I’ve touched on this here and there across several mini-musings, and I actually have plans to work on a series on Sandor Clegane once I finish my Ashara Dayne pieces (which are coming, I’m working on it, I promise, I swear, creativity is hard man)! But I’ll throw this on here for ya.
Sandor grew up surrounded by southern ideals. His family were grandfathered in as “Landed Knights” by House Lannister. As a kid, he dreamt of becoming a true knight – just like we see from Jaime, and just like Sansa and Bran’s songs and dreams. Sandor’s own songs of chivalry and knighthood came burning down one day, when Gregor caught him playing with a discarded knight toy.
With his face pressed to the fire, his life begins to unravel in front of him. Family killed off in “mysterious” brother-related circumstances, he chooses the only life he can: working for the “mob”.
The religion, the knights, all of it: a lie. His mother, father, sister, dead, all at the hand of a shadow looming larger than he is, destroying and taking what he held near to him. And in rejecting his knighthood, Sandor found himself promoted through the ranks. Slaughtering like a machine, he goes from the dog with his face pressed in shit to eating scraps from under the table, pushing his pain down in favor for bloodlust, duty and survival.
Until two little girls come to the capital, and lose their own father at the hand of injustice. Just like Sandor Clegane’s face pressed to the brazier, Sansa Starks ideals of knighthood and ladies come crashing down with the stroke of her familial sword.
As her father’s head rolls down the dais, she finds herself pushed into her very own horror story – one that Sandor has already lived through. Both families, slaughtered by an “unstoppable” force, pushed into lives they don’t want, forced to do as the crown appoints, and praying to empty gods.
Where Sandor initially offers this girl what seems like harsh words, Sansa correctly accepts them as harsh lessons. This hulking, grotesque manchild in front of her narrates the lessons that she receives: beat, bloody, bruised. She learns to lie from Sandor, and to hide the scars the best she can: just like he did.
Sandor lived a life oppressed by adults that had more than enough power to change what was happening – or to at least try – and Sansa finds herself catapulted into that very same universe.
But when faced with the marred, melted face of a killer, Sansa Stark offers her hand to his shoulder, and quietly tells him what he longed to hear since he was a small boy: it wasn’t your fault. An eleven year old, about the same age he had been when his world came crashing down around him, tells him that his brother – who subverted every idea of knighthood in existence – who had raped and murdered, all in his own name and pride – was wrong.
And the man breaks.
The night the Blackwater burns, Sandor finds himself in Sansa’s chambers, fleeing the flames. In his last ditch effort at chivalry, he begs her to not only let him ‘save her’, but to let him save himself. Is it all lies, forever and ever?
He finds himself attempting to put his salvation in an eleven year old girl, the very girl he taught to not trust those who would appear to her like this, and he respects that very moment that she says no. He knows that he could have done more than what he had convinced himself to do in the first place. I stood there in my white cloak and let them beat her, I took the bloody song, she never gave it.
And it’s more than that. Sandor doesn’t find himself worthy of love, of that salvation. He couldn’t save his mother, his sister, or his father. With a rip of the white cloak, symbolizing what he couldn’t do for Sansa, he finally finds the courage to break the cycle.
No, Sandor didn’t get to save that little girl, the one who told him it was okay, but he gave her more than that – he gave her the tools to save herself. He finds himself confessing to the other little girl, with grey eyes and dark hair, much like his own sister, who he thought he could save, too. He gives the rite of passage as life leaves him, he confesses his sins.
Sansa Stark gave Sandor Clegane more than just kind words. She gave him closure, the courage to move on – she cradled the little boy who found his face enveloped by flame, and told him it was time to heal.