The more I write the more I discover I have to write in order to bring the great tapestry known as A Song of Ice and Fire into focus. It truly is impossible to understand the whole without examining all the different parts. So here I have come to easily the most difficult part of all to comprehend. The meaning and purpose of Sansa Stark.
What is Sansa? And I don't mean that she isn't the daughter of Eddard and Catelyn and a member of the Stark family. I mean, what is her purpose to the story? What is her function? Initially, based on the submission to his editor, which has been mentioned in a previous article, one could easily dismiss Sansa as the classic female underling for the big bad. She was clearly envisioned as the 'bad girl' who turns on her family for either money or power or love. But that really doesn't describe her well at all.
With all due respect for Sophie Turner, I don't think she gets Sansa. At least not the Sansa of the novels. She ranks at the top of all the characters changed for the tv show. That interation of her is totally unlike GRRM's version. An initial impression can be made that she will become Cersei 2.0. That she is destined to be the new villain had a sequel to the story been contemplated.
Truly, this does not come close to explaining her role. Had Martin been a more careless writer one might be tempted to dismiss her as a throw-away character. One created without any real idea as to what she is supposed to do.
This is false. Sansa is meant for higher things. But what? Her acting as counterpoint to her sister is most obvious. Their blatant antagonism is intended to be seen as a sign of their future relationship. In the show they turn this ass-backward, but in the books Arya is not going to suddenly turn into Sansa's BFF.
What the emphasis on their antagonism was originally meant to convey was most likely related to Jon Snow.
We are supposed to believe that Arya would side with Jon on any dispute with her sister. She still is. What's more important is that it was to establish that Sansa's own relationship with Jon was going to be a bad one. Nor is Sansa going to run into Jon's arms for a sibling hug. Sansa takes after her mother when it comes to Jon and that is very unlikely to change. It is not, as season 8 would have us believe, the two sisters reminding him of his allegiance to his family. Rather, it is Arya trying to prevent Sansa from sabotaging him.
This requires explanation. Sansa wants to be queen. Not 'queen', but 'the Queen'. She is willing to do almost anything to achieve this goal, even if it means marrying Joffrey. Now, its true she comes to loath him and happily escapes from him. But that does not alter her deep desire to be the Queen. That is why she so willingly follows Petyr Baelish. It is not solely because he protects her. She sees him as her own conduit to obtaining the throne.
Here I have to digress. When Sansa first appears in the story she gives off the impression of being hopelessly naïve. Her talk is more reminiscent of a child than a woman. Even after the death of her father she continues talking, and if her POVs can be believed, thinking more like a child. A pawn, helpless in the grip of others far older and more devious than her. And yet I can't help wondering, who is manipulating who? Is Sansa really the starry-eyed child? I think we have a hint of this from Tyrion when he says 'Lady Stark, you may survive us yet.'
I suspect Sansa isn't so naïve as she pretends. And this is important regarding her relationship to Jon.
Let me return to the question I asked previously. What is her role on the story? If you have read through the other articles on this site you will know that I am postulating a partnership, at minimum, between Arya, Daenerys, and Jon. It goes without saying, such a partnership would be lethal to Sansa's ambitions to become Queen. It is suggested, and more than suggested, that Sansa will try to break up this partnership.
Why? Beyond the story plot, Martin wants to establish something else. It would be very easy for readers to come to the conclusion of 'happily-ever-after'. Our natural impulse, because most people like 'happy endings' is to idealize and think only optimistically about conclusions. First off, this isn't going to be the end of the story. Second, it does not match real-life. Martin prides himself on making his world realistic, despite dragons, blood magic, and ice zombies.
Sansa betraying Jon is more in keeping with human nature, which does not change just because the world comes to an end. The foreshadowing is clear. Sansa will betray Jon in some form, though how is yet to be determined. Given that Arya knows her too well, it will likely involve Daenerys. Sansa will even try to convince Jon that he has to marry her despite their antagonism. In my hypothetical book summaries I give one possibility, but it is only one and may not even be the most likely. What I can say for certain is that it will not result in her being executed, for I am fairly sure she will survive the story. But is will result in her banishment from Jon's presence.
So what is her future and where will she end up? To answer this we have to go back to the beginning.
Role reversal is a long standing practice in fiction, though not as common in fantasy. It usually takes the form of one character impersonating another. But sometimes it can be a simple reversal of foreshadowing, where one character ends up with the ending hinted at for another. I recognized this role reversal from the beginning regarding Sansa and Arya.
The over-the-top hinting at Sansa becoming queen was enough to make me suspicious. The equally over-the-top tomboy routine with Arya too. But probably the biggest gimme is the names of the direwolves. It has long been suggested that the direwolves hint at the fate of the Stark children. In my article on the direwolves I confirm this. Sansa names her wolf Lady and a lady is the female counterpart of a lord.
Another strong hint as to Sansa's true future is she is constantly being linked to birds. As Colluna has pointed out in her 'I See What You Did There' videos, Sansa is called 'Little Bird' more than once by Sandor Clegane and 'Little Dove' by Cersei. And what place has a bird as its sigil? The Vale. Specifically, the Arryn Falcon is universally seen as the symbol of the Vale. And that is where Littlefinger takes her. Contrary to what happens in the show, I consider it a 50/50 chance that she could remain there throughout the rest of the story. In my book summaries I have her leave simply because it would be more interesting that way.
By comparison Arya's wolf is named Nymeria. Nymeria was the WARRIOR-QUEEN of the Rhoynar. It is also the only direwolf who's name was invented by GRRM. All the others have names taken from the real world. Nymeria is the sole exception. This is no accident. If there is one thing Martin has most blatantly foreshadowed it is Arya's future fate as Queen of Westeros. And as the super-warrior. Unfortunately, people concentrate so much attention on the comment 'that's not me' that they forget how the conversation began. Arya starts out asking about Bran's dream of becoming a Kingsguard. After Ned tries to reassure her she asks 'can I be lord of a holdfast?" Clearly the idea of her 'settling down' wasn't what she was opposed to. It was her role in doing so.
With that point it needs to be asked, why should Arya, alone of all the people of Westeros, be free to choose her future? If everyone else is forced to accept their roles in life, like it or not, why should she be the exception?
So how will this fall out? I map it like this:
of the Vale of Westeros
Just as Arya will end as Queen, Sansa will become Lady of the Vale. Now, people have theorized of her being Lady of Winterfell. The problem with this is that there won't be a Winterfell when the story is over. Sansa will rule the Vale, but she will be persona non grata around Jon. She will be forbidden from leaving it. In essence under house arrest. Whether that would change is not the subject of this article.