So I’ve been thinking lately, because I’ve thinking about the trueborn Stark POVs a lot lately as representing different facets of the Stark tradition.
Arya embodies the “pack spirit”, and her warging connection to Nymeria binds physically to her Stark identity.
“My brother will kill you, he’s a Stark, he’s more wolf than man, and so am I.”
“In the wolf dreams she was swift and strong, running down her prey with her pack at her heels.”
Bran embodies the tradition of the magic kingship and the Builder, and so he constantly thinks of himself as the heir to Winterfell. That binds him House Stark.
“The stone is strong…The roots of the trees grow deep, and under the ground the Kings of Winter sit their thrones. So long as those remained, Winterfell remained. It was not dead, just broken. Like me… I’m not dead either”
“Bran the Broken, heir to ruins.”
So I was thinking: When Sansa says she is a “Stark”, what does that mean to her? I realized that I didn’t know. She doesn’t have a warg animal anymore, doesn’t have a motto or think over and over again “winter is coming.” Sansa doesn’t think much of honor, not very explicitly, except to condemn the sycophants at court as “dogs” “hooting for approval”, and make a few classist comments about people like Luthor Brune. Sansa is “adrift”. Without something physically real, “Stark” is just a word.
When Ned is murdered, we don’t see the sword come down. It’s told from Arya’s POV, and Yoren shields her from the sight, gods bless his soul. When we get Sansa’s POV immediately after, this is what we get for a description:
“Waking or sleeping, she saw him, saw the gold cloaks fling him down, saw her Ser Ilyn striding forward, unsheathing Ice from the scabbard on his back, saw the moment….the moment when….she had wanted to look away, she had wanted to, her legs had gone out form under her and she had fallen to her knees, yet somehow she could not turn her head, and all the people were screaming and shouting…and for a moment she’d felt safe, but only for a heartbeat, until he said those words, and her fathers’ legs…that was what she remembered, his legs, way they jerked when Ser Ilyn…when the sword….
And Sansa just refuses to think farther or complete the picture. What’s strange is that this is in her mind. She doesn’t ever give us an explicit flashback to it for the rest of her story. Which is strange, and I don’t think it’s an accident.
When Joffrey forces her to look at Ned’s head on a spike, she thinks, “He can make me look at them but he can’t make me see.”
Sansa, we know, represses things she cannot bear to withstand: the less savory parts of her time with the Hound, the UnKiss, “Littlefinger was only a mask he had to wear” etc..
Which brings me to my point: The thing that holds Sansa to her Stark identity is the traumatic memory she’s been repressing since AGOT, and she won’t reclaim her name until she looks it in the face, and recalls every detail and every second.
This Tze post makes an outstanding case for Littlefinger having hopelessly overplayed his hand. He really has only a piece of paper to protect him, which was all Ned Stark had. Nestor Royce ruled the Vale for 15 years in Jon Arryn’s absence, and was the other candidate to be lord protector. Tze writes, “At the end of AFFC, Nestor Royce has physical control of Robert Arryn, complete physical control of Lord Robert’s home for the foreseeable future, physical control over Littlefinger (the garrison at the Gates being loyal to Lord Nestor, not Littlefinger), and probably the support of the Lords Declarant as well.”
Now comes Sansa’s time to shine. When he trusts her to gather some key allies to his side, it will already be too late. His enemies will be closing in and “Alayne” will betray him.
Littlefinger will no doubt be put to death, which will probably be beheading. “Alayne” will be a witness. As the executioner draws his sword, the memory will start coming back, the horror of that moment. Now the headsmen is Ser Ilyn Payne, his sword is Ice. It’s her father’s neck stretched out over the block, his hair rat brown, then black, then brown again. Was always he so gaunt before they put him in the dungeons? The blade comes down, and cuts through in a dull silver flash. She sees it, for the first time. Her father’s head rolls across the stone of the sept, his legs jerk. The crowd at Baelor’s is cheering and roaring, but the godswood of the Gates of the Moon is silent and still.
Littlefinger is dead, and so is his daughter Alayne Stone, and with her all the lies and stories and songs she had ever believed.
Only Sansa Stark remains now, and the memory of the terrible thing they did to her father, her real father: Eddard Stark, Lord of Winterfell.
The North Remembers.