GOT B III)
That last passage tags Sandor’s shadow as “dark as ash”. This is interesting in light of the idea that glamors are “draped about another like a cloak“, inasmuch as Sandor’s “dark as ash” shadow sounds just like the literal cloak he wears when he is disguised (a la a glamor) as a farmer:
…a soot-grey mantle with a hood that swallowed his head. So long as he kept his eyes down you could not see his face, only the whites of his eyes peering out. (SOS A X)
That passage in turn references glamors in a more direct fashion, too: Its verbiage just so happens to “rhyme” with our main look at Bloodraven’s Maynard Plumm glamor in The Mystery Knight:
Dunk whirled. Through the rain, all he could make out was a hooded shape and a single pale white eye. It was only when the man came forward that the shadowed face beneath the cowl took on the familiar features of Ser Maynard Plumm, the pale eye no more than the moonstone brooch that pinned his cloak at the shoulder.
Dunk turning to realize the shadowy “Plumm” is there recalls Tyrion “turn[ing] to find Clegane looming”, above. A final Sandor/shadow association—
A shadow detached itself from the shadow of the wall, to become a tall man in dark grey armor. Sandor Clegane wrenched off his helm with both hands and let it fall to the ground. (COK Tyr VIII)
—likewise “rhymes” with the Plumm/Bloodraven passage—”a shadow” become[s] Sandor much as “a hooded shape” and “shadowed face” become Plumm—even at it bubbles with coy allusion. To wit, Sandor removing his helm and letting it drop looks like a metaphor foreshadowing his abandoning the Hound identity, and this occurs just as we see shadows coalesce (Plumm-style) into “a tall man”, prefiguring Sandor being glamored with Tyrek’s “shadow” as Ser Byron, whom Sansa dubs “the tall one”. (FFC Al II)
Healing the Plainly “Lame” Gravedigger?
@BEW’s theory assumes that Sandor is the gravedigger. There’s just one problem. In the 31st chapter of AFFC, the gravedigger is plainly “lame” (and perhaps consequently “struggling” at his task):
[A] brother bigger than Brienne was struggling to dig a grave. From the way he moved, it was plain to see that he was lame. (FFC B VI)
Yet only ten chapter later, Sansa notes nothing amiss with Byron’s walk, and sometime thereafter Byron dances ably with Sansa in TWOW Alayne I.
@BEW tries to explain this by citing Elder Brother’s vaunted healing powers:
“The Seven have blessed our Elder Brother with healing hands. He has restored many a man to health that even the maesters could not cure, and many a woman too.” (FFC B VI)
I certainly agree that Elder Brother heals Sandor and that Sandor is the dancing Ser Byron, but that doesn’t mean that Sandor is also the gravedigger. It makes no sense that Sandor is still limping badly and laboring heavily as the gravedigger three months or so after he was wounded, yet somehow a month or two later he’s all healed up, despite traveling for the better part of that time, which is a terrible way to heal a wound.
Consider that Brienne is categorical in her description of the gravedigger: “it was plain to see that he was lame.” “Lame” implies a permanent malady, not a wound that’s healing. That permanence is hammered in our second look:
Most were boys near Podrick’s age, or younger, but there were grown men as well, amongst them the big gravedigger they had encountered on the hill, who walked with the awkward lurching gait of one half-crippled. (ibid)
Not wounded. Crippled. What’s more, if you are nursing a wound back to health, do you really do hard labor? No. That’s something you do when an injury has already healed as much as it’s going to heal.
(It’s possible Brienne sees 14-year-old Tyrek as one of the “grown men” because like his father Tygett he’s a precocious Lannister. But I suspect it’s because his “seeming” is Sandor’s, with the two swapping appearances like Mance and Rattleshirt do. The glamor can’t hide the fact that Tyrek is lame, though.)
While Sandor was certainly dying when Elder Brother found him, it was clearly an infection that was killing him:
[Sandor]… slid into a noisy fevered sleep. When she touched him, his skin was burning up. Arya sniffed at his bandages the way Maester Luwin had done sometimes when treating her cut or scrape. His face had bled the worst, but it was the wound on his thigh that smelled funny to her. (SOS XIII)
The underlying injury was merely a “gash in his thigh” that happens long before Brienne sees the gravedigger limping—not the sort of thing that should cause a serious, permanent malady (barring amputation). (SOS A XIII) Again, it makes no sense that Sandor would go from “still limping terribly months after he was wounded” to “walking ably” ten chapters hence and dancing soon thereafter.
All these problems go away if the gravedigger is Tyrek Lannister, his leg made “lame”—permanently “crippled”—during the riot at King’s Landing when he was assaulted while on horseback:
“The boy [Tyrek] was last seen ahorse, when the press of the mob broke the line of gold cloaks. Afterward . . . well, his palfrey was found, but not the rider. Most like they pulled him down and slew him. But if that’s so, where is his body? The mob let the other corpses lie, why not his?” (FFC Jai III)
What happens to people who fall from horseback? The following is not coincidentally from the chapter immediately following the appearance of the gravedigger:
“B-Bronn drove his lance through the chest of Balman’s poor h-h-h-horse. Balman, he . . . his legs were crushed when the beast fell. He screamed so piteously . . .” (FFC C VII)
Note that a horse is called “the beast” (a la Beauty and the Beast). There is only one other instance of anything done “piteously” in ASOIAF. It immediately follows Sandor “snort[ing]” (like a horse, i.e. “the beast”), “They trained you well, little bird” to Sansa, and it’s a blatant symbol of a wounded Lannister (like Tyrek):
A yellow cat was dying on the ground, mewling piteously, a crossbow quarrel through its ribs. (COK S III)
Now, keeping in mind that Sansa and Tyrek appear made for one another and that Sansa is already figuratively married to Sandor who is glamored as the crippled Tyrek, how did Sansa’s erstwhile would-be betrothed Willas Tyrell hurt his leg?
“[Willas] was hurt as a squire, riding in his first tourney,” Margaery confided. “His horse fell and crushed his leg.” (SOS San I)
The rhyme is obvious: Two squires, both made lame when they fell from horseback. Willas was hurt in a tourney, and a glamor of Tyrek is about to ride in the Vale tourney.
We just so happen to hear of a similar incident from a glamor-weaver, Melisandre:
One man had been blinded by a blow to his head in the battle by the Wall, another lamed when his falling horse crushed his legs. (DWD M I)
Dunk witnesses the same in The Hedge Knight—
Screaming, the horse crashed sideways, knocking the wooden barrier to pieces as he fell. Ser Humfrey tried to leap free, but a foot caught in a stirrup and they heard his shriek as his leg was crushed between the splintered fence and falling horse.
—a story about a tournament which has a ton of resonances with our Vale story. The knight with the smashed leg is after all a Hardyng, like Harry the Heir, Sansa’s current would-be betrothed.
What happens to Ned in King’s Landing, in a situation not dissimilar to Tyrek’s riot?
“[Ned] was caught beneath a falling horse in the fight. Alyn says his leg was shattered…” (GOT B V)
And if that’s not close enough to our story, Maynard Plumm, who is glamored as one of a group of three hedge knights attending a tournament hosted by a former Master of Coin and held for an ulterior motive at a castle built out of white stone mined in the Vale—sound familiar?—tells Dunk the following in The Mystery Knight:
Lord Smallwood’s nephew broke his wrist and Ser Eden Risley’s leg was crushed beneath his horse, but no one has been killed thus far.
It’s almost like GRRM wants us to notice that terrible leg injuries befall people in the position Tyrek was in during the riot in King’s Landing.
In my last post on Ser Byron, I argued that Lancel and Tyrek are essentially textual “twins”, their paths largely mirroring one another’s. I left out a few crucial details. Chief among them:
But Lancel lingered, the very picture of a man with one foot in the grave. But is he climbing in or climbing out? (FFC C II)
The gravedigger reference is now obvious, and Lancel’s physical condition is, like the Gravedigger’s, compromised.
That said, while we’re invited to think the Gravedigger is “struggling to dig” simply because he is “lame” and “half-crippled”, his difficulties just so happen to be perfectly consistent with what ASOIAF tells us about lordlings (like Tyrek!) who are put to manual labor:
“I’ve seen what happens to soft lordlings when they’re put to work. Set them to churning butter and their hands blister and bleed. Give them an axe to split logs, and they cut off their own foot.” (GOT J V)
It’s no accident that this passage mentions a maimed leg, nor “churning butter”, which Brienne sees a brother doing the sentence before she sees the Gravedigger:
One [brother] was leading a pair of milk cows toward a low barn roofed in sod; another worked a butter churn. On the upper slopes they saw three boys driving sheep, and higher still they passed a lichyard where a brother bigger than Brienne was struggling to dig a grave. From the way he moved, it was plain to see that he was lame. As he flung a spadeful of the stony soil over one shoulder, some chanced to spatter against their feet. “Be more watchful there,” chided Brother Narbert. “Septon Meribald might have gotten a mouthful of dirt.” (FFC B VI)
Meanwhile, that bit about “a mouthful of dirt” is a callback to part of the reason the gravedigger, Tyrek, willingly abandoned his old life: the shit other squires were figuratively “making him eat” about his marriage to an infant, per Jaime’s recollection of the similar hell Merrett Frey had endured:
Jaime doubted that the red-hot iron was half so nasty as the kettles of shit his fellow squires made him eat once he was returned. (FFC Jai IV)
It also winks at his involvement with the glamor-weaver Howland Reed, per Little Walder Frey’s comment about the crannogmen:
“…they can live with nothing to eat but mud and breathe swamp water.” (COK Th IV)
The gravedigger’s response to Narbert—
The gravedigger lowered his head.
—reminds me of nothing so much as another Lannister’s response in a similar situation:
“His High Holiness awaits,” said Septa Unella.
Cersei lowered her head, humble and obedient. (DWD C I)
As for this—
When Dog went to sniff him he dropped his spade and scratched his ear.
—dogs don’t pet dogs. Their masters do. To whom was The Hound sworn? To House Lannister and Joffrey. And here a Joffrey-looking Lannister scratches a dog.
Is Tyrek “bigger” than Brienne? For all reasons discussed in my last post on Tyrek—his father was a precocious de facto knight at age ten, suggesting very early physical maturity, and Tyrek has a double-dose of notably tall Marbrand blood—he’s at least taller.
But I strongly suspect Byron’s glamor involves Sandor switching “seemings”/appearances with Tyrek, just as Mance and Rattleshirt switched seemings in ADWD, meaning the gravedigger “is”, in a sense, Sandor after all. If so, the masks worn by Quiet Isle’s brothers—
They were clad in the brown-and-dun robes of brothers, with wide bell sleeves and pointed cowls. Two had wound lengths of wool about the lower halves of their faces as well, so all that could be seen of them were their eyes. (FFC B VI)
—would obscure Sandor’s burns, and as I’ll shortly show, the text is clear that it’s those burns, not his eyes or face per se, which make Sandor uniquely recognizable.
EDITED 3.6.2021: Regarding my belief that it is Tyrek, not Sandor, who is the gravedigger, I note two things with great interest. First, the term “graver thoughts” attending the very first appearance of Tyrek Lannister:
Ser Barristan Selmy chuckled with him. Even Eddard Stark managed a smile. Always, though, the graver thoughts crept in. He could not help taking note of the two squires: handsome boys, fair and well made. One [i.e. Tyrek] was Sansa’s age, with long golden curls; the other perhaps fifteen, sandy-haired, with a wisp of a mustache and the emerald-green eyes of the queen. (GOT E VII)
The odd phrase “the graver thoughts”, and then Tyrek, way back in AGOT? Tell me again how GRRM is a gardener.
Second, consider that GRRM “coincidentally” decided to have Tyrion make a reference to, of all things, grave digging just moments before he reintroduced “The Mystery of Tyrek’s disappearance” in ASOS Tyrion I:
[Tyrion and Bronn] came upon Ser Addam Marbrand, descending the turnpike stair in the ornate black breastplate and cloth-of-gold cloak of an officer in the City Watch. “My lord,” he said, “how good to see you on your feet. I’d heard—”
“—rumors of a small grave being dug? Me too. Under the circumstances it seemed best to get up. I hear you’re commander of the City Watch. Shall I offer congratulations or condolences?”
“Both, I fear.” Ser Addam smiled. “Death and desertion have left me with some forty-four hundred. Only the gods and Littlefinger know how we are to go on paying wages for so many, but your sister forbids me to dismiss any.”
Still anxious, Cersei? The battle’s done, the gold cloaks won’t help you now. “Do you come from my father?” he asked.
“Aye. I fear I did not leave him in the best of moods. Lord Tywin feels forty-four hundred guardsmen more than sufficient to find one lost squire, but your cousin Tyrek remains missing.” …
“He’s feeding worms,” said Bronn with his usual tact.
Indeed he is “feeding worms”, Bronn, by buring the bodies of others.
Can Sandor Act Chivalrous? Can He Dance?
Can Sandor pull off the role of a chivalrous, gallant young knight, just because he’s glamored as such? @BEW argues that Sandor alters his speech and bearing to successfully impersonate a farmer, so given all his years at court playing a knight should be no problem. I agree. As a castle-raised man who lived at court for years, Sandor would surely have been taught how to dance (as Ser Byron does with Sansa) and be familiar with how to act chivalrously, even if “the Hound” had nothing but contempt for such things. Remember, Sandor isn’t always rough and uncouth:
“Do as you’re bid, child,” Clegane said. “Dress.” He pushed her toward her wardrobe, almost gently. (GOT S VI)
The Hound gave her a push, oddly gentle, and followed her down the steps. (COK S II)
If the taciturn, fun-hating Tywin can dance “with smooth [albeit] unsmiling grace”, so can Sandor, who in any case has ample time to practice for his role during his journey to the Vale, just as Jaime’s left-handed swordplay improves during his travels. (SOS San III)
The fact that Sandor is the dancing Ser Byron is actually hinted at a few times. The first hint plays with the story Sandor tells Sansa about Gregor burning his face after he took Gregor’s toy puppet:
“A wooden knight, all painted up, every joint pegged separate and fixed with strings, so you could make him fight.” (GOT San II)
And what does Tyrion tell us about such puppets?
“We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our strings and dance on in our steads. (SOS Ty X)
Second, Sansa likens Dontos to Sandor and then says he is “dancing”:
[Dontos] was as drunk as the Hound had been, but in him it was a dancing happy drunk. (COK S VII)
(This also refers to “Byron’s” companion “Morgarth the Merry”, who also dances with Sansa and who has a nose like Dontos’s nose. Of course, as soon as we think of Morgarth, we think of Byron, AKA Sandor-the-former-Hound.)
Sandor references dancing (to Sansa!) before delivering a monologue that’s dripping with irony if he now “is” the seeming “true knight” Ser Byron the Beautiful:
He drew his longsword. “Here’s your truth. Your precious father found that out on Baelor’s steps. Lord of Winterfell, Hand of the King, Warden of the North, the mighty Eddard Stark, of a line eight thousand years old . . . but Ilyn Payne’s blade went through his neck all the same, didn’t it? Do you remember the dance he did when his head came off his shoulders?”
Sansa hugged herself, suddenly cold. “Why are you always so hateful? I was thanking you . . .”
“Just as if I was one of those true knights you love so well, yes. What do you think a knight is for, girl? You think it’s all taking favors from ladies and looking fine in gold plate? Knights are for killing.” (COK S IV)
Finally, the guy who “takes over” as the Hound, “Lem Lemoncloak” (about whom I’ll have much more to say elsewhere, absolutely none of which relates to Richard Lonmouth), has an exchange which may well wink at the original Hound chatting up Sansa in AFFC before dancing with her in TWOW:
“Do you mean to hang her, Lem?” asked the one-eyed man. “Or do you figure to talk the bitch to death?”
The Hound snatched the end of the rope from the man holding it. “Let’s see if she can dance,” he said, and gave a yank. (FFC B VIII)
This is the climax of chapter immediately following Byron’s introduction.
Recognizing Sandor & Tyrek
Sandor disguising himself as a farmer deserves a closer look, as it speaks directly to why “Byron” being recognized as Tyrek is not a worry given the rules of recognition constructed by ASOIAF.
Arya and Sandor look like “some down-at-heels farmer” and “a farmer’s son” simply by wearing roughspun and driving a “creaking and swaying” old wayn. The Hound keeps his hood up, mumbles, and adopts the “m’lord and ser” vernacular of a peasant. The ruse succeeds—Ser Donnel Haigh doesn’t recognize Sandor despite countless tourney encounters with him—showing how the clothes, the wagon and its cargo create a “suggestion” that leads Haigh to “see what he expects to see”, much as with a glamor:
“The spell is made of shadow and suggestion. Men see what they expect to see. The bones are part of that.” (DWD M I)
Glamor-Sandor calling himself “Ser Byron” and dressing as a hedge knight has the same effect, especially given how much older Tyrek now appears than when he was last seen (when no one ever noticed him anyway).
Make no mistake, something like Sandor’s burns might well be recognized:
[Haigh] would have known [Sandor’s] face, though. Arya had no doubt of that. Sandor Clegane’s burns would not be easy to forget, once you saw them. (SOS A X)
But even then, it’s the burns, not Sandor’s underlying face, that identify him, that make him “recognizable”. This distinction (along with dozens and dozens of similar examples I discuss in my work on recognition in ASOIAF) speaks to why there is little danger that “Byron” will be “recognized” as a now post-pubescent Tyrek Lannister. Recognition in ASOIAF works much like it does (or rather, doesn’t) in Shakespeare and in Arthurian legend, both of which are huge influences on GRRM and replete with hidden and altered identities that make little sense from our position in the modern, image-saturated world. For example, in one of the key works of Arthurian literature, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur…
[Sir Dinadan] is one of the few knights to be able to recognize his fellows from their faces in addition to their shields; in one instance Tristan does not recognize his own King until Dinadan tells him who it is. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knights_of_the_Round_Table)
Indeed, I strongly suspect that Elder Brother, Howland and Sandor are pretty damn certain Tyrek will make a suitable glamor for Sandor because Sandor himself already failed to recognize Tyrek during his recovery on the Quiet Isle. I suspect we may even read about their meeting, perhaps in a call back to Renly challenging Sansa to identify him in AGOT, like this:
Sandor: “When I was abed I was nursed day after day by the same big, tall, limping blond novice. One day the novice brought me food as he always did. When he turned to leave, Elder Brother bade him stay and looked at me, eyes twinkling. ‘Now, if you can put a name to the novice who has so ably nursed you back to health, then I must concede that you are truly this Hound you claim to be, for the Hound should know this man,’ he said. ‘If not, the Hound must be dead, and you some other man: A stranger. No one. Truly.’
“I was certain I did not know the novice, and said as much, but when Elder Brother told me I’d once known my nurse as ‘Wet Nurse,’ the recognition at last dawned upon me.”
Brienne’s Portentous Animals
@Blue-Eyed Wolf argues that the painted doors Brienne sees in Duskendale are symbolically loaded, and they are:
They showed a castle in an autumn wood, the trees done up in shades of gold and russet.… When Brienne peered more closely, she saw creatures in the foliage: a sly red fox, two sparrows on a branch, and behind those leaves the shadow of a boar. (FFC B II)
@BEW likens the autumnal castle to the tourney at the Gates of the Moon, the sly red fox to the fox-faced, red-headed Shadrich, the two sparrows to the “sparrows” Meribald and the Elder Brother, and the shadow of the boar to Sandor Clegane, because boars uproot and overturn earth, like a gravedigger does, and because Clegane is later glamored, so we don’t really see him. (That is, she sees Sandor-the-Gravedigger as the boar, but thinks the painting only shows his shadow because we don’t see Sandor-the-boar due to his glamor as some anonymous young, dead knight.)
I agree regarding the castle, Shadrich and the Elder Brother, and perhaps Meribald, but @BEW is only “warm” regarding the boar. She’s correct that the earth-turning boar alludes to the gravedigger. There’s even a direct reference to this she seems to have missed:
[Borroq’s] boar seemed happy rooting amongst the graves… (DWD J XIII)
However, the gravedigger is Tyrek, and thus Tyrek is the boar itself.
This makes far better sense of Brienne’s painting. What’s a glamor again? “A man’s shadow” worn by another. What’s in the painting? The shadow of the grave digging boar, i.e. the glamor of the gravedigger, Tyrek-the-boar.
It’s worth mentioning here that when GRRM was working on AFFC he was asked:
Does Howland know who Jon Snow’s mother is?
The Shadow knows. (http://www.westeros.org/Citadel/SSM/Entry/1221)
While this makes perfect sense if Howland is “Shadrich of the Shady Glen”, might this also mean that Howland has brought the boar’s shadow—i.e. Sandor in Tyrek guise—into his full confidence?
It makes sense that Tyrek is the boar behind the shadow not just because he turns up the earth, but because Tyrek is present for and possibly complicit in Robert’s death-by-boar. Given that those on the Quite Isle are atoning for their sins, I do wonder about Tyrek’s complicity in Robert’s death, about which the text is totally silent.
The idea of a gravedigging Lannister “boar” jibes with the fact that boars and (Lannister-y) lions were frequently depicted alongside one another on ancient Greek funeral monuments (i.e. graves), and with the Greek myth of Adonis (beauty incarnate, a la “Byron the Beautiful”) being killed by a boar while on a hunting trip, recalling Robert’s death in the company of his squires Lancel and Tyrek.
I do think it’s likely that the second sparrow in the Duskendale door painting is actually Sandor himself, now a member of the brotherhood of the Quiet Isle. It’s not a big deal, and it could be Meribald too.
The Boar in Norse Myth
In a follow-up post, @Blue-Eyed Wolf discusses a boar myth in Norse mythology that’s awfully suspicious given the door-painting.
Basically, she notes that Sansa is a Freya figure, which she very much is. (Freya is the Norse goddess of fertility, love, beauty, sex, sorcery and more.) If you have doubts, look at the Sansa/Freya/Iðunn stuff in THIS POST—Iðunn is frequently conflated with Freya.
@BEW notes that Freya has a devotee named Óttar whom she disguises as a boar. Using the boar-shadow painting, @BEW connects Óttar to Sandor, who she argues can be seen as a kind of Sansa-devotee. This idea fits with our notion of Sandor disguising himself as Tyrek-the-boar.
Óttar famously builds an altar of stones for Freya. This recalls the Hound’s “grave”:
I covered him with stones to keep the carrion eaters from digging up his flesh, and set his helm atop the cairn to mark his final resting place. (FFC B VI)
@BEW points out that Freya goes on a quest with Óttar to help him remember his ancestry so he can claim his inheritance. She argues that something similar happens in ACOK S II, when Sansa asks Sandor…
“Why do you let people call you a dog? You won’t let anyone call you a knight.”
…and he replies by telling her the history of House Clegane:
“I like dogs better than knights. My father’s father was kennelmaster at the Rock. One autumn year, Lord Tytos came between a lioness and her prey. The lioness didn’t give a shit that she was Lannister’s own sigil. Bitch tore into my lord’s horse and would have done for my lord too, but my grandfather came up with the hounds. Three of his dogs died running her off. My grandfather lost a leg, so Lannister paid him for it with lands and a towerhouse, and took his son to squire. The three dogs on our banner are the three that died, in the yellow of autumn grass. A hound will die for you, but never lie to you. And he’ll look you straight in the face.” He cupped her under the jaw, raising her chin, his fingers pinching her painfully. “And that’s more than little birds can do, isn’t it? I never got my song.”
“I . . . I know a song about Florian and Jonquil.”
I can’t disagree, especially with that last reference to Florian and Jonquil, a legend that is effectively a Westerosi myth, a la Freya/Óttar . But it’s hard to see how this might help Sandor claim some great inheritance. It’s not like he doesn’t know who he is.
On the other hand, notice that the Lannisters seem to have forgotten who they are “supposed” to be—
The Lannisters were an old family, tracing their descent back to Lann the Clever, a trickster from the Age of Heroes…. In the songs, Lann was the fellow who winkled the Casterlys out of Casterly Rock with no weapon but his wits, and stole gold from the sun to brighten his curly hair. (GOT E VI)
—but that Tyrek Lannister, the figurative boar behind Sandor’s disguise, is at the center of an epic ruse of which Lann would be proud. And consider that Tyrek is a dead Martyn Lannister away from being the heir to House Lannister, given that Cersei’s kids are illegitimate (to say nothing of Cersei and Jaime’s dubious paternity). I suspect GRRM decided to “give” some of the Óttar myth to the “real” (figurative) boar, Tyrek.
Anyway, Freya’s husband is named Óðr. Óðr travels frequently and Freya misses him when he is gone and cries over his absence. @BEW tries to link Sandor to Óðr, but has a hard time seeing how Sandor “fits”. @BEW wants him to, because of 19th century Swedish romantic (a la Lord Byron!) Viktor Rydberg’s theory that the Sandor-ish, boar-linked Óttar is really/also Óðr, which @BEW finds intriguing given that “Sandor” is basically “San” (from “Sansa”) + a scrambled “Odr” (Anglicization of Óðr), meaning, basically, Sansa’s husband/lover.
As someone who already sees Sansa and Sandor as figuratively married, I have no trouble seeing Sandor as an Odr-figure (too), and thus love the wordplay here. Still, the part about Óðr traveling great distances and Freya crying over him doesn’t really apply to Sansa and Sandor.
But what about Tyrek? Might he be an Odr-figure? Tyrek and Sansa seem made for one another, mirror figures who are each enamored of romance, true knighthood, etc. A marriage between the two of them could provide a needed suture between Houses Stark and Lannister, and a note of redemption for both Sansa and House Lannister. Here, the fact that Sansa was once going to marry Willas Tyrell, who is also lamed after falling from horseback, looms portentously.
And sure enough, Tyrek—who is now conflated with Sandor via “Ser Byron”—just so happens to be a great analogue for the part about Óðr that Sandor doesn’t “speak to”. How so? Again:
Freya is married to Óðr, who goes on long travels…. While Óðr is absent, Freya stays behind and in her sorrow she weeps tears of red gold. (wikipedia)
GRRM reshuffles and reworks motifs of many origins, and “Tyrek” instantly recalls the common Arabic name Tarik/Tarek/Tarec/Tariq. From wikipedia:
Ṭariq is used in classical Arabic for the one who travels at night time —a night visitor— as the bedouin Arabs normally found it that a traveler from long distances would usually arrive at night avoiding the scorching heat. (wikipedia)
“A traveler from long distances” recalls “Óðr, who goes on long travels.” Meanwhile the resonance of “red gold” with Tyrek Lannister is obvious. Surely, then, Tyrek is Sansa’s Óðr (too).
Sandor’s conflation with Tyrek via Byron mirrors Óttar’s conflation with Óðr. Said conflations are obfuscatory, but I suspect that in the end Sansa will marry (and perhaps come to love) the lame, but still very pretty, Tyrek, while as Bryon, her “devotee” and figurative husband Sandor will earn a place in her heart (and perhaps deflower her, consummating their “marriage”).
(In case you’re wondering, the Norse/German god Tyr never crosses paths with Freya, and it’s tough to see many ways in which Tyrek is a Tyr figure. Tyrion and especially Jaime, on the other hand…)
The Byronic Hero
In my last post about Tyrek and Bryon, I talked about the poet and romantic Lord Byron, arguing that the Miniver Cheevy-esque Tyrek taking the name “Byron” was awfully fitting because of the sorts of characters Lord Byron wrote about. That analysis stands, since it’s Tyrek’s “shadow” that appears as “Ser Byron”. As @Blue-Eyed Wolf argues, Byron is a great name for Sandor, too. I’ll quote Wikipedia:
The Byronic hero presents an idealised, but flawed character whose attributes include: great talent; great passion; a distaste for society and social institutions; a lack of respect for rank and privilege (although possessing both); being thwarted in love by social constraint or death; rebellion; exile; an unsavory secret past; arrogance; overconfidence or lack of foresight; and, ultimately, a self-destructive manner.
Sounds Sandor-ish, all right.
In response to @BEW’s post, @SweetSunRay pointed that Lord Byron is buried next to his favorite dog, who he cared for without fear even when it was stricken with rabies. The dog’s large grave marker is etched with a poem Lord Byron wrote called Epitaph to a Dog. It ends with this line:
To mark a friend’s remains these stones arise;
I never knew but one — and here he lies.
This very specifically recalls another “dead” mad dog: The Hound, Sandor Clegane.
“I buried him myself. I can tell you where his grave lies, if you wish. I covered him with stones to keep the carrion eaters from digging up his flesh, and set his helm atop the cairn to mark his final resting place.” (FFC B VI)
A few other observations. The archetype of the Byronoic Hero was established in Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. A Childe…
…was the son of a nobleman who had not yet attained knighthood or had not yet won his spurs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childe)
…and the poem…
…describes the travels and reflections of a world-weary young man who, disillusioned with a life of pleasure and revelry, looks for distraction in foreign lands. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Childe_Harold’s_Pilgrimage)
The resonances with our hypothesis that Ser Byron is the world-weary Sandor glamored as Tyrek, a squire who I’ve postulated dreams of knightly glory a la Miniver Cheevy but who grows disenchanted with the familial duties foisted upon him, seem patent.
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage mentions Shakespeare, whose King Lear contains the following line:
Child Rowland to the dark tower came,
His word was still ‘Fie, foh, and fum
I smell the blood of a British man.
Child Rowland is a fairy tale(!) in which a girl with three brothers disappears and is taken to the Dark Tower by the King of Elfland—which sounds not unlike Lyanna Stark’s kidnapping. The English poet Robert Browning riffed on the same in his poem Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came. (Note that there’s a “Roland” in the Vale who dances with Sansa after Bryon, although Roland Waynwood is a knight, not a “Childe”. [That would be his younger uncle Wallace.]) Browning’s poem plays with The Song of Roland, which is “the oldest surviving major work of French literature” and in essence a keystone of the French equivalent of the Arthurian legends. It’s straight-up Miniver Cheevy heaven.
Robert Browning was “discovered and introduced to the public” by none other than Leigh Hunt, a member of the Cockney School of writers with which Lord Byron was associated. I have noted elsewhere /u/elpadrinonegro‘s observation that Littlefinger’s three “louts”—the hedge knights Sers Byron, Morgarth and Shadrich—reference Lord Byron, Jon Keats (born in “Moorgate” a la “Morgarth) and Leigh Hunt (referenced by the “hunter” Shadrich).
Hold that thought for one minute.
Stealing A Maid From Gulltown
Sandor once put a knife to Sansa’s throat to, in effect steal a song, right?
“I’ll have that song. Florian and Jonquil, you said.” His dagger was out, poised at her throat. “Sing, little bird. Sing for your little life.” (COK S VII)
@BEW notes that this recalls the knife-to-her-throat Jon uses to unwittingly steal Ygritte “when the Thief was in the Moonmaid”, which is “a propitious time for a man to steal a woman.”
“I never meant to steal you,” he said. “I never knew you were a girl until my knife was at your throat.” (SOS J III)
@BEW points out that the Vale tournament is almost exactly a year after Jon steals Ygritte, meaning the Thief will be in the Moonmaid again as events there climax with Sandor-as-Byron in Sansa’s orbit.
Circling back, the King Lear line about “Child(e) Rowland” is delivered by a nobleman in disguise as the madman “Tom O’Bedlam”. This reminds us of our disguised hedge knights and of Tom O’Sevens, of course, whose “foxy features” and sly demeanor just so happen to recall Ser Byron’s “fox-faced”, wry and sly companion Ser Shadrich. Tom O’Sevens so happens to sing a song called Off to Gulltown, which @Sweetsunray rightly cites as another hint that Sandor/Byron will in some sense “steal” Alayne. Keeping in mind that Gulltown is “Alayne’s” hometown, here are the lyrics:
Off to Gulltown to see the fair maid, heigh-ho, heigh-ho.… I’ll steal a sweet kiss with the point of my blade, heigh-ho, heigh-ho.… I’ll make her my love and we’ll rest in the shade, heigh-ho, heigh-ho. (SOS A II)
Given that Sansa is specifically called a “maiden tall and fair,” she’s essentially exactly who’s being stolen in this song. The reference to “shade” alludes to the shadow of the boar, the shadows of glamors, the shadows with which Sandor is associated, and Shadrich’s “Shady Glen”. And the term “heigh-ho”, with that specific, odd spelling for “hey”, recalls none other than Leigh Hunt . Get it? Heigh (word)plays with Leigh.
Kisses and Fairy Tales
In Disney’s 1991 version of Beauty and the Beast, the kiss between Belle and the Prince causes the spell which has made the Prince’s castle appear dark and foreboding to transform into a place of light and beauty. The theme of transformative kisses is a common one in similar fairy tales. The idea that Ser Byron the Beautiful is a riff on Beauty and the Beast jibes with the attention paid to Sandor and Sansa’s kissing. Sandor seemingly wants to kiss Sansa, but stops short:
“I could keep you safe,” he rasped. “They’re all afraid of me. No one would hurt you again, or I’d kill them.” He yanked her closer, and for a moment she thought he meant to kiss her. He was too strong to fight. She closed her eyes, wanting it to be over, but nothing happened. “Still can’t bear to look, can you?” she heard him say. (COK S VII)
Yet Sansa imagines that Sandor has kissed her twice:
Sansa wondered what Megga would think about kissing the Hound, as she had. He’d come to her the night of the battle stinking of wine and blood. He kissed me and threatened to kill me, and made me sing him a song. (FFC S II)
She thought of Tyrion, and of the Hound and how he’d kissed her, and gave a nod. (FFC Ala II)
The second time takes place in the middle of AFFC Alayne II. It’s only a few pages later that Sandor-as-Byron actually kisses her hand—
The three knights bowed and withdrew, though the tall one with the blond hair kissed her hand before taking his leave. (FFC Al II)
—in a moment that now feels simultaneously funny, sad, sweet, disturbing and tragic. (Sandor you dog! Er… sparrow. Or boar’s shadow. Whatever.)
Tyrek is jokingly referred to at court as “Wet Nurse”, right? Before this happens, though, what happens when we get our very first look at the denizens of court, when Renly and Selmy rendezvous with the King’s retinue? Sandor makes a joke about Sansa’s wolf being her “wet nurse”:
“A wolf,” a man said, and someone else said, “Seven hells, that’s a direwolf,” and the first man said, “What’s it doing in camp?” and the Hound’s rasping voice replied, “The Starks use them for wet nurses,” and Sansa realized that the two stranger knights were looking down on her and Lady… . (GOT S I)
The name “Byron” isn’t just about the reference to Lord Byron. It’s also a subtle hint that Byron is glamored/transformed and a trickster. How so? There is only one other “Byron” in the canon:
“Well, Hugor Hill, answer me this. How did Serwyn of the Mirror Shield slay the dragon Urrax?”
“He approached behind his shield. Urrax saw only his own reflection until Serwyn had plunged his spear through his eye.”
Haldon was unimpressed. “Even Duck knows that tale. Can you tell me the name of the knight who tried the same ploy with Vhagar during the Dance of the Dragons?”
Tyrion grinned. “Ser Byron Swann. He was roasted for his trouble … only the dragon was Syrax, not Vhagar.” (DWD Ty III)
The “original” Byron was knight who tried a trick. It didn’t work out so well. (Make of that what you will.)
More important, he was a Swann, and thus a figurative swan. House Swann’s battling black and white swans are an apt touchstone for Sandor, a man torn between his better and darker angels. And in a plot suffused with fairy tale references, surely “Byron’s” link to swans makes us think about Swan Lake and the Brothers Grimm’s The Six Swans, both of which are stories in which people are transformed into swans: elegant, beautiful creatures ala Ser Byron the Beautiful.
In The Six Swans, one of the six brothers so transformed is notably deformed on his left side, like Sandor. The tale also features nettles, reminding us of the girl Nettles who disappeared with a dragon in the Vale.
In Swan Lake, a princess is transformed into a swan. The story entails a woman arriving at a castle in disguise. Her disguise? The very princess who has been transformed into a swan. The resonances with Sandor using the image of Tyrek to disguise himself as “Ser Byron to infiltrate the Vale tourney is obvious. (Also worth noting: the princess is initially terrified of her would-be savior/protector.)
The Cincher: The Mystery Knight
All this being said, there is another huge, overarching reason to believe that Sandor is glamored as Tyrek Lannister and calling himself Ser Byron. I’ve hinted at, but it merits a detailed discussion. In short, there are so many “rhymes” between ASOIAF’s Vale storyline and the The Mystery Knight that I find it somewhere between wildly improbable and impossible that one of Littlefinger’s three hedge knights is not glamored, given that it seems the only major motif from The Mystery Knight missing from the Vale story is a glamor like the one Bloodraven uses to appear as Maynard Plumm, one of a group of three hedge knights Dunk meets in tMK.
I already noted some of the basic parallels. Both stories contain three hedge knights attending a tournament arranged with an ulterior motive. In both cases a former Master of Coin is a conspirator (Littlefinger and Butterwell). One tourney is in the Vale, the other at a castle constructed out of stone from the Vale.
@BEW mentions these basic parallels between the stories, and briefly sketches some parallels between Bloodraven—who, again, wears the glamor of the Hedge Knight Maynard Plumm—and Sandor Clegane. This parallel (and my nitpicks with her points) intrigued me, so I dove into a comparative study. This led me to discover the the Vale story re-presents, often in scrambled, rejiggered, even inverted form, a gobsmacking number of motifs found in The Mystery Knight (and to some extent The Hedge Knight and The Sworn Sword). This pattern is so pervasive that I am compelled to conclude that what happens in one story must assuredly inform what happens in the other.
This recursiveness is actually hinted at by the names “Harrold Hardyng” and “Harry the Heir”, which /u/elpadrinonegro points out look like a reference to the Swiss novel Steppenwolf, “a novel about a novel inside a novel” by Herman Hesse about a guy named Harry Haller. (The Vale is a clear Switzerland analogue.)
The remaining part of this writing (i.e. this post and the sequel I’ll use to limit the comment-continuations) will consist in exploring the vast array of “rhyming” going on between the Dunk & Egg tale stories and the Vale storyline, with each connection rendering it more and more certain that there must be some analogue in the Vale to Bloodraven being glamored as Maynard Plumm. As ever in ASOAIF, shit rhymes.
An Insane Number of Parallels Between Bloodraven and Sandor
In the understatement of the century, @Blue-Eyed Wolf states, “There’s also a little parallel done between Sandor and BR” (meaning Brynden “Bloodraven” Rivers). She briefly sketches this “little parallel”, pointing out that each man had the left side of his face disfigured by his brother—I checked, and in The Great Bastards SSM it is stated that BR’s left eye is missing—and that the offending brothers’ names, Gregor and Aegor, sound almost identical. @BEW writes, “While Sandor’s face was burned but his eye was intact, BR lost his left eye.” (And kept his face, to be sure.) She adds that both men comb long, straight hair over their disfigurement; that wherever “one is white… the other is black”; and claims that both “favor wearing similar clothing colors of ‘blood and smoke'”. Finally, she sees Sandor’s black skin and red fissures as a Targaryen reference.
These parallels were compelling—the Gregor/Aegor rhyme is a fantastic catch, pointing to the broader rhyme in play—but as a firm believer that the specific verbiage of ASOIAF is frequently freighted, used to establish subtle connections between disparate entities in the text, I wasn’t content with @BEW’s high-level summary, and had to look more closely at the text itself. (I knew, e.g., that Sandor only wears red once, generally favoring earth tones.)
The first thing I did was turn to the first description of each man in ASOIAF proper.
Holy. Fucking. Shit.
The parallels and inversions are fucking nuts.
The vivid language used to describe one man positively dances with the verbiage describing the other:
The right side of [Sandor’s] face was gaunt, with sharp cheekbones and a grey eye beneath a heavy brow. His nose was large and hooked, 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, slick black flesh hard as leather, pocked with craters and fissured by deep cracks that gleamed red and wet when he moved. Down by his jaw, you could see a hint of bone where the flesh had been seared away. (GOT S II)
What skin the corpse lord [BR] showed was white, save for a bloody blotch that crept up his neck onto his cheek. His white hair was fine and thin as root hair and long enough to brush against the earthen floor. Roots coiled around his legs like wooden serpents. One burrowed through his breeches into the desiccated flesh of his thigh, to emerge again from his shoulder. A spray of dark red leaves sprouted from his skull, and grey mushrooms spotted his brow. A little skin remained, stretched across his face, tight and hard as white leather, but even that was fraying, and here and there the brown and yellow bone beneath was poking through.
…A three-eyed crow should have three eyes. He has only one, and that one red. Bran could feel the eye staring at him, shining like a pool of blood in the torchlight. Where his other eye should have been, a thin white root grew from an empty socket, down his cheek, and into his neck. (DWD B II)
They either duplicate or invert one another directly, and the direct textual resonances (in addition, obviously, to those in-world) are deep, loud, and clearly intentional. Where to begin?
- “You could see a hint of bone” compares to “here and there the… bone beneath was poking through”.
- “Slick [i.e. wet] black flesh hard as leather” vs. skin is “tight [i.e. dry] and hard as white leather”
- “Deep cracks that gleamed red” (i.e. wet red lying under his skin) vs. “a spray of dark red leaves sprouted from his skull” (i.e. wet red bursting out of his skin)
- Sandor’s left “eye was still good” vs. BR “has only one [eye]”.
- A “sharp” cheekbone vs. (yields?) a “bloody” cheek
- “Gaunt” compares to “desiccated flesh”
- “A twisted mass of scar” inverts “A little skin remained, stretched”: stretched is flat, twisted is turned; a mass vs. a little; scar vs. skin
- Sandor’s right eye is textually isolated as “a grey eye”, even though he has two, thus textually mirroring the one-eyed BR.
- “A grey eye beneath a heavy brow” vs. “grey mushrooms spotted [BR’s] brow“
- “There was nothing left but a hole” where Sandor’s “ear had been burned away” vs. “A thin white root grew… where [BR’s] other eye should have been”.
- “The left side of [Sandor’s] face [i.e. what was damaged] was a ruin”; BR’s eye [i.e. what was not damaged] is “a pool of blood”.
- That “pool of blood” mirrors Sandor’s “deep cracks that gleamed red and wet”.
- Textually, Sandor’s nose is both large and notable; BR’s is unremarked upon: they are textual opposites, but…
- In-world, Sandor’s nose is “large and hooked”; BR’s Valyrian blood bespeaks an “aquiline” nose, i.e. a Roman nose or “hook nose”, as does his Blackwood blood (Tytos has a “hook nose”): they are in-world nose-twins (TWOIAF; tRP)
- Sandor has “thin, dark” hair vs. BR, whose “white hair was fine and thin as root hair”
- Sandor “wore [it] long and brushed it sideways” as BR’s hair is “long enough to brush against the earthen floor.”
- Sandor “brushed it sideways… because no hair grew on the other side of that face”, while tMK tells us BR’s hair is “brushed forward so as to conceal his missing eye”.
Their Eyes, Their Gems
There’s more. Sandor’s oddly textually singular “grey eye” is evidently dark grey, right?
For half a heartbeat, Tyrion thought he glimpsed fear in the Hound’s dark eyes. (COK Tyr IX)
Thus it’s perhaps “almost black”, right?
Jon’s eyes were a grey so dark they seemed almost black… (GOT B I)
Meanwhile, Sandor glamor is surely anchored by one of Quiet Isle’s famous rubies.
So what? So, Bloodraven neatly mirrors/inverts all this.
Bloodraven’s literal single eye is weirdly called “very red”.
The eye that remained was very red. (tMK)
What else is very red? Perhaps a red ruby, which we learn is quintessentially red when it is likened to, of all things, a weirwood’s eyes:
The dried sap that crusted in the [weirwood’s] eyes was red and hard as ruby. (GOT J VI)
A ruby, of course, surely anchors “Byron’s” glamor. Thus Bloodraven’s literal eye rhymes with Sandor’s eye-like glamor-gem. Might Bloodraven have an eye-like glamor-gem that rhymes with Sandor’s literal eye?
Bloodraven’s moonstone glamor-gem briefly appears as “a single pale white eye”:
Through the rain, all he could make out was a hooded shape and a single pale white eye. It was only when the man came forward that the shadowed face beneath the cowl took on the familiar features of Ser Maynard Plumm, the pale eye no more than the moonstone brooch that pinned his cloak at the shoulder. (tMK)
Bloodraven’s “single pale white” eye-like glamor-gem thus inverts Sandor’s queerly singular dark grey literal eye, completing the symbolic circle-jerk.
(We already talked about how Sandor’s eyes, when hooded and disguised, are rendered in terms—
[T]he Hound himself was garbed in splotchy green roughspun and a soot-grey mantle with a hood that swallowed his head. So long as he kept his eyes down you could not see his face, only the whites of his eyes peering out. (SOS Ary X)
—curiously similar to those describing the glamored, cowled Bloodraven.)
Their Smoky Garb
When they’re not incognito, both men’s garments evoke smoke (“soot” being smoke’s residue):
[Bloodraven] cut a striking figure, garbed in smoke and scarlet… (tSS)
[Bloodraven’s] boots were black, his tunic scarlet. Over it he wore a cloak the color of smoke… (tMK)
[Sandor’s] soot-dark armor seemed to blot out the sun. (GOT Tyr I)
Sandor… wore an olive-green cloak over his soot-grey armor. (GOT E VII)
Sandor… wore mail and soot-grey plate and his snarling dog’s-head helm. (GOT E XIV)
[T]he Hound himself was garbed in splotchy green roughspun and a soot-grey mantle with a hood that swallowed his head. (SOS A X)
One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. (GOT B III)
“Scarlet With A Brother’s Blood”
Bloodraven is associated with the color scarlet, which has no apparent tie to Sandor. However, something that’s said about Bloodraven and scarlet surely reminds us of Sandor and the wounds (“deep cracks that gleamed red and wet”) he suffered at the hands of his brother:
“[Bloodraven’s] hands are scarlet with a brother’s blood, and the blood of his young nephews too” (tMK)
Appearing, Disappearing, Glamoring
While Sandor generally wears green and brown (and soot), on one occasion he does wear a “red woolen tunic” not wholly dissimilar to Bloodraven’s “tunic scarlet”. Most curiously, we see this (juxtaposed against his assuredly “soot-grey” armor) in a passage—
Sandor Clegane seemed to take form out of the night, so quickly did he appear. He had exchanged his armor for a red woolen tunic with a leather dog’s head sewn on the front. (GOT S II)
—which (like some other dramatic “appearances” Sandor makes which we’ve already discussed) is redolent of nothing so much as Bloodraven materializing in tMK:
Dunk whirled. Through the rain, all he could make out was a hooded shape and a single pale white eye. It was only when the man came forward that the shadowed face beneath the cowl took on the familiar features of Ser Maynard Plumm, the pale eye no more than the moonstone brooch that pinned his cloak at the shoulder.
ASOIAF likewise shows Plumm and Clegane disappearing in like fashion:
They had looked for Ser Maynard to join them, but Plumm had melted away sometime during the night.
Mandon Moore had perished in the battle, the Hound had vanished… (COK S VIII)
The Hound had vanished behind, though his riderless horse galloped beside them. (COK Tyr IX)
Oh, and look what Dunk thinks idly about Bloodraven at the beginning of tMK:
Some claimed [Bloodraven] was a student of the dark arts who could change his face, put on the likeness of a one-eyed dog, even turn into a mist.
Bloodraven’s dog glamor prefigures the Hound, glamored.
It’s my firm belief that all these parallels between Sandor and Bloodraven/Maynard Plumm hint that Sandor Clegane is currently glamored as Ser Byron, just as Bloodraven is glamored as Maynard Plumm in the Mystery Knight.
Sandor and the Last Greenseer?
I don’t want to get too deeply into whether Sandor Clegane of all fucking characters is destined to become a greenseer, but given the rather absurdly direct, pervasive parallels and inversions between Clegane and Bloodraven, I can’t resist a few comments.
First, green-as-in-greenseer is Sandor’s “favorite” non-soot color: he wears “splotchy green roughspun”, staunches his wounds with a green cloak (that turns red), wears “an olive-green cloak”, and wears a “plain brown doublet and green mantle”. (SOS A X, A XIII, GOT E VII, GOT S VI)
On two occasions Arya hacks up specifically green trees, declaring that they are Sandor:
The queen and Ser Ilyn and Ser Meryn and the Hound were only leaves, but she killed them all as well, slashing them to wet green ribbons. (COK A IX)
She slashed at birch leaves till the splintery point of the broken broomstick was green and sticky. “Ser Gregor,” she breathed.… “The Tickler,” she called out one time, “the Hound,” the next. (COK A X)
And Sandor “just so happens” to have this heavily stylized encounter in which he gives “the gift” to a blatant Bloodraven figure:
One day, in an earthen hollow made by the roots of a fallen oak, they came face to face with another survivor of the Twins. The badge on his breast showed a pink maiden dancing in a swirl of silk, and he told them he was Ser Marq Piper’s man; a bowman, though he’d lost his bow. His left shoulder was all twisted and swollen where it met his arm; a blow from a mace, he said, it had broken his shoulder and smashed his chainmail deep into his flesh. “A northman, it was,” he wept. “His badge was a bloody man… [W]e drank together to Lord Edmure and Lady Roslin and the King in the North. And then he killed me.” …Arya could tell that it was true. His shoulder was swollen grotesquely, and pus and blood had stained his whole left side. There was a stink to him too. He smells like a corpse. The man begged them for a drink of wine. (SOS A XII)
Compare the motifs in the foregoing not just to the consonant “twisted mass of scar” ruin that is the left side of Clegane’s face; and not just to Bloodraven as the greenseer, a “corpse lord” missing his left eye, similarly ensconced in the roots of a tree, with “a bloody blotch that crept up his neck onto his cheek” like this guys blood-stained left side; but also to Bloodraven in tSS and tMK, whose eponymous birthmark is represented as a spreading “winestain”, and who as Plumm is “stoop-shouldered”.
Wine, blood, stains, malformed shoulders, and corpses are recur. Piper’s man is a bowman, whereas Bloodraven commanded a legion of archers, the Raven’s Teeth.
The scene continues:
“If I’d had any wine, I’d have drunk it myself,” the Hound told him. “I can give you water, and the gift of mercy.”
“Aye.” The man swallowed. “And the mercy. Please.”
Arya brings him water in typical Valkyrie-fashion.
“Good,” he said. “I wish it was wine, though. I wanted wine.”
“Me too.” The Hound eased his dagger into the man’s chest almost tenderly, the weight of his body driving the point through his surcoat, ringmail, and the quilting beneath. As he slid the blade back out and wiped it on the dead man, he looked at Arya. “That’s where the heart is, girl. That’s how you kill a man.”
Sandor Clegane gives The Gift of the Many-Faced God to this blatant Bloodraven-figure. And as we’ve seen, he and Bloodraven clearly have a very special relationship in the text considering how separate their stories seem to be. What to make of this?
Well, here’s the thing. I suspect Bloodraven is a slave to the weirwood net who cannot die, cannot rest, no matter how much he might actually want to, anymore than can (a) Beric Dondarrion, who clearly “rhymes” with Bloodraven-the-greenseer—
The voice came from the man seated amongst the weirwood roots halfway up the wall.… A thicket of red-gold hair hid most of his face, save for a bald spot above his left ear where his head had been smashed in. (SOS A VI)
—or (per /u/JoeMagician‘s fucking brilliant post about the real nature of the Faceless Men’s gift) (b) the slaves of old Valyria, whom the Valyrian bloodmages would endlessly resurrect to resume their Promethean/Sisyphean lives as slaves.
Given all the rhyming between Sandor and Bloodraven, and given the scene in which Sandor gives the gift to Piper’s Bloodraven-esque man, I have to think Sandor Clegane is going to be the one to give Bloodraven the gift of mercy, allowing Brynden Rivers to at last find peace.
And even though Bloodraven is called the last greenseer, I gotta think that if there is another, it might well be Sandor, dutifully assuming the very yoke from which he frees Bloodraven.
The Mystery Knight Is The Key
All this Bloodraven/Sandor “rhyming” is just the most obvious strand in an all-pervasive web of similar “rhyming” (parallels, inversions, motif-scrambles, etc.) between The Mystery Knight (tMK), with its hedge knights Dunk, Maynard Plumm, Ser Kyle the Cat of the Misty Moor and Ser Glendon Ball, and ASOIAF’s Vale storyline, featuring the hedge knights Ser Byron, Ser Shadrich of the Shady Glen, and Ser Morgarth the Merry. Indeed, tMK pretty much explodes with references to Byron, Shadrich, Morgarth and others, especially once we know that Shadrich is Howland Reed and Morgarth is Elder Brother Lewyn. (Indeed, this referentiality helps confirm said “secret identities”.) The deluge of playful and poetic symmetry is so overwhelming that I cannot imagine that Ser Byron isn’t Sandor Clegane, glamored in the fashion of tMK‘s “Maynard Plumm”.
Winterfell Snow Castles
Here’s something cute to get us started. In the Vale, Sansa and Littlefinger build a snow castle version of Winterfell, right? And what is said about Whitewalls, the castle in The Mystery Knight which is “made of finely dressed white stone, quarried in the Vale”?
“It almost looks as if it’s made of snow.… The castle. All that white stone in the moonlight. Have you ever been North of the neck, Ser Duncan? I’m told it snows there even in the summer. Have you ever seen the Wall?”
“No, m’lord… That’s where we were going, Egg and me. Up north, to Winterfell.”
The Hedge Knights of The Mystery Knight
Sansa and Dunk encounter their respective groups of three hedge knights in remarkably parallel circumstances. Here’s how they each first see their trio:
Alayne found [Littlefinger] seated by a crackling fire, drinking hot mulled wine with three men she did not know. (FFC S II)
Amongst the weirwood stumps, [Dunk and Egg] found two men squatting near a cook fire, passing a skin of wine from hand to hand.… A much younger man sat apart from the other two, his back against a chestnut tree.
Both groups of hedge knights are “found” sitting near fires, drinking wine. Both groups are initially seen as “men”, not “knights”.
ADDED 7.18.2020 Rootworms
When Dunk and Egg approach their hedge knights, Ser Kyle asks Egg, “What happened to your hair?” Then GRRM writes:
Rootworms, Dunk thought. Tell them it was rootworms, boy.
Rootworms? Surely this nods to how Ser Kyle’s companion, Maynard Plumm a.k.a. Bloodraven, is described in ADWD Bran III:
The sight of him still frightened Bran—the weirwood roots snaking in and out of his withered flesh, the mushrooms sprouting from his cheeks, the white wooden worm that grew from the socket where one eye had been.
Once we’ve read the story, we know Plumm is Bloodraven. My point is to show that GRRM revels in the kind of wordplay exemplified by “rootworms”.
Ser Glendon Ball
Dunk’s three hedge knights are introduced as follows:
“I am Ser Kyle, the Cat of Misty Moor. Under yonder chestnut sits Ser Glendon, ah, Ball. And here you have the good Ser Maynard Plumm.” (tMK)
“Glendon” matches Shadrich’s “Shady Glen“. “Shadrich” and “Shady” both allude to shadows and thus glamors. The name “Glendon Ball” even seems “of a type” with “Howland Reed”, Shadrich’s true identity:
- last names are one-syllable nouns with a double-letter: Ball, Reed.
- one first name contains “lend”, the other “land”.
- both first names begin with a four-letter one syllable noun: Glen and Howl.
- both first names end with an N, a D, and a vowel, and are virtual homophones: “duhn” and “uhnd”.
Ball’s chestnut tree matches Shadrich’s “rangy chestnut courser”.
By the way, while it’s suggestive enough that Shadrich’s horse is a verbatim match for the last horse Sansa rode in King’s Landing— a “chestnut courser”—it’s well worth noting that chestnuts are called “reds” for their color. (ACOK Tyrion IX) Shadrich’s hair thus matches the color of his “rangy” horse, right? So what? Well, ASOIAF calls out another occasion when a horse’s “hair” matches it’s rider’s—
Ser Addam Marbrand… made a gallant show of it, riding a spirited red courser whose mane was the same copper color as the long hair that streamed past Ser Addam’s shoulders. (COK Ar VIII)
—which just so happens to involve a man who is “rangy” like Shadrich’s horse—
Ser Addam dropped to one knee, a rangy man with dark copper hair that fell to his shoulders… (GOT Ty VIII)
—and who is cousin to and who searches for Darlessa Marbrand’s missing son Tyrek Lannister, whose glamor I am arguing Sandor Clegane is wearing at the Vale tourney as Ser Shadrich’s companion Ser Byron the Beautiful. Whew.
Back to Glendon and Shadrich. Ball is also called “The Bastard of the Pussywillows.” Pussywillows and Reeds go hand in hand—reeds and willows are constantly paired throughout ASOIAF. (e.g. SOS A II, FFC tIC, B VIII, DWD Tyr III)
Ball’s father is Fireball, Ser Quentyn Ball, “master-at-arms at the Red Keep,” while Tyrek’s father Tygett Lannister was supposed to assume the exact same post. (TWOIAF) Fireball is famous for reasons related to House Lannister: he killed a lord “at the gates of Lannisport and sent the Grey Lion running back to hide inside the Rock.” (tMK)
Now, compare how Ball is described—
Tufts of dark brown hair stuck out from beneath [Ball’s] iron halfhelm. The lad himself was short and chunky, with small close-set eyes, thick shoulders, and muscular arms. His eyebrows were shaggy as two caterpillars after a wet spring, his nose bulbous, his chin pugnacious. And he was young. Sixteen, might be. No more than eighteen. Dunk might have taken him for a squire if Ser Kyle had not named him with a Ser. The lad had pimples on his cheeks in place of whiskers. (tMK)
Ser Shadrich was so short that he might have been taken for a squire, but his face belonged to a much older man. She saw long leagues in the wrinkles at the corner of his mouth, old battles in the scar beneath his ear, and a hardness behind the eyes that no boy would ever have. This was a man grown. Even Randa overtopped him, though. (WOW Ala I)
“Aye,” said [Ser Morgarth], a burly fellow with a thick salt-and-pepper beard, a red nose bulbous with broken veins, and gnarled hands as large as hams. (FFC Ala II)
—and Elder Brother (AKA Morgarth):
[Elder Brother’s] head was large and square, his eyes shrewd, his nose veined and red. (FFC B IV)
He looks more like a man made to break bones than to heal one… (ibid.)
“You look more like a knight than you do a holy man.” It was written in [the Elder Brother’s] chest and shoulders, and across that thick square jaw. (ibid.)
There are a bunch of textual associations to draw here.
- Ball’s hair is dark brown, whereas many readers would expect Fireball’s son to have red hair.
- Shadrich has red hair, whereas many readers assume Howland Reed (of the “mud men”) to have brown hair.
- Ball is “short”; Shadrich is “short”.
- Ball’s noise is “bulbous”; Morgarth’s “bulbous with broken veins”; EB’s “nose veined and red”.
- Ball has “pimples on his cheeks in place of whiskers”; Morgarth inverts this foregrounded absence of whiskers with his “thick salt-and-pepper beard”.
- Ball’s chin is “pugnacious”; EB has a “thick square jaw”, EB’s brother Marwyn is a “mastiff”, a breed known for its “pugnacious” look.
- Ball has “thick shoulders, and muscular arms”.
- Morgarth is “a burly fellow”; burly adj – “Heavy, strong, and muscular“. Per ASOIAF, being “burly” like Morgarth entails being, verbatim, “thick of shoulder”. (SOS Dae I)
- EB “looks more like a man made to break bones than to heal them”, with “knight… written in his chest and shoulders”.
- Ball and Byron are both called “young”. Big deal, right? See the next section. Big. Deal.
- Dunk “might have taken [Ball] for a squire if Ser Kyle had not named him with a ser”.
- Shadrich “might have been taken for a squire, but his face belonged to a much older man”.
- Thus Ball pairs a squire’s face with a grown man’s body, built like Morgarth’s only “short” like Shadrich; while the “short” Shadrich has a squire’s body with the face of a “man grown”.
- Ball has “small close-set eyes”; EB’s eyes are “shrewd”.
- Their eye types are united in the Mystery Knight by Uthor, whose “eyes were small and shrewd, set close together”.
- Ball’s eyebrows are “shaggy as two caterpillars”; Morgarth’s brother Marwyn’s “brow beetled” (where a beetle-brow can refer to shaggy eyebrows).
- Ball is “short and chunky”; Morgarth’s brother Marwyn is “short and squat”
I should also mention that the “scar beneath [Shadrich’s] ear” may be a wink at his glamored companion Byron’s (i.e. Sandor’s) missing ear, and at Tyrek scratching Dog’s ear.
Two Knights of Four-and-Ten
It might be asked: Why did I even try to link Ball to Byron given that the only thing they have in common is being called “young”?
Because the parallel between their ages is actually quite precise, and far too cleverly disguised to be happenstance. I’ll explain.
We know Tyrek (and thus his glamor) is only 14. Of Ser Ball, Dunk thinks:
“Sixteen, might be. No more than eighteen.
But Dunk is wrong.
Glendon Ball was born after Fireball’s death. Fireball died in 196 AC, on the eve of the Battle of the Redgrass Field, shortly after he banged Ball’s mother, who then slept with enough men to guarantee her pregnancy:
“The night before the battle, she fucked so many men that thereafter she was known as Redgrass Jenny. Fireball had her before that, I don’t doubt…”
Thus Glendon was born in very late 196 or, more likely, 197 AC.
The Mystery Knight takes place in 211 AC. Unless it takes place very late 211 and Glendon was born not-quite-that-late in 196—an improbable scenario—it follows that Ser Glendon Ball is… wait for it… 14 years old.
Exactly like Tyrek.
(The wiki is, as it often is, wrong: it literally assumes Ball must be at least 15 when knighted simply because that’s “generally” true.)
Given this parallel on top of all the others, I’m going to go ahead and say that if Glendon looks 16-18, that’s probably how old the “Ser Byron” glamor of Tygett Lannister’s precocious son Tyrek appears to be—at least once it’s “known” he’s a knight, given that in ASOIAF, “men see what they expect to see.”
Two Tricksters: Shadrich & Bloodraven
Ser Shadrich’s “might have been taken for a squire, but his face belonged to a much older man”, with “wrinkles at the corner of his mouth” and “a hardness behind the eyes that no boy would ever have”. All this—defied expectations, wrinkles, hardness—crops up when Dunk sees Bloodraven unglamored, implying that Shadrich’s appearance is unaltered, despite being shady/shadowy:
[BR] was older than Dunk remembered him, with a lined hard face… (tMK)
As Maynard Plumm, Bloodraven tells Dunk…
“Oh, I did not chance the lists.”
Nor will Shadrich, who says:
“‘Tis true, I am no tourney knight. I save my valor for the battlefield, woman.” (FFC B I)
“Maynard” first of all recalls John Maynard Keynes, who graduated from Cambridge, just as Lord Byron did, thus suggesting that Ser Byron is glamored like Maynard Plumm is glamored.
But “Maynard” also recalls “Reynard”, the name of the red fox trickster of medieval legend, a figure GRRM surely knows all about. Both red-headed, foxy “Shadrich” and “Maynard” are tricksters.
As a bonus, Reynard’s archenemy is a wolf. While Tyrek is not usually a “Tyr” figure, here we have to note that Tyr’s enemy is also a wolf, Fenrir. Thus it’s pretty fitting that Tyr-ek and Reynard-ish Shadrich are allied.
Lest you doubt that GRRM is playing with the legend of Reynard, consider that it just so happens “Reynard Reyne” has a “sly tongue” and is “charming and cunning”. (Westerlands; TWOIAF)
Shadrich’s Shield & Sigil
Bloodraven and Shadrich are also associated in Shad’s sigil, “a large white mouse with fierce red eyes“, which recalls the weirwood of Jon’s dream in COK J VII:
Red eyes looked at him. Fierce eyes they were, yet glad to see him.
Obviously weirwoods connote Bloodraven, and indeed Dunk meets him, Kyle and Ball “amongst the weirwood stumps”.
Ser Shadrich’s mouse is “on bendy brown and blue”.
“The brown is for the lands I’ve roamed, the blue for the rivers that I’ve crossed.” (FFC B I)
This is a clue to where he has been in the near-past: the Quite Isle, which is only accessible via a “crooked”—that is, “bendy”—path through “glistening brown mudflats dotted by tidal pools”. The path takes them towards waters that “shimmered blue and silver”.
Shadrich’s shield and the approach to the Quite Isle are paralleled in tMK by the verbiage surrounding the hedge knights ferry ride:
There were the mudflats to contend with, horses and wagons to be gotten down the planks, loaded on the boat, and unloaded again across the lake.
“Mudflats to contend with”? That basically summarizes the path to the Quiet Isle.
The Path of Faith
When I argued that Shadrich is Howland Reed, I talked about the parallel between Quiet Isle’s “path of faith”, which threatens to swallow “the wicked”, and the bible’s “wicked one” King Nebuchadnezzar throwing a man named Shadrach and his two companions into a furnace, which doesn’t harm them thanks to their faith. Now that we “know” that Byron is Sandor Clegane glamored to look like Tyrek Lannister, that parallel is truly complete, inasmuch as Shadrach and his two companions were accompanied in the furnace by a fourth ethereal presence. (This is similarly echoed by the boar’s shadow appearing next to the two sparrows and the fox.)
Maynard Plumm, Brown-and-Dun
One aspect of Plumm/Bloodraven rhymes not with Sandor or Shadrich, but with “Morgarth”:
Elsewise [Plumm] wore dun-colored roughspun and stained brown leather. (tMK)
Morgarth is Elder Brother of the Quiet Isle and Prince Lewyn Martell of Dorne. The Martells’ seat, Sunspear, is “colored brown and dun”, and the Sandship part of Sunspear is verbatim “dun-colored” like Plumm’s roughspun. (FFC CotG) Plumm’s garb also matches the roughspun robes of Quiet Isle:
They were clad in the brown-and-dun robes of brothers… (B VI)
Ser Kyle the Cat
What about Ser Kyle? He doesn’t end up central to events in tMK, but he does nevertheless parallel our present day hedge knights… and someone else “close” to events.
“The Cat of the Misty Moor” epithet beyond-blatantly recalls the “Mad Mouse of Shady Glen”. “The Misty Moor” alludes to the Neck, even, whence Howland Reed comes.
Ser Kyle has “flamboyant ginger whiskers”. Both color and verbiage recall Shadrich’s “bristly orange hair”, aka “a shock of orange hair”. Whiskers are bristly, and flamboyance and shock (value) go hand-in-hand. (FFC Ala II, B I; tMK)
ADDED 7.18.2020: A story Kyle tells —
[T]he Cat of Misty Moor began to talk of how he had saved the life of the Lord of Bitterbridge during the Backfire Rebellion.
— recalls what Neds said about Howland Reed’s (i.e. “Shadrich’s”) deeds during Robert’s Rebllion:
“The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who fought with a blade called Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star. They called him the Sword of the Morning, and he would have killed me but for Howland Reed.” (COK B III)
Ser Kyle is a lush and associated with alcohol:
…they found two men squatting near a cook fire, passing a skin of wine from hand to hand.
“Even sour wine is better than none,” said Kyle the Cat. “We’ll drink finer vintages at Whitewalls. Lord Butterwell is said to have the best wines north of the Arbor.”
Ser Kyle the Cat took a drink of wine.
Down below the salt, Dunk found Ser Kyle drowning his woes in Lord Butterwell’s ale.
“Ser Kyle, get the wineskin.”
He thus parallels Sandor (Byron) and Morgarth/EB, who has a red, veiny, bulbous drunk’s nose, and who says “When I was not fighting, I was drunk.” (FFC B VI)
“Your common mouse will run from blood and battle. The mad mouse seeks them out.” (FFC B I)
“A mouse with wings would be a silly sight.” (WOW Ala I)
— and Kyle—
Ser Kyle smiled a silken smile. “The cat who wants his bowl of cream must know when to purr and when to show his claws, Ser Duncan. “
—speak of themselves as being their sigil animals. That last quote tells us Kyle’s role in the story. An aging hedge knight, he’s trying to hook on with a noble house for some security in his old age and decides to “take a dive” in the tourney. He explains this to Dunk, whom it unsettles:
There is no honor in that, Dunk almost said, but he bit his tongue instead. Ser Kyle would not be the first hedge knight to trade his honor for a warm place by the fire.
The reference to “a warm place by the fire” in a castle alludes to how we first see the parallel trio of hedge knights in the Gates of the Moon:
Alayne found [Petyr] seated by a crackling fire, drinking hot mulled wine with three men she did not know. (FFC Ala II)
Too bad for Littlefinger his three knights aren’t merely looking to serve in comfort like Kyle. Who is? Well, Kyle’s ambition surely reminds us of Ser Hyle Hunt.
Ser Hyle Hunt
Ser Hyle Hunt, like Ser Kyle (get it?), is neither evil nor pure. He’s simply interested in a comfortable life, and is willing to marry Dunk-figure Brienne in order to achieve that:
“I am not Renly Baratheon, I confess it, but I have the virtue of being still amongst the living. Some would say that is my only virtue. Marriage would serve the both of us. Lands for me, and a castle full of [children] for you.” (FFC B VII)
Ser Hyle is mostly removed from events in the Vale—just as Kyle doesn’t play a big role in tMK—but his path crosses those of our Hedge Knights at the Quiet Isle. What’s more, it’s possible he made some kind of deal with Shadrich at Maidenpool prior to striking out with Brienne, given that he appears to be riding Shadrich’s horse:
Ser Shadrich was a wiry, fox-faced man with a sharp nose and a shock of orange hair, mounted on a rangy chestnut courser. (FFC B I)
It was a queer procession: Ser Hyle on a chestnut courser and Brienne on her tall grey mare, Podrick Payne astride his swayback stot, and Septon Meribald walking beside them with his quarterstaff, leading a small donkey and a large dog. (FFC B V)
Even if these are two different horses in-world, their textual identity is striking, and it’s ironic that Hyle and that horse end up in the clutches of Lady Stoneheart, Catelyn Tully-Stark, because I have a pretty good idea where Shadrich’s horse came from:
Sandor Clegane cantered briskly through the gates astride Sansa’s chestnut courser. (COK Tyr IX)
Just prior to his death and rebirth, Sandor and Arya pretend to be farmers to get into the Red Wedding. Thus Sandor is prefiguring his own disguised role in the Vale. And he does so claiming to be sent by “Old Lady Whent”, who is kin to Sansa—his current quarry in the Vale—via her grandmother Minisa Whent. What’s on their wagon, which they claim is intended for the wedding “feast”?
…four squat casks of salt pork and one of pickled pigs’ feet.
Moreover, Sandor’s helm (i.e. his identity) is hidden in “a sack of dried apples“. (SOS A XI)
In tMK, “the makings of a feast” shared by the three hedge knights (including Sandor’s mirror-self Bloodraven) recycles these motifs:
“We have salt beef,” said Dunk.
“Ser Maynard has a bag of apples,” said Kyle the Cat. “And I have pickled eggs and onions.”
It’s pretty rich that BR-as-Plumm is carrying a bag of apples, not just because it parallels him with Sandor, and not just because Bloodraven’s apples are a symbol of his Targaryen identity, much as Sandor’s apples contain a symbol of his identity—his Hound helm—but because it parallels him with Meribald and his bag of oranges, which links him with the Quiet Isle. (Yes, I just compared apples to oranges.)
Sandor’s salt pork ties in to the Mystery Knight twice, actually. What happens when Sandor tells a Bolton guard he has salt pork for the wedding feast?
“Salt pork’s no fit meat for a lord’s wedding feast,” he said scornfully.
It may not be fit for the lord’s feast, but at the wedding feast in tMK, Dunk eats salt pork below the salt, thus whispering of the link between Sandor and tMK:
[T]hey got salt pork, soaked in almond milk and peppered pleasantly.
Sandor’s salt pork also serves to prefigure his joining forces with Shadrich:
As they resumed their journey, [Ser Shadrich] dropped back and looked her up and down as if she were a side of good salt pork. (FFC B I)
Dunk and the Vale Knights
Dunk is not actually a knight, although he “plays” one, just as neither Sandor nor Tyrek are knights but the two combine to play Ser Byron. Both Dunk and Sandor are non-knights who serve as Kingsguards.
And just as the “dead” Sandor and Lewyn are trying to protect Sansa Stark, so too does the actually dead Dunk protect Bran Stark, since he’s Coldhands. (OP gave me more GREAT evidence: “Dunk felt a cold hand on his heart.”)
Black Tom Heddle
Beyond the two groups of hedge knights, other aspects of the respective plots rhyme with and rework one another, thereby forcing us to ask the question “Where is the glamor in the Vale?” Let’s look at the big bad henchmen of tMK, Black Tom Heddle. Heddle clearly parallels Littlefinger’s arch-henchman, Lyn Corbray in certain respects. For example, both are textually coded as logically “more-than-dangerous”. How? In tMK, we read that a Kirby Pimm is “dangerous”—
“Kirby Pimm can prove a dangerous foe.”
—whereas Black Tom Heddle is evidently more than dangerous:
Kirby Pimm and Galtry the Green are the best of those, though neither is a match for Lord Butterwell’s good-son, Black Tom Heddle.
Meanwhile, in ASOIAF, we read that Corbray, like two of the Lords Declarant (Yohn Royce and Horton Redfort) is dangerous—
Yohn Royce, Lyn Corbray, Horton Redfort . . . these are dangerous men, each in his own way. (SOS Ty III)
—before we’re told that in fact…
Lyn Corbray was more dangerous than all six of the Lords Declarant put together. (FFC Ala I)
Lyn, like Black Tom, is thus logically “more than dangerous”.
A few other parallels between the two? Heddle kills three suitors to win his wife; and look what Myranda wonders about Lyn (who is infamous for his deadly dueling):
“Do you think if I asked nicely Ser Lyn would kill my suitors for me?” (WOW Ala I)
Heddle’s claim to fame is unhorsing a famous knight, Lord Damon Lannister. Corbray’s claim to fame is killing Prince Lewyn, who we learn from Elder Brother Lewyn’s Faceless Man-style (truth, speckled with lies and exaggerations) autobiography was unhorsed:
“I took an arrow through the thigh and another through the foot, and my horse was killed from under me, yet I fought on.” (FFC B VI)
GRRM even lines up their voices as thick with venom/anger:
The venom in his voice was so thick that for a moment she almost forgot that Lyn Corbray was actually her father’s catspaw, bought and paid for. (FFC Ala I)
It was [Heddle’s] voice that made him blink; a deep voice, thick with anger.
While Lyn and Black Tom parallel one another in these respects, they also invert one another. Thus Heddle is a Blackfyre supporter, while Lyn descends from Gwayne Corbray, whose duel with Daemon I Blackfyre indirectly led to Daemon Blackfyre’s death. (tSS)
Their physical forms are likewise polar opposites.
- Lyn is “very handsome, for an older man”, while Heddle is covered in boils. (FFC Ala I)
- Lyn’s hair is described with care: “brown hair was shoulder length; one stray lock curled down across his forehead.” (ibid.) Heddle is simply “bald”.
- Lyn is clean-shaven, Heddle has a “beard black and square”.
- Lyn has “a wicked smile”, where Heddle is “glaring” and “glowering”. (ibid.)
- Lyn is “slender as a sword” where Heddle is “Heavyset and broad, with a chest like a barrel”. (GOT Tyr V)
Heddle’s physicality may actually play with those of Littlefinger’s Hedge Knights. Heddle has Morgarth/EB/Lewyn’s chest, and his “broad and bald” head and “beard black and square” parallel the motifs in EB’s shaved, “large and square” head and “salt-and-pepper beard” on his “square jaw”. The “angry red boils” covering Heddle’s “cheek and neck” remind me of this image of Sandor’s scarring:
The burned side of his face ran red from temple to cheek, and the stub of his ear was gone. That seemed to make him angry. (SOS A XIII)
Heddle wears “black plate” and a “slavering” demon helm, while Sandor wears “soot-grey plate” and a “snarling black hound” helm. Heddle’s horse is called “a monster of a beast”; Sandor’s horse Stranger is twice a “beast”.
The size of Heddle’s horse and the fact that it’s a “monster” allude to Gregor Clegane, who rides “the biggest horse Tyrion had ever seen” and is “the monster” of Sansa’s mind. (GOT Tyr VIII; S III) Heddle’s “deeper voice”, “a bass rumble with an angry edge”, parallels Gregor’s “deep voice [that] boomed within the helm.” (SOS Tyr X) This is interesting, since we haven’t established a candidate in the Vale to parallel the role Gregor played in the Hand’s tourney.
Gregor is also said to come “boiling” to his feet—recall Heddle’s “angry boils”—his face “dark with fury,” which sounds a helluva lot like “glowering” Tom Heddle. (GOT E VII) These parallels between Gregor and Heddle lead me to suspect that Heddle’s primary counterpart in the Vale, Ser Lyn, will play the role of Gregor in the figurative restaging of Ned’s tourney. If nothing else, Lyn and Gregor are both stone-faced:
“They had been riding since daybreak, when a stone-faced Ser Lyn Corbray had ushered them through the Bloody Gate and commanded them never to return. (GOT Tyr VI)
Ser Gregor Clegane’s face might have been hewn from rock. (GOT Tyr IX)
It’s Clegane Bowl! The Literary-Parallel, Jousting Version! If the tourney parallels the Hand’s tourney, Sandor-as-Tyrek-as-Byron-as-Loras should face Lyn Corbray-as-Gregor in the jousts. But if that’s the case, that means Lyn-as-Gregor should kill our Hugh of Vale, Harry. But Lyn’s on Petyr’s side, and Petyr’s invested in Harry. Right? I wonder.
Corbray and Heddle have something else in common we haven’t talked about. Both are supposedly henchmen to a higher power: Corbray to Littlefinger and Heddle to Butterwell. But at the climax of tMK much of Butterwell’s garrison proves loyal to Heddle, and it is Heddle who stays true to the Blackfyre cause to his mortal end and tries to take Egg, while Butterwell can’t follow through and throws himself on Bloodraven’s mercy. Might Corbray doublecross Littlefinger and kill Harry the Heir for some kind of analogous reason? He did switch sides during Robert’s Rebellion, after all. Will Lyn, like Heddle, make a defiant stand against one of Littlefinger’s “hedge knights”? If so, who will prove to be Lyn’s Dunk?
Lewyn and Lyn
One very good answer presents itself: Prince Lewyn of Dorne, lately known as Morgarth and Elder Brother, i.e. the man Lyn “killed” at the Trident—
“Lyn led his charge against the Dornishmen threatening Robert’s left, broke their lines to pieces, and slew Lewyn Martell.” (FFC Ala I)
—in a cowardly and dishonorable fashion:
“I took an arrow through the thigh and another through the foot, and my horse was killed from under me, yet I fought on.… I never saw the blow that felled me. I heard hooves behind my back and thought, a horse! but before I could turn something slammed into my head and knocked me back into the river, where by rights I should have drowned.”
Will payback prove a bitch for Lyn? Lewyn may have sworn off killing. But as evinced by his inability to countenance forgiving Ser Quincy for doing nothing to stop the rape of Saltpans, the man remains, whatever the vows.
Lyn and Shadrich
I wonder whether Lyn’s forthcoming conflict with Team Shadrich is presaged by the creative rhyming of their eyes and mouths. Shadrich is described this way:
She saw long leagues in the wrinkles at the corner of his mouth, old battles in the scar beneath his ear, and a hardness behind the eyes that no boy would ever have. (WOW Ala I)
The two men’s eyes and mouths invert one another. Lyn has a “hard mouth”, where Shadrich’s “hardness” is “behind the eyes”. (FFC Ala I) Lyn’s eyes are “restless”. Someone who is “restless” might roam far and wide, traveling “long leagues” like those evident around Shadrich’s mouth. Cute, GRRM.
I’d say “coincidence” save that Lyn is called “slender as a sword”, while the only other people in ASOIAF called “slender as swords” are Howland “Shadrich” Reed’s children, Meera and Jojen. (COK B III)
John the Fiddler and Harry the Heir
Littlefinger’s scheme is all about creating a scenario in which Harrold Hardyng can appear legitimate to the lords of the Vale, thereby giving him the keys to the Vale and the North via his marriage to Sansa:
“When Robert dies, Harry the Heir becomes Lord Harrold, Defender of the Vale and Lord of the Eyrie. Jon Arryn’s bannermen will never love me, nor our silly, shaking Robert, but they will love their Young Falcon…” (FFC Ala II)
In tMK, Gormon Peake, Tom Heddle and Lord Butterwell plot to place “John the Fiddler” on the Iron Throne as Daemon II Targaryen. The comparison between Jon and Harry is thus obvious, and the two are not dissimilar characters:
- “John the Fiddler” and “Harry the Heir” are analogously structured “aliases”
- John and Harry both quarter their arms.
- John is “comely” with “fine features”; Harry is “comely” and “handsome”
- John is “lean and lithe”; Harry is “clean-limbed” and “straight as a lance”
And what happens to “John”/Daemon in the end? He is unable to keep up his end of the bargain, getting dumped on his ass by a badly wounded Glendon Ball. Harry will be lucky to do so well, in view of the fate of not just the late Hugh of the Vale, to whom he is heavily paralleled, but also of The Hedge Knight‘s Humfrey Hardyng, to whom the Lyn-ish Aerion does this to in tHK:
Prince Aerion’s lance, gold-tipped and painted in stripes of red, orange, and yellow, swung down across the barrier. Low, too low, thought Dunk the moment he saw it. He’ll miss the rider and strike Ser Humfrey’s horse, he needs to bring it up. Then, with dawning horror, he began to suspect that Aerion intended no such thing. He cannot mean to . . .
At the last possible instant, Ser Humfrey’s stallion reared away from the oncoming point, eyes rolling in terror, but too late, Aerion’s lance took the animal just above the armor that protected his breastbone, and exploded out of the back of his neck in a gout of bright blood. Screaming, the horse crashed sideways, knocking the wooden barrier to pieces as he fell. Ser Humfrey tried to leap free, but a foot caught in a stirrup and they heard his shriek as his leg was crushed between the splintered fence and falling horse. (tHK)
Notice the crushed leg, a la Tyrek, whose image we know will be present at the Vale tourney. I suspect that Sansa’s going to feel awfully guilty for thinking this:
And may your horse stumble, Harry the Heir, so you fall on your stupid head in your first tilt. (WOW Ala I)
Alyn Cockshaw, Lyn, Lysa
Lyn Corbray’s homosexuality is paralleled in tMK by Daemon, yes, but also by Alyn Cockshaw, Daemon’s companion and wanna-be lover. Indeed, Alyn’s “three tall-feathered plumes—one white, one red, one gold” is a kind of reworking of Corbray’s arms: “Three black [feathered] ravens in flight holding three red hearts, on white”. Alyn’s “churlish” manner—he says Dunk’s horse is good only for meat—likewise echoes Lyn’s, who calls the Lords Declarant “Six Old Women”, mocks his brother’s wife’s pregnancy, and calls Lords Grafton and Lynderly’s sons “Two pups from a pair of lapdogs”. Cockshaw doesn’t just reference Lyn, though.
Alyn’s big moment is trying to back Dunk into a well at daggerpoint out of jealousy over Daemon’s attraction to Dunk, only to find himself thrown into the well instead. Thus Alyn obviously “rhymes” with Lysa Arryn, who backs Sansa against the open Moon Doors before being pushed out herself. Just as Petyr has no real feelings for Lysa, so does Daemon (“John the Fiddler”) fail to reciprocate Alyn’s affection:
“Lord Alyn. He’s going to drown.”
“He shan’t be missed. Least of all by the Fiddler.”
In the Vale, it seems like Lothor Brune may be set up to reenact Dunk’s disinterest in Daemon’s same-sex attraction to him, given Lyn Corbray’s seeming attraction to him:
…Lyn Corbray… went to stand beside the hearth instead. The heart-shaped ruby in the pommel of his sword shone redly as he warmed his hands. Alayne saw him smile at Ser Lothor Brune. Ser Lyn is very handsome, for an older man, she thought, but I do not like the way he smiles. (FFC Ala I)
(Note the emphasis on the red ruby when Lyn warms himself by Littlefinger’s fire, whereas the ruby-glamored “Ser Byron” is warming himself by Littlefinger’s fire when we first meet him.)
Three Crab-Crackers: Dunk, Lothor Brune and Dog
Just as Alyn Cockshaw is ultimately peripheral to the climax of tMK, so is Lysa peripheral to events in the Vale “now”. But Alyn’s part in tMK helps us to see another parallel between tMK and the Vale drama that I believe will prove important.
Recall that when Alyn attacks Dunk, Dunk turns the tables on him by dislodging a stone from the well-wall and hitting him with it. The verbiage is crucial:
And then the stone popped free. Dunk fed it to his lordship, and felt his teeth crack beneath the blow.
A stone popping free? To hit “Alyn” Cockshaw? Sansa is disguised as
Alyn Alayne Stone. Might she be “popping free” of Littlefinger soon enough?
Now, why write that Dunk “fed” Alyn the stone, with a “crack”? Well, consider the in-world idiom “feed the crabs”—
The dead were thrown in the bay to feed the crabs. (TWOIAF – The Vale)
—and that Alyn is “churlish”, which is a synonym for “crabby”.
What else do you do with crabs, besides feed ’em? Crack ’em—
Mormont picked up a crab claw and cracked it in his fist. (GOT Tyr III)
—just like Dunk feeds and cracks crabby Alyn Cockshaw with a stone!
And where is Lothor Brune from? Crackclaw Point!
One night [Lothor Brune] had told her that he was kin to the Brunes of Brownhollow, an old knightly family from Crackclaw Point. (FFC Ala II)
Notice the wordplay: Crackclaw/Cockshaw. With all this in mind, what should we make of this passage, visibly pregnant with symbolism?
[Meribald] proceeded in that direction for another hundred yards, leading them between two shallow tidal pools. Dog stuck his nose in one and yelped when a crab pinched it with his claw. A brief but furious struggle ensued before the dog came trotting back, wet and mud-spattered, with the crab between his jaws. (FFC B VI)
At first blush, it might seem to be hinting that ASOIAF’s original “dog”, Sandor, will, as Byron, kill the man from crab-land, Lothor. But didn’t Sandor leave behind his Hound identity? Isn’t he a boar’s shadow (or perhaps a sparrow) now?
And waitaminute. People from Crackclaw Point aren’t figurative crabs at all—they’re the ones cracking the crabs open, just as Dog does, just as Dunk cracks and “feeds” a brick to crabby Alyn Cockshaw.
Sure enough, when we look at some of what we’re told about Lothor, much of it could as well be about Dunk:
Though he had risen to knighthood, Ser Lothor’s birth had been very low.… [He] had learned all he knew of arms the hard way. Sober, he was a quiet man, but a strong one. And Petyr says he’s loyal. He trusts him as much as he trusts anyone. (FFC Ala II)
Dunk’s birth was likewise “very low”: he grew up an orphan in Flea Bottom. Dunk also rose to knighthood (without ever being knighted). Dunk’s training was rudimentary, and like Brune he learns “the hard way”, on the job, besting Aerion with sheers guts and strength, then Longinch with a bit more technique, and finally Heddle with improved skill. If Dunk is anything, it’s “strong” like Brune, and Brune’s strength is again invoked in an image that’s a straight-up echo of Dunk:
[Brune] is stronger than he looks, though. She could tell by the ease with which he lifted her, as if she weighed nothing at all. (SOS San VI)
When the hole was deep enough, [Dunk] lifted the old man’s body in his arms and carried him there. He had been a small man, and slim; stripped of hauberk, helm, and sword belt, he seemed to weigh no more than a bag of leaves. (tHK)
Brune is “quiet” (when sober), “spoke seldom” and “is close-mouthed by nature.” (SOS San VI; FFC San I) Dunk doesn’t think of himself as quiet, but the D&Es read almost exactly like Brienne POVs (big shock!): Dunk keeps up the chatter internally, but if you read carefully you’ll find it’s generally others who do most of the talking, save when Dunk is spoken to or when he needs something. Indeed, Dunk is forever telling (or sometimes just wishing) Egg to be quiet, and it’s obvious he’s aping the lessons Arlan taught him, which he’s internalized, resulting in his own quiet nature.
Sansa’s reference to Brune being quiet when sober might seem to imply Brune’s a drunk, but we never see him drink, so that seems improbable. Instead, it’s likely there have been occasions on which Brune gets drunk and loud. And what happens to Dunk when he drinks too much in tMK?
“We are wanted nowhere and turn up everywhere, m’lord.” The wine had made Dunk bold, else he would have held his tongue.
He’s not so quiet anymore.
Brune is “loyal” and trustworthy, as is Dunk. Egg ends up trusting Dunk with his life, literally, appointing him head of his Kingsguard.
Now, consider Brune’s loyalty and faithfulness and his many parallels with Dunk in light of this exchange between Daemon Blackfyre and Brune’s D&E counterpart, Dunk:
[Dunk:] “I’m drunk as a dog”
“Be my dog, ser. The night’s alive with promise. We can howl together and wake the very gods.”
If Brune is a figurative Dunk, and if Dunk is, per this passage, a figurative dog, then loyal, faithful Brune is logically a figurative loyal and faithful dog as well. This is only reinforced when Brune saves Sansa from Marillion, just after “someone” else tries to ward off the singer:
The old dog raised his head and growled, but the singer gave him a cuff and sent him slinking off, whimpering. (SOS San VI)
An old guard dog can’t get the job done, so Brune the new dog does. In the moment, Sansa even confuses him with “the Hound”, just to drive home the idea that Brune is a figurative dog:
Not the Hound’s [voice], no, how could it be? Of course it had to be Lothor . . .
Coupled with loyal, faithful Lothor Brune being a man of Crackclaw Point, there can be no doubt that this image—
Dog stuck his nose in one and yelped when a crab pinched it with his claw. A brief but furious struggle ensued before the dog came trotting back, wet and mud-spattered, with the crab between his jaws.
—is about Lothor Brune, the Vale plot’s “dog”, cracking open a “crab”. The only question is, who is the Vale plot’s crab? Is it Corbray? Will Lothor end up doing Lewyn’s dirty work? Perhaps. But I’ll offer another possibility shortly.
If Brune is a figurative dog, I think we can now give this passage—
Once a fox crossed their path, and set Meribald’s dog to barking wildly.
—a proper reading and guess that Lothor will be the one to sound the initial alarm on “Ser Shadrich”. After all, what else does Daemon say to Dunk when asking him to be his dog and thus setting up the Dunk-ish Lothor as a figurative dog?
“We can howl together and wake the very gods.”
That’s a Howland Reed shout-out in black and white, by the way. “Howl together” practically means “Howl and”, or if you prefer you can just put “howl” together with “and” to get “Howland”. The reference to waking the gods points to the old gods stirring and Shadrich’s weirwood sigil.
Lothor and Dunk’s Loves: Mya, Tanselle, and Rohanne
Lothor is in love with Mya Stone, and the fondness with which he thinks of her recalls the fondness with which Dunk thinks of Tanselle and Rohanne:
[Lothor] smiled when he said it. He always smiles when he speaks of Mya Stone. (FFC Ala II)
Dunk was thinking of Tanselle Too-Tall, and the way she’d smiled at him at Ashford. (tSS)
“I took something else to remember her by instead. A lock of that red hair.” He reached under his cloak, brought out the braid, and smiled. (tSS)
The women Dunk and Lothor love parallel one another. Mya is “slim and sinewy”, Tanselle “slim as a lance.” Mya’s hair is “black as a raven’s wing”, Tanselle’s the “black hair of Dorne”. (Ala II) All three women are adept at handling animals of sorts: Mya her mules, Rohanne her horses, Tanselle her dragon puppets.
Dunk’s Rohanne and Lothor’s Mya dress in similarly masculine fashion:
[Rohanne] glanced down at her boots and breeches, loose linen tunic, and leather jerkin. (tSS)
Mya looked as tough as the old riding leathers she wore beneath her silvery ringmail shirt. (FFC Ala II)
Sansa wondering how Lothor wants Mya to dress—
Alayne found herself wondering whether Ser Lothor liked her best in her iron and leather, or dreamed of her gowned in lace and silk.
—is akin to readers wondering whether Dunk prefers Tanselle or Rohanne, wondering which one (if either) Bran sees Dunk kiss, wondering which one (if either) becomes Old Nan.
I do wonder whether Lothor isn’t about to, like Dunk, fall for a second woman, given this passage:
Near the keep, [Sansa] ran headlong into Ser Lothor Brune and almost knocked him off his feet. “Harry the Heir? Harry the Arse, I say. He’s just some upjumped squire.”
Alayne was so grateful that she hugged him. “Thank you. Have you seen my father, ser?”
Knocked him off his feet? As in: “Overwhelm someone emotionally; infatuate someone”.
Lothor Brune looks like Raymun Fossoway
Sansa says something else about Lothor—
One night [Lothor] had told her that he was kin to the Brunes of Brownhollow, an old knightly family from Crackclaw Point. “I went to them when my father died,” he confessed, “but they shat on me, and said I was no blood of theirs.” He would not speak of what happened after that, except to say that he had learned all he knew of arms the hard way. (FFC Ala II)
—that suggests another D&E parallel, this time to The Hedge Knight, which shows the origin of the “Green Apple Fossoways”, which were founded by Raymun Fossoway, who says of his cousin, grade-A asshat Steffon “Red Apple” Fossoway:
“I am his own blood, though his is the senior branch of the apple tree, as he never ceases to remind me.” (tHK)
As if to make sure we don’t miss the parallel between the way Lothor was treated by the Brunes of Brunehollow and the way Steffon Fossoway treats Raymun, Lothor Brune just so happens to be named “Apple-Eater” for killing scores of Fossoways in the Battle of the Blackwater.
And what do you know? Lothor’s looks tightly parallel Raymun’s. Here are two physical descriptions of Brune—
With his squashed nose, square jaw, and nap of woolly grey hair, Brune could not be called comely, but he was not ugly either. It is a common face but an honest one. (FFC Ala II)
A square-faced stocky man with a squashed nose and a mat of nappy grey hair, Brune spoke seldom. (SOS S VI)
—and two of Raymun:
Dunk watched a stocky youth try to hold off a muscular knight…
Raymun had a square face, a pug nose, and short woolly hair, but his smile was engaging.
Both are verbatim “stocky”. Lothor is “square-faced”; Rayman has a “square face”. Lothor has a “squashed nose”, Raymun a “pug nose”. Lothor’s “nap of woolly greyhair” compares to Raymun’s “short wooly hair”. Lothor’s “is a common face but an honest one”, while Raymun has Lothor’s common features “but his smile was engaging”.
“The Brunes of Brownhollow” is also a multipronged reference to the Red Apple Fossoways of Cider Hall. “Brune” is a homophone for “prune”, a dried fruit, a la apples. (And what is a prune? A dried plum, as in Plumm, Bloodraven’s alias in tMK.) Where are apples stored, by cliche? In a barrel. Like this:
The Gate of the Gods was open when they reached it, but two dozen wayns were lined up along the roadside, loaded with casks of cider, barrels of apples, bales of hay, and some of the biggest pumpkins Jaime had ever seen. (SOS Jai VII)
An apple barrel is literally a “brown hollow”. Brownhollow thus recalls the Red/Green Apple Fossoways, while “hollow” also recalls the “hall” in Cider Hall. Fossoway-ish Cider, by the way, is also kept in Brune-ish “Brownhollows” in ASOIAF:
The boy kept his distance, perching atop the cider barrel with his crossbow across his knees, cocked and loaded. (SOS Jai II)
Steffon Fossoway and Roland Waynwood
While Lothor’s conflict with the high-hatting Brunes of Brownhollow seems to be in his past, there’s another parallel in the Vale to the Fossoways’ internecine conflict. Raymun Fossoway’s nemesis in tHK is Steffon Fossoway, right? Steffon at first feigns decency, but he ultimately proves to be a jerk-store. Steffon is also called “muscular”, which isn’t a word ASOIAF uses much. Who does he remind us of in ASOIAF’s Vale storyline?
Surely Roland Waynwood, a likewise “muscular” knight who is superficially courteous while treating the junior members of his own family with cruelty and disdain, just like Steffon vis-a-vis Raymun:
Ser Roland [Waynwood] was the oldest of the three, though no more than five-and-twenty. He was taller and more muscular than Ser Wallace, but both were long-faced and lantern-jawed, with stringy brown hair and pinched noses. Horsefaced and homely, Alayne thought. (TWOW Ala I)
Roland’s “pinched nose” instantly recalls the mysterious line about a dog and a crab:
Dog stuck his nose in one and yelped when a crab pinched it with his claw.
There it is! Given Lothor Brune’s resemblance to Raymun Fossoway and the Fossoway/Waynwood parallel, I suspect Lothor, the Dunk ‘n’ dog figure, has found the figurative crab he’s going to crack: Roland Waynwood, the Pinch-Nose!
The only question is, aside from having a pinched nose, how is Roland a figurative crab to Lothor’s Dog? The answer is a creative interpretation of the Waynwood sigil, a broken wagon wheel that looks an awful lot like a crab viewed top-down.
But why should that happen? Isn’t Roland a “good guy”, a Waynwood? Actually, he’s a fucking dick, and a sleazy pick-up artist to boot, although just like his D&E Tales counterpart Steffon, he hides it well and feigns gallantry. Here’s Roland being a slime to Sansa and a jackass to his younger brother Wallace:
“Had we known such beauty awaited us at the Gates, we would have flown,” Ser Roland said. Though his words were addressed to Myranda Royce, he smiled at Alayne as he said them.
“To fly you would need wings,” Randa replied, “and there are some knights here who might have a thing to say concerning that.”
“I look forward to a spirited discussion.” Ser Roland swung down from his horse, turned to Alayne, and smiled. “I had heard that Lord Littlefinger’s daughter was fair of face and full of grace, but no one ever told me that she was a thief.”
“You wrong me, ser. I am no thief!”
Ser Roland placed his hand over his heart. “Then how do you explain this hole in my chest, from where you stole my heart?”
“He is only t-teasing you, my lady,” stammered Ser Wallace. “My n-n-nephew never had a h-h-heart.”
“The Waynwood wheel has a broken spoke, and we have my nuncle here.” Ser Roland gave Wallace a whap behind the ear. “Squires should be quiet when knights are speaking.”
Ser Wallace reddened. “I am no more a s-squire, my lady. My n-nephew knows full well that I was k-k-kni-k-k-kni—”
“Dubbed?” Alayne suggested gently.
“Dubbed,” said Wallace Waynwood, gratefully. (WOW I)
Ser Wallace clearly has the truth of it regarding Roland’s missing heart. Their exchange rehashes Steffon mocking Raymun in tHK and Raymun likewise pegging Steffon’s heartless nature with his first words:
“And I Ser Steffon Fossoway. Would you care to try me, Ser Duncan the Tall? It would be good to have someone new to cross swords with. My cousin’s not ripe yet, as you’ve seen.”
“Do it, Ser Duncan,” urged the beaten Fossoway as he removed his helm. “I may not be ripe, but my good cousin is rotten to the core.“…
[Dunk demurs.] Ser Steffon looked at him scornfully. “The hedge knight has matters.” He glanced about and found another likely opponent loitering nearby. “Ser Grance, well met. Come try me. I know every feeble trick my cousin Raymun has mastered, and it seems that Ser Duncan needs to return to the hedges..”
(The beating Steffon administers Raymun “in the training yard” just before this, by the way, duplicates kindred spirit Lyn Corbray’s unnecessarily brutal training ground beat down of Ser Owen in TWOW.)
Even when Steffon offers to help Dunk, he’s a shithead to Raymun:
“Raymun the Reluctant,” mocked his cousin Ser Steffon. An apple made of gold and garnets fastened his cloak of yellow wool. “You need not fear, cousin, this is a knightly combat. As you are no knight, your skin is not at risk. Ser Duncan, you have one Fossoway at least. The ripe one. I saw what Aerion did to those puppeteers. I am for you.”
“And I,” snapped Raymun angrily. “I only meant—”
His cousin cut him off. “Who else fights with us, Ser Duncan?”
Notice that Steffon explicitly “mocked” Raymun. Mockery is a theme binding together the Vale arc, beginning with Tyrek being mocked as “Wet Nurse”. GRRM clearly despises bullies. And look who else is explicitly said to mock people:
After that Ser Roland Waynwood swept her up and made her laugh with mocking comments about half the other knights in the hall. His uncle Wallace took a turn as well and tried to do the same, but the words would not come. Alayne finally took pity on him and began to chatter happily, to spare him the embarrassment.
It’s muscular bully Steffon Fossoway’s muscular bully counterpart and fellow future-Lord, Roland Waynwood.
Make no mistake. GRRM invites us to misread Roland like he invites us to overlook Steffon’s faults when it seems Steffon is on Team Dunk in tHK. Right after Roland dope-slaps Wallace, Harry the Heir is a more obvious, foregrounded jerk to Sansa, “coldly” calling her “Littlefinger’s bastard”. Roland’s asshole-dom is thereby rehabilitated, because the text has all the Waynwoods looking “askance” at Harry and making “awkward apologies” to Sansa. And then Roland makes her laugh. It’s easy to miss that he can only do so at the expense of others.
Roland’s our Steffon F. analogue, all right, and that makes Wallace Waynwood our spiritual Raymun (whereas Lothor Brune’s face plays the physical part). Might the Waynwood wheel be splitting soon, a la the Green and Red Fossoways?
Roland Crakehall and Lothor Brune
Another Roland (Two Rolands! Almost as if there’s something to that Childe Roland To The Dark Tower came stuff!), Ser Roland Crakehall (note the echo of Brune’s “Crackclaw”) of the Kingsguard, appears in both tHK and tMK. Both times, he evokes a version of the same dilemma Dunk faces in The Sworn Sword: how to decide between conflicting duties, between honor and loyalty, etc. In tHK, Crakehall treats Dunk with “kindness”, but later fights against him in the Trial of Seven because it is his duty as a Kingsguard to defend Aerion. And in tMK, GRRM picks Crakehall (in the company of our Sandor-mirror, Bloodraven) to tell Dunk that rebel knights and men-at-arms are in general “only following their liege lords” and not culpable for rebellion.
Given that Lothor is a Dunk figure, it’s clear he’ll have to make a tough choice between following the orders of his liege lord, Littlefinger, like the loyal soldier he appears to be, and finding a way to do the “right thing”, as Dunk does in tSS. While it might seem like he’s sure to follow in Dunk’s path, it must be admitted that Lothor has one far less savory parallel in The Sworn Sword.
Lothor and Ser Bennis of the Brown Shield.
While Dunk’s character “rhymes” with Lothor Brune’s, Lothor’s shabby brown attire recalls that of Dunk’s degenerate “comrade” in tSS, Ser Bennis of the Brown Shield. Sansa describes Lothor’s clothing like this—
no proper knight would wear those patched brown breeches and scuffed boots, nor that cracked and water-stained leather jerkin. (SOS San VI)
—while Dunk describes the garb of Bennis—who is, to be sure, no proper knight—like this:
[Bennis] wore the same garb every day: brown breeches, a shapeless roughspun tunic, horsehide boots. When armored he donned a loose brown surcoat over a shirt of rusted mail. His swordbelt was a cord of boiled leather, and his seamed face might have been made of the same thing.
Both wear “brown breeches”, verbatim. Both wear boots. Bennis’s brown surcoat and “seamed face”, seemingly of “boiled leather” can be read as reworking Brune’s “cracked water-stained leather jerkin”. (Leather is leather, “seamed” is “cracked”; “boiled” implies water a la “water-stained”; a jerkin is a jacket is a [sur]coat.)
Bennis is “Bennis the Brown”, while the Brunes are from “Brownhollow” and “Brune” is a style of Trappist ale that translates to and is often called Brown. (FFC B VI)
Lothor’s character isn’t prefigured by Bennis’s, but Lothor notably walks squarely in Bennis’s footsteps once, albeit in a vastly different context:
“Your talk don’t frighten us,” said the old man [to Bennis].
“No?” Bennis made his longsword whistle, opening the old man’s cheek from ear to jaw. “I said, them pear trees die, or you do.” The digger’s blood ran red down one side of his face.
He should not have done that. Dunk had to swallow his rage. Bennis was on his side in this. “Get away from here,” he shouted at the diggers. “Go back to your lady’s castle.”
“Run,” Ser Bennis urged.
Three of them let go of their tools and did just that, sprinting through the grass. (tSS)
Lothor gets Marillion off Sansa and fleeing in almost identical fashion, right down to the initial threat and defiance:
Sansa heard the soft sound of steel on leather. “Singer,” a rough voice said, “best go, if you want to sing again.” The light was dim, but she saw a faint glimmer of a blade.
The singer saw it too. “Find your own wench—” The knife flashed, and he cried out. “You cut me!”
“I’ll do worse, if you don’t go.”
And quick as that, Marillion was gone. The other remained, looming over Sansa in the darkness. “Lord Petyr said watch out for you.” It was Lothor Brune’s voice, she realized. (SOS San VI)
Bennis and Chella
Bennis, by the way, has another parallel from the Vale, albeit far more obscure. The rest of Bennis’s clothing—his “shapeless roughspun tunic” and “shirt of rusted mail”—oddly matches the garb of Lancel’s female sparrow guard at Darry, who wears the only other verbatim “shirt of rusted mail” in the canon:
“Lord Lancel is asking the Father Above for guidance,” said the third sparrow, the beardless one. A boy, Jaime had thought, but her voice marked her for a woman, dressed in shapeless rags and a shirt of rusted mail. (FFC J IV)
Her “shapeless rags” are surely a “shapeless roughspun tunic” like Bennis’s, inasmuch as the other sparrows of Darry wear “ragged, filthy tunics”, the High Sparrow wears a “shapeless tunic”, and Lancel wears a “plain, roughspun tunic of undyed wool that made him look more like a beggar than a lord”. (DWD C I; ibid.)
So who is this sparrow guardswoman and why does her garb virtually duplicate the only portion of Bennis’s garb that doesn’t “rhyme” with Lothor’s?
Consider that she is likened to a “boy”, that she subsequently “hefted a spiked club”, and that she is able to identify Jaime after Lancel’s other two sparrow-guards cannot. The only “spiked club” we see prior to this in ASOIAF is wielded by one of Tyrion’s mountain clansmen (GOT Ty IV), another one of whom is a woman likened to a boy, and singled out as being astute:
Chella was a small hard woman, flat as a boy, and no fool. (GOT Ty VII)
What is Chella of the Black Ears famous for? Collecting the ears of her enemies. That so happens to be exactly what Bennis threatens to do in The Sworn Sword, just before the confrontation I quoted above:
“You lot don’t hear so good,” said Bennis. “Do I need to lop me off an ear or two? Who’s first?”
Chella of the Black Ears, last seen being denied entry to King’s Landing in ASOS Tyrion I, is Lancel’s sparrow guardswoman, dressed exactly like fellow ear-chopper Bennis the Brown.
By the way, there’s a little joke in Chella being a “Poor Fellow”, given that it was her who answered Varys’s famous riddle:
“The rich man lives. Doesn’t he?” (COK Ty I)
It’s interesting that Bennis is tied to both Lothor and Chella, who are themselves linked by wordplay: “Brune” is a homophone for “bruin”, meaning “bear”, and House Brune’s sigil is a bear claw. (Bruin the Bear, by the way, is a character in the Reynard the Fox stories mentioned earlier.) Lothor is also a protective bear figure. Dressed all in brown, he’s thus a figurative “brown bear”, whereas Chella is a member of the Black Ears who is likewise a protective figure. Brown: black :: bear : ear.
Bennis’s Eyes Are Byron’s
One more thing I want to mention here about Bennis: Bennis’s eyes “stood out” as “pale green”. I believe his eyes find their “Vale analogue” in Ser Byron, whose eyes will almost certainly be revealed to be “pale green” as well. Why do I think so?
When looking at Tyrek and Lancel, Ned singles out Lancel’s eyes (as against Tyrek’s) as matching Cersei’s “deep green”, “emerald” eyes, which she shares with all her children. To Sansa, who gives us our view of Byron, these are Lannister eyes. But the half-Marband Tywin’s eyes are “pale green”, like Bennis’s, and I suspect Darlessa Marbrand’s son Tyrek’s eyes (and hence Ser Byron’s eyes, given that his eyes are Tyrek’s eyes) are pale green as well. (SOS Tyr I) (This explains why Sansa doesn’t think of Byron as looking like a Lannister, despite the fact that he otherwise clearly does.)
Uthor Underleaf and Petyr Baelish
It may seem at first that Littlefinger’s “primary” analogues in tMK are Gormon Peake, the master conspirator at Whitewalls, and Lord Butterwell, who like Littlefinger is a former Master of Coin. (After all, a figurative little finger would fit nicely—see: sex—in a figurative butter well, wouldn’t it?) I certainly think that’s true to some extent, but there are also a plethora of parallels between Petyr and the snail knight, Uthor Underleaf, and a few other rhymes of interest.
Here’s Uthor’s primary physical description:
“Indeed, ser,” said one of their companions on the bench, a sallow man, saturnine, clad in grey and green. His eyes were small and shrewd, set close together beneath thin arching brows. A neat black beard framed his mouth, to make up for his receding hair.
I have written elsewhere that many of these details point to House Martell and to the idea that Elder Brother is Lewyn Martell. Lewyn is, of course, present in our Vale story as Ser Morgarth. The fact that Uthor’s eyes are “close-set” while he is “sallow” seems to also refer to Rattleshirt, whose eyes are “close-set” and who is also called “sallow” four times. I suspect this alludes to the importance of a glamor to our Vale story, given that much of the time “Rattleshirt” is actually a glamored Mance Rayder.
That’s not all “Uthor” is “doing” in terms of rhyming tMK with the Vale storyline. While the name “Uthor” is reminiscent of “Lothor”, and while Uthor’s “neat black beard” sounds like Horton Redfort’s “neat grey beard”, Uthor overwhelmingly smells like Littlefinger, who “stroked the neat spike of his beard”.
Uthor’s small frame matches both Redfort’s and Littlefinger’s, but his grey and green garb is the color of Littlefinger’s eyes:
Littlefinger’s grey-green eyes glittered with amusement. (GOT E IV)
Uthor is amiable (gossiping, chuckling and making conversation), indubitably clever, and “the son of no one of importance”. Littlefinger?
Littlefinger was as amiable as he was clever, but too lowborn to threaten any of the great lords… (FFC Jai VII)
Littlefinger is a wizard with money, rising to be Master of Coin, flipping commodities, etc. He’s twice said to have “a nose for gold”. (SOS Sam V; FFC C II) Making money seems to be Uthor’s purpose in life, and he’s said to look “more a merchant than a knight.”
Uthor is the snail knight, a small and nonthreatening sigil. We first see it as a silver cloak clasp:
A silver clasp in the shape of a snail fastened his cloak.
In our first look at Littlefinger, we see his small and nonthreatening sigil animal represented identically:
They went well with the silver mockingbird that fastened his cloak. (GOT C IV)
Uthor’s interior decorating—
The tent’s exterior left him ill prepared for the comforts he found within. The ground beneath his feet was carpeted in woven Myrish rugs, rich with color. An ornate trestle table stood surrounded by camp chairs. The feather bed was covered with soft cushions, and an iron brazier burned perfumed incense. (tMK)
The solar next. Its floor was covered by a Myrish carpet, so there was no need to lay down rushes. Alayne asked two serving men to erect the trestle table and bring up eight of the heavy oak-and-leather chairs.…
…After Maddy laid the fire, she sent her down to find the scented beeswax candles Lord Waxley had given Lady Lysa when he sought to win her hand. Then she visited the kitchens once again, to make certain of the wine and bread. (FFC Ala I)
—are too similar to be coincidental. (Needless to say, Uthor immediately offers Dunk wine, although not bread.)
Uthor says “it’s sweet silver I require,” while Cat remembers:
Even as a child, [Littlefinger] had always loved his silver. (GOT C IV)
Indeed, Uthor serves Dunk wine in a cup of “solid silver”, just like the “silver cups” in which Littlefinger twice serves wine to his guests, including the three hedges knights. (FFC San I; Ala I) This also matches the “silver cups” that ostensibly wash up on the Quiet Isle. (FFC B VI)
Uthor’s manner is similar to Petyr’s. Uthor smiles. He “looked amused”. He does this—
He picked up a silver stag and set it to spinning with a flick of his long fingers.
The Snail steepled his fingers.
And Littlefinger? He smiles, shows “amusement” on several occasions (e.g. GOT E IV, VII; SOS San VI), and does this—
Lord Petyr flicked at the dagger with his finger, setting it spinning in place.
Petyr Baelish steepled his fingers. (COK Ty III)
Littlefinger steepled his fingers… (COK Ty IV)
Uthor ultimately offers to take Dunk into his service—Dunk, who is mostly represented by Lothor Brune, who serves Littlefinger.
What’s interesting to me is that Uthor fancies himself the master of the situation, only to learn that others are playing a game for even higher stakes. His bribes do not, in the end, gain him the final jousting pairing he wishes. Might this somehow suggest Littlefinger is not at the top of the conspiracy food chain after all? Might there be a better analogue for Gormon Peake, whose head ends up on a pole, just as Sansa puts Sweetrobin’s doll’s head on a pole?
Gormon Peake, Horton & Mychel Redfort, Yohn Royce
Gormon Peake is the mastermind behind the Whitewalls conspiracy. He is…
…an older man, sour-mouthed and saturnine, with a close-cropped salt-and-pepper beard.
Peake’s “eyes were chips of flint”, and are quickly referred to as “flinty” twice more.
Peake is the lord of Starpike, so he and his rebellion allude to Balon Greyjoy (of the “flinty” eyes and face “chipped from flint”, salt-and-pepper hair, sour disposition and Pyke) and Balon’s Rebellion. But Balon isn’t in the Vale.
Horton Redfort is, as is his son Mychel. Might one of them be our “modern-day” Gormon? Superficially, in some respects, there is certainly some motif “rhyming” going. Horton and Gormon are plainly similarly formed names. Where Redfort’s arms are a red castle, Peake’s arms are three castles on orange. While Gormon Peake’s eyes are “chips of flint” that “could flay a man”—
Dunk did not like the way the man was looking at him. Those eyes could flay a man.
—and we see his face as a certain colored “mask”—
His face was a red-brown mask from the dust the horses had kicked up…
—the Redforts have both an in-world and a textual relationship with Mr. Flay-a-man, Roose Bolton of the Dreadfort, whose eyes are “chips of dirty ice” and whose face is “a pale grey mask”:
Roose Bolton’s own face was a pale grey mask, with two chips of dirty ice where his eyes should be. (DWD PoW)
(To wit: Domeric Bolton fostered with the Redforts, and the houses share similarly structured names: Horton/Bolton; Dreadfort/Redfort.)
While there is some interplay of motifs going on, Lord Horton Redfort is no Gormon Peake. He is instead one of the first Lords Declarant to begin to bend to Petyr’s will. And his eyes are described simply as “mild”, which is hardly commensurate with flaying anyone or being chips of flint. Thus while these rhymes are consistent with my overall thesis that events in the Vale must surely involve a glamored hedge knight given the existence of the same in tMK, they don’t tell us who the Vale’s Peake is.
What else are we told about Gormon Peake? During the Blackfyre Rebellion, he killed Ser Arlan of Pennytree’s son with a mace:
“Roger of Pennytree, that was his name. His head was smashed in by a mace wielded by a lord with three castles on his shield.” Lord Gormon Peake.
Now that sounds like somebody important in the Vale:
The man [Thoros] had made for a colorful spectacle, his red robes flapping while his blade writhed with pale green flames, but everyone knew there was no true magic to it, and in the end his fire had guttered out and Bronze Yohn Royce had brained him with a common mace. (COK Dav I)
Gormon Peake’s most salient physical characteristic, his “flinty” eyes, “rhyme” with Yohn’s eyes, which are also likened to a common dark stone:
Bronze Yohn had slate-grey eyes… (FFC Ala I)
Peake led the second Blackfyre rebellion and sounds like the rebellious Balon, whereas Yohn is “close to open revolt” at being restrained from helping Robb—
The senior branch of House Royce was close to open revolt over her aunt’s failure to aid Robb in his war… (SOS San VII)
—and all but rebelling against Littlefinger’s rule. Littlefinger implies that Yohn is a schemer in his own right (a la Peake) when he congratulates himself for putting “all [Yohn’s] plans awry”. (FFC Ala II)
Yohn, like Peake, is said to be mistrustful:
“Bronze Yohn mistrusts me.” (FFC San I)
“Pay [Peake] no mind,” the Fiddler said. “He’s a sour old soul—he suspects everyone.”
It’s possible all this is just more random “rhyming” to highlight the Mystery Knight/Vale parallel and thereby foreshadow Sandor’s glamoring as Tyrek. But I think it’s more likely that the connection between Yohn Royce and Gormon Peake on the one hand and Littlefinger and Uthor on the other portends something for our Vale story as well. Yohn has been vaguely looming over the plot since the AGOT Prologue, and thus I think the Peake/Bronze Yohn connection suggests that Yohn is lately party to a scheme Littlefinger is unaware of and going to be shocked by—the Quiet Isle plot of Howland Reed, Elder Brother Lewyn Martell and Sandor Clegane—much as Uthor is shocked when he’s paired with Tom Heddle rather than his chosen opponent because of Peake’s scheme.
This jibes with what I wrote in my second “Where’s Tyrek” post about Harry losing prematurely and “Byron” making the final in defiance of Littlefinger’s arrangements. Certainly a jouster of Sandor’s prowess could have his way with Harry if Littlefinger pairs them, although it’s possible Lyn Corbray will make-like-Gregor and prove Harry’s undoing.
All is not happiness and joy for readers eager to see Littlefinger undone. The trouble with Yohn “being” Peake is that Peake’s head ends up on a spike—
Flanking the entrance, the severed heads of Gormon Peake and Black Torn Heddle had been impaled on spears, with their shields displayed beneath them.
—and it’s virtually certain the same thing is going to happen to someone involved with the Vale storyline, given what Sansa does to the head of Sweetrobin’s “giant”:
A mad rage seized hold of [Sansa]. She picked up a broken branch and smashed the torn doll’s head down on top of it, then pushed it down atop the shattered gatehouse of her snow castle. (SOS S VII)
True, Petyr and Royce could share Peake’s role, with Petyr getting spiked, per House Baelish having a giant (a “titan”) as its ancestral sigil. After all, Petyr is the brains behind the Vale tourney, as Peake is behind Whitewalls.
But when we poke around, we see Peake-figure Bronze Yohn described in terms that make him sound very much like a real live giant:
The Lord of Runestone stood as tall as the Hound.… Lord Yohn still looked as though he could break most younger men like twigs in those huge gnarled hands. (FFC Ala I)
The giant would lash out violently when threatened, and those huge hands were strong enough to rip a man apart. (DWD J VIII)
So while Littlefinger’s plans may be stymied in part, I do wonder whether his manipulation of Sansa will be so effective that she causes Bronze Yohn to meet a gory end, whereas Littlefinger escapes scot free, like the Baelish-ish Uthor does in tMK.
Lord Butterwell, Nestor Royce, Etc.
There are other shared motifs and parallels between tMK and the Vale story that don’t require much discussion. For example, Lord Butterwell and Nestor Royce seem similar figures. Both aspire to more than their lot but are nevertheless trepidatious in their agreement to play host to the schemes of others.
GRRM contrives to place the obscure but unquestionably memorable House Sunderland at both Whitewalls and the Gates of the Moon.
ADDED 7.18.2020: Ser “Morgarth’s” name is paralleled by the knight Ser “Argrave”, who jousts at Whitewalls. Get it? Morgue pairs with Grave, leaving Ar and Arth. (There’s more going on here than that, but that’s a tale for another post.) END ADDED
Tyrek Lannister is a Marbrand and a Lannister. Lannister colors are red and gold. Addam Marbrand’s hair is called “dark copper” and a “copper color”. Here’s the lake Dunk crosses in tMK:
The sun was low in the west by the time they saw the lake, its waters glimmering red and gold, bright as a sheet of beaten copper.
Red, gold, and copper. Note the reference to the sun and west, both of which are Lannister hallmarks. (Lann “stole gold from the sun to brighten his curly hair.” [GOT E VI]) The lake is the watery embodiment of the cascading, waterfall-ish hair of Tyrek/Byron.
I think you get the point.
As is hopefully clear, the Vale storyline is in many ways a wholesale reworking of The Mystery Knight and The Hedge Knight (with a little Sworn Sword thrown in) (or vice versa, if you prefer). Motifs are rearranged and repeated, characters’ appearances, dress and narrative roles are divided up and recombined, etc. Unmistakable, though, is the repetition of three hedge knights—four if you count Lothor and Dunk. Given the powerful correlation between Sandor and Bloodraven, I have to think that just as Bloodraven was glamored as Maynard Plumm in tMK, so is Sandor glamored as Tyrek Lannister and calling himself Ser Byron in ASOIAF.
In conclusion, I want to return to a passage I talked about when I argued that Howland Reed is now masquerading as Ser Shadrich. In that writing, I pointed out that ASOIAF uses “The Norrey” to confirm that in Westeros, as in our collective colloquial mythology, foxes are “sly”. I also pointed out that there is a bigger “rhyme” between Howland’s story and that of the Norrey, which I believe is about winking at the true identities of Littlefinger’s hired knights. I said that when we’re told of The (foxy-like-Shadrich) Norrey, we see a bunch of the same motifs we find in Shadrich’s/Morgarth’s/Byron’s story, all scrambled up. Consider once again the passage in which we’re told the Norrey seems both foxy and sly, bearing in mind my now-complete thesis that Ser Shadrich is Howland Reed, Ser Morgarth is Lewyn Martell, and Ser Byron is a glamored Sandor Clegane:
First to make the ascent were the clan chiefs Flint and Norrey, clad in fur and iron. The Norrey looked like some old fox—wrinkled and slight of build, but sly-eyed and spry. Torghen Flint was half a head shorter but must weigh twice as much—a stout gruff man with gnarled, red-knuckled hands as big as hams, leaning heavily on a blackthorn cane as he limped across the ice. Bowen Marsh came next, bundled up in a bearskin. After him Othell Yarwyck. Then Septon Cellador, half in his cups.
As I previously pointed out, the Norrey is “slight of build”, verbatim like Howland’s children, and explicitly “wrinkled”, as is Shadrich, who is “wry” if not “spry”. Flint is notably short, like Shadrich, while being thick, with huge hands described almost exactly like Lewyn’s/Morgarth’s “gnarled hands as large as hams”, save that they are “red-knuckled”, exactly like Lewyn’s nephew Doran Martell’s hands. Cellador being “half in his cups” recalls Morgarth/Elder Brother being a drunk. To that we can now add that that phrase together with Flint’s cane, recalls gravedigging Tyrek being “half a cripple”. (His cane also recalls Doran walking with a cane, with “sloe” hinting that the “sloe-eyed” Taena Merryweather is one of Doran’s “friends at court”.)
I also noted that the presence of Bowen Marsh, a crannogman who we aren’t told is a crannogman, parallels Ser Shadrich being a crannogman who we aren’t told is a crannogman. While I said that Marsh wearing “a bearskin” reminds us of skinchanging and thus disguise, I didn’t say everything about that I wanted to. I could not, because I had not yet presented the idea that Ser Byron is a glamored Sandor Clegane. With the knowledge that Byron is a glamored Sandor in mind, the full scope of this “rhyming” motif-scramble becomes obvious: Bowen Marsh’s bearskin cloak plays with the idea that “Ser Byron” is the glamored Sandor Clegane—a protective “bear” figure in many ways vis-a-vis both Sansa and Arya—figuratively wearing the skin of Tyrek Lannister “like a cloak”.
As I was sitting here in the wee hours of 12.20.2018 dividing the word document containing the original of this writing into “comment” sized chunks for posting on reddit, I was directing an online friend to the site of @SweetSunRay (who I cited in the writing you just completed) as regards @SSR’s ideas about protective bear figures. Having not visited her site in ages, I decided to see what was new there.
Lo and behold, it now hosts a filled-out, polished-up version of @Blue-Eyed Wolf’s theory. Perusing it quickly, it doesn’t seem to have changed in its fundamentals. It still posits that Sandor is Byron under some random glamor woven by Howland Reed.
@BEW’s final, polished post, which was posted on 13 July, 2017, actually mentions the idea Byron is Tyrek (without attributing it to me). (@BEW dismisses the idea using the old “but LF/Sansa would recognize Tyrek” canard, which is ironic because they very much understand the Arthurian roots GRRM is drawing on, per which pretty much nobody ever recognizes anyone else, especially when they’re in disguise.)
To be clear, the reason @BEW’s polished essay wasn’t mentioned is because (a) it didn’t even exist when the great majority of this essay was written in the weeks surrounding the posting date of my original “Byron = Tyrek?” post, 5 April 2017. (I just checked. The file I’m currently typing in was created “03/19/2017, 22:43:09”) and because (b) I didn’t realize it existed until the wee hours of today (12.20.18). (When the first draft of this piece was completed in April 2017, it spawned so many other pieces that I decided to wait and finish writing everything I wanted to write about ASOIAF before posting anything else, which I now have.)
I apologize if by drawing on @BEW’s forum posts instead of their essay I’ve misrepresented any of their current thoughts on the matter.