Ned, Sansa, and Joffrey (Part III)


Previously, I looked at Ned’s decision to betroth Sansa to Joffrey and the fight at the Trident. 

After the fight and the hearing, Ned has plenty of indications of Joffrey’s character.  He has heard what happened from both girls – he should know Joffrey is violent and aggressive, he’s seen Joffrey lie, and he’s seen him smile when the order to kill Lady is given.  He’s also seen Sansa lie about not remembering – a pretty big indication that she was scared to go against Joffrey.  Plus, Joffrey’s mother had Sansa’s pet killed. 

Ned does nothing.  He doesn’t take any steps to end the betrothal, send Sansa back to Winterfell, or, as far as we can see, even talk to her about Joffrey.  For Sansa’s part, she knows that Ned was present for everything, and that he still intends for her to marry Joffrey. 

The next interaction between Joffrey and Sansa is at the feast during the Hand’s Tournament, and Sansa goes all in on talking herself out of her fears and into thinking she is in ‘love’ with Joffrey:

He had not said a word to her since the awful thing had happened, and she had not dared to speak to him. At first she had though she hated him for what they had done to Lady … But then she told herself that it had not been Joffrey’s doing, not truly …

Sansa looked at [Joffrey], and trembled, afraid that he might ignore her or, worse, turn hateful again and send her weeping from the table. Instead Joffrey smiled and kissed her hand, handsome and gallant as any prince in the songs … [Sansa’s] heart was singing.

From this point in, her worries about Joffrey cease to appear in her POV narrative.  We see her talking about the fight with Arya from her own POV, and she is repeating Joffrey’s version as if she believes it.  This is one of the first times in her narrative that we see her altering distressing past events (the Unkiss being another example).

In Sansa III, Ned informs Sansa that she and Arya are going back to Winterfell.  Although this is, for the second time in the book, a radical change for Sansa’s future, Ned tells her only: 

“I want you back in Winterfell for your own safety.  Three of my men were cut down like dogs not a league from where we sit, and what does Robert do?  He goes hunting.” 

When Sansa protests that she is to marry Joffrey, Ned says:

 “When you’re old enough, I will make you a match with a high lord who’s worthy of you, someone brave and gentle and strong.  This match with Joffrey was a terrible mistake.  That boy is no Prince Aemon, you must believe me.”

 Here, Ned echoes his initial reservations about the match – Sansa is too young, and Joffrey is what Joffrey is.  This is the first time we see Ned telling Sansa that the betrothal she has mentally committed to for months was a mistake – and he gives her no real reasons.    

We don’t know exactly how much time has passed, but Sansa was betrothed to Joffrey before Daenerys married Drogo, and there has been enough time for word of Dany’s pregnancy to have reached Westeros several chapters before.  Sansa is being told to abandon views she has committed to for months.  Rather than go with this new psychological whiplash, she argues and gives Ned the clue about Joffrey’s legitimacy.  He gets diverted and sends her away without further explanation.     

Even after being told she is going to leave, Sansa does not go to Cersei.  Time passes while Ned confronts Cersei and tries to organize to take over.  When the girls packed and are about to leave, Sansa asks to be able to say goodbye:

“If [Arya] can have a dancing lesson, why won’t you let me say farewell to Prince Joffrey?”

…“It would not be wise for you to go to Joffrey right now, Sansa.  I’m sorry. 

Sansa’s eyes filled with tears.  “But why?”

“Sansa, your lord father knows best,” Septa Mordane said.  “You are not to question his decisions.”

“It’s not fair!” Sansa pushed back from her table, knocked over her chair, and ran weeping from the solar. 

Septa Mordane rose, but Ned gestured her back to her seat.  “Let her go, Septa.  I will try to make her understand when we are all safely back in Winterfell.”

 This is the breaking point for Sansa: from the timing she must have gone to Cersei immediately after this conversation, since she is then until the fighting starts a few hours later.  After Sansa storms out, Ned goes to his solar.  He receives word of Robert’s death an hour later, and then goes from there to the council room, and then to the confrontation in the throne room.

When Sansa thinks about going to Cersei, she thinks:

She was the good girl, the obedient girl, but she had felt as wicked as Arya that morning, sneaking away from Septa Mordane, defying her lord father.  She had never done anything so wilful before, and she would never have done it then if she hadn’t loved Joffrey as much as she did.  “He was going to take me back to Winterfell and marry me to some hedge knight, even though it was Joff I wanted.  I told him, but he wouldn’t listen.”

Sansa goes to Cersei because she doesn’t understand the reasons for Ned’s actions and because she no longer trusts him to do the right thing for her. 

This is why I suggest that Sansa should bear very little, if any, blame for her actions both at the Trident and in going to Cersei.  Both are the direct result of decisions Ned makes about her without any regard for the consequences.  He repeatedly puts her into situations which are dangerous for her, and are far beyond her capability to deal with as an emotionally immature, sheltered, and dependent eleven-year-old.  Ned is the adult, he has all the power to control Sansa’s circumstances, and he has to shoulder the majority of the fault.

 Just to wrap things up, the question of why Ned has the attitude he does towards his eldest daughter can’t be definitely answered.  However, I think it may be the result of his history with his sister Lyanna.  In Arya II, he attributes Lyanna’s death to her wild nature, saying about the Stark ‘wolf blood:’

“Lyanna had a touch of it, and my brother Brandon more than a touch.  It brought them both to an early grave …”

…[Lyanna was] ‘beautiful, and wilful, and dead before her time.’

Sansa is Ned’s first daughter, and she was born just a couple of years of Lyanna’s death.  Like Lyanna, she is beautiful.  Ned allows her to be raised to be almost the complete opposite of his sister.  Lyanna was wild; Sansa is compliant, traditional, and tries to please others. Lyanna has reservations about her betrothal to Robert Baratheon; Sansa wholeheartly commits to her betrothal to Joffrey Baratheon.  However, in the end, Sansa does act ‘wilfully’ for reasons she doesn’t entirely understand, with equally disastrous consequences.