Weve seen her learn how to lie, how to fight and how to lead. More and more, Sansa looks like the ruler Game of Thrones needs.
Contains spoilers for season eight, episode one of Game of Thrones.
Do you remember your lessons? Who built the iron throne? And who built the red keep? And how many years did it take to build?
Sansa Stark has been dutifully learning her lessons since she was a girl. History, sewing, prayers, singing, horse riding. As a teenager in Winterfell and Kings Landing, we see her practicing her embroidery and reciting facts with her teacher, Septa Mordane. Her advice extends beyond the strictly curricular – Septa Mordane teaches Sansa how to live. Forgive your father. Remember where you come from. Do not open the door to anyone you dont know.
When Game of Thrones begins, Sansa is young, romantic, impulsive, and incredibly naïve. She is a largely obedient student, but her lessons have little urgency. Its only after her naivety and romanticism leads her into a chain of events that ends with the brutal, public execution of her father and her teacher that she is forced to learn how to survive the hard way. How to lie. How to run. How to hide. How to fight. How to lead.
By the time we get to this final season, the results of all Sansas years of learning are becoming evident. Its often remarked upon that Sansa is perhaps the most brutalised character in the whole series – despite some serious competition. Now, though she is only 20, she also seems like one of the most wise. In the first episode of season eight, “Winterfell”, the shows most respected characters are suddenly starting to realise her strength. “Many underestimated you,” Tyrion observes to Sansa. “Most of them are dead now.” “Shes the smartest person Ive ever met,” Arya says to Jon.
Perhaps it was Arya who predicted Sansas path. In season one, quoting her sword fighting instructor, Arya remarks cheerfully: “Every hurt is a lesson, and every lesson makes you better.” If hurts are lessons, Sansa is taught far more than most. First, theres her engagement to Joffrey, which teaches her that fairy tale romance is the stuff of fantasy, and that power breeds violence and cruelty, not benevolence and nobility. She learns how to bury her feelings under a veneer of compliance without extinguishing her desire for her freedom. Joffrey calls his many violences against her lessons (“Will you obey now?” he says after ordering a soldier to hit her. “Or do you need another lesson?”), but he does not realise that all he has taught her is resilience.
After her fathers death, Sansa trusts no one. She maintains a façade of loyalty to Joffrey around everyone – even those who try to help her. In Kings Landing and beyond, she learns the manipulative, Machiavellian operations of power, and how to survive and anticipate even the most sadistic game-playing from Cersei and Lord Baelish and Lord Bolton. “I learned a lot from her,” Sansa observes to Jon of Cersei. Sansa is often criticised for trusting Lord Baelish – but she never really did. She is suspicious of him from their very first meeting, she goes along with his plans not because she believes he is looking out for her, but because she has no other choice – relying on him to escape from Kings Landing, to hide from Lannister soldiers in the Eyrie, and to defeat the Boltons in the Battle of the Bastards. She knows when to call on him for help, and when to dispose of him. When she is finally safe, secure, and no longer needs him, she executes him. “Thank you for your many lessons, Lord Baelish,” she says as a farewell. “I will never forget them.” Sansa remembers her lessons.
Perhaps thats why shes starting to look like such a strong contender for the Iron Throne. Daenerys and Jon are more obvious choices: the books are called A Song of Ice and Fire, and both have been heavily signalled as the figures in which Ice and Fire meet – either as joint rulers, with the Mother of Dragons bringing the fire and the King in the North bringing the ice, or in Jon alone, thanks to his unique mix of Targaryen and Stark blood. But Sansa also looks like a mix of both ice and fire. In the books, her unusual Tulley colouring of red hair and blue eyes is repeatedly remarked upon: Sansa has “fire in [her] hair” – like all red-headed people in the series, she is thought to have been “kissed by fire”. And like her mother Catelyn, Sansa is a product of House Stark and House Tulley– a mixing of North and South, winter and summer, Winterfell and Riverrun, ice and fire.
But even if Daenerys and Jon have a stronger connection to the royal bloodline, the best claim to the throne is not necessarily the best head for the crown. Dany and Jon have both been propelled towards leadership – Dany by her single-minded belief in her own destiny to rule the Seven Kingdoms, Jon by his unwavering sense of morality and honesty, his desire to do whats right. Both have seemingly inherited these traits from their ancestors – though Dany has repeatedly insisted that she is not like her father, the Mad King Aerys Targaryen, they share far more similarities than they have differences – both are tempestuous, proud rulers with Messiah complexes, an unshakable belief in their own authority, a taste for incest, and willingness to murder anyone who opposes them. Jon, too, is built in the model of his adoptive father Ned Stark – he is noble, righteous, humble, honourable, and honest – to a fault. Theres a reason that Ned, for all his goodness, did not survive the first season of Thrones – but Jon still takes Neds conduct as a model for his own. Only Sansa seems truly willing to learn from her familys faults. “You have to be smarter than father,” she tells Jon. “You need to be smarter than Robb. I loved them, I miss them, but they made stupid mistakes, and they both lost their heads for it.”
Being treated like a pawn has given Sansa a comprehensive view of the entire chessboard. She has been embedded inside House Baratheon, House Lannister, House Tyrell, House Arryn, House Bolton, and each one has taught her somethingRead More – Source