Pop culture admission: I love Game of Thrones. I know, not the most shocking admission in the world, with the insane number of folks watching on HBO and the equally plentiful souls pirating it, it would probably be more of a shock if I didn’t watch. I admit that I had not read the series before watching it on television. I actually didn’t start watching until the end of the second season, when my friend put the ninth episode of the second season, Blackwater, on the television while we were hanging out. I watched about 25 minutes of what I can only describe as practically perfect television before I told him to turn it off cause I wanted to start from the beginning. By the time the season finale 10th episode aired, I was caught up. By the time the 3rd season premiered, I had finished the books.
Something in this story hooked me, and judging from the number of viewers, I am definitely not alone. While I played fantasy rpgs in the past, I actually was more into the White Wolf storytelling games than actual Dungeons and Dragons. The middle ages, and the time of knights and kings and such fascinated me, but the fiction I read and watched, and the games I played as well, were more invested in the magic of the world, the orcs, the goblins, the skeletons and such, rather than the man vs man struggles. Possibly a reason I never read much science fiction as well. But while there are dragons, shadow demons, and whitewalkers in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe, they exist practically in the background, only as plot devices for the human characters to make use of. It is fantasy for people who hate fantasy. It draws you in with the personal conflict, with the tragic drama of strong characters, and then it smacks you upside the head with a dragon.
This Sunday is the finale of Season 4. It also marks the end of the adaptation of the third book in the series, although they have already dug things out of the 4th and 5th novels. Book 6 has yet to be published, and unless G.R.R M is secretly writing the 7th and final book at the same time as the 6th, or the Winds of Winter has enough action to take 4 seasons to adapt, I do not see how the show is not going to pass the books. Thankfully, one of the benefits of being fans of an ongoing series is the ability to speculate on future events, allowing us to take our mind off of G.R.R.M’s glacial writing pace.
After this “more” tag, there will be spoiler type things for Game of Thrones, up to and including the 5th book. So if you don’t want to know about character deaths, future alliances, or that crazy twist where Ser Pounce smothers King Tommen while he sleeps, do not click the more tag.
Silly Unsullied. Everyone knows it is Cersi that Ser Pounce smothers to death. At the King’s command no less. Cats who listen, now that is some fantasy.
Seriously though, if you have spent any time at all researching the realm where ASOIAF takes place, you no doubt ran into many theories on future story lines, ranging from out there (Roose is a vampire, Varys is a merman), to pretty tin foil-y (Tyrion is a secret Targaryen bastard), to accepted as gospel truth by the majority(Jon Snow is the child of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned’s sister, Lyanna Stark.) We have Northern conspiracies, Tyrell conspiracies, the conspiracies have conspiracies. Give a rabid fan base the time and watch them try to figure out where G.R.R.M is taking the story. It is fascinating.
The television show has already killed one fan theory; murdered it with a dagger to an unborn baby. Robb Stark’s wife in the novels, Jeyne Westerling, was not at the Red Wedding and is still alive in the book universe. Fans pointed to a difference between Catelyn’s and Jaime’s descriptions of Jeyne as evidence that she was pregnant with Robb Stark’s royal heir, and that the Blackfish and others loyal to the North were keeping her safe until the child was born. That was until Jeyne was replaced with Talisa in the show, Talisa was quite definitely made pregnant with Robb’s heir, and then Talisa’s womb was used as a dagger sheath by the Freys. Nothing quite says “Jeyne is not pregnant, move on.” like having her replacement got slaughtered.
And while everyone, I am sure, has something they are looking forward to in this seasons finale, there is also a fan theory that hangs in the balance Sunday night. This episode will see the end to Arya and Sandor’s traveling road show (I told you there would be spoilers) and much depends on how the show has them part ways.
(All future quotes are collected from The Golem and the Gravedigger, by ghostlovesinger at The Tower of the Hand.)
In the novels, Sandor is apparently dying from an infected wound. He can no longer keep going, and he asks Arya to give him the mercy of a quick death. Everyone’s favorite budding psychopath rolls her eyes, mutters “As if,” and skips off toward Braavos.
From A Storm of Swords, Arya XIII:
Arya stepped away from him. “You don’t deserve the gift of mercy.”
The Hound watched her saddle Craven through eyes bright with fever. Not once did he attempt to rise and stop her. But when she mounted, he said, “A real wolf would finish a wounded animal.”
Maybe some real wolves will find you, Arya thought. Maybe they’ll smell you when the sun goes down. Then he would learn what wolves did to dogs. “You shouldn’t have hit me with an axe,” she said. “You should have saved my mother.” She turned her horse and rode away from him, and never looked back once.
As of the end of the fifth book, that is the last time we see Sandor Clegane. Someone gets a hold of his helm and goes on a spree of terror, but the book is very clear that the person reaving under the Hound’s name is not Sandor. Sandor dies under the tree of his infected wound.
But….does Sandor die a physical death, or a spiritual death? And was that the last time we saw Sandor Clegane in the novels? Think of the Quiet Isles. Brienne learned that a Stark girl was with the Hound, assumed it was Sansa, and after hearing about the imposter Hound reaving and sacking, searched for Sandor. The quest lead her to the Quiet Isles where she learns his fate:
From A Feast For Crows, Brienne VI:
“There is one thing I do know, however. The man you hunt is dead.”
That was another shock. “How did he die?”
“By the sword, as he had lived.”
“You know this for a certainty?”
“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.
That is far from all the Elder Brother knows of Sandor, however, and he tells much to Brienne. The insight he has on Sandor suggests many honest, probing conversations with the man. Later, the Elder Brother talks of his own…death.
“When I died in the Battle of the Trident. I fought for Prince Rhaegar, though he never knew my name. I could not tell you why, save that the lord I served served a lord who served a lord who had decided to support the dragon rather than the stag. Had he decided elsewise, I might have been on the other side of the river. The battle was a bloody thing. The singers would have us believe it was all Rhaegar and Robert struggling in the stream for a woman both of them claimed to love, but I assure you, other men were fighting too, and I was one. 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 can still remember how desperate I was to find another horse, for I had no coin to buy one, and without a horse I would no longer be a knight. That was all that I was thinking of, if truth be told. 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.
“Instead I woke here, upon the Quiet Isle.”
So we see that when the Elder Brother says “death,” he isn’t always talking about actual “death.” Brienne sees Sandor’s warhorse in the stables, a horse notorious for being impossible to handle, except to the Hound himself. The Elder Brother admits that no one but the Hound can control the animal. So how did the horse get across the stepping stones to the island anyway? And who is that digging graves?
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.” The gravedigger lowered his head. When Dog went to sniff him he dropped his spade and scratched his ear.
“A novice,” explained Narbert.
Bigger than Brienne?!? Bigger than Brienne?! Seriously? And a dog lover as well? Hmmm.
The theory, for those that haven’t figured it out, is that the gravedigger, a novice member on the Quiet Isles, is Sandor “The Hound” Clegane. That the Brothers found him shortly after Arya abandoned him, and saved him from the brink of death. And then, like the Elder Brother, the old Hound part of Sandor died, and he became a silent monk on the Isles.
The second part of the theory, which you will find detailed in the linked post, involves the fate of The Mountain, Gregor Clegane, and the possibility that the two Clegane brothers will meet in combat in the future. I won’t go into that now, no need to throw spoilers around just for spoiler sake. Depending on the next episode, perhaps I will talk about the second part of this theory later.
Of course, one stick of a Needle and the show creators could nuke this theory as hard as Jeyne’s poor imagined baby bump. The show runners have the broad outline on how the story plays out, something confirmed by G.R.R.M. as an “in case I die before I finish, here’s what happens so you don’t get left hanging.” While some characters are dead in the show yet still alive in the books, it is a safe bet that none of them play a major role in the future of the series. There is no danger that they will kill the head of the third dragon without knowing it, because Martin told them who the heads are. They know if Sandor is the Gravedigger. The future of this theory hangs in the balance of the final episode.
You may be worried about Tyrion. I’m worried about Sandor. I love this theory, and I so hope it doesn’t suffer from a knife to the baby in the finale.