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Minor Season 7 Episode 1 spoilers, beware!

During the scene where the Brotherhood Without Banners are seeking shelter in an abandoned house, Sandor Clegane starts a discussion with Berric Dondarion about his resurrection, and what makes Berric so special that he gets resurrected.

He then follows up with this:

Sandor:
So why does the Lord of Light keep bringing you back?
I've met better men than you, and they've been hanged from crossbeams, or beheaded, or just shat themselves to death in a field somewhere.
None of them came back.

I remember two of the three men he references, I'm curious who the third is.

1. "Hanged from a crossbeam"

Brother Ray (played by Ian McShane), the ex-septon who started building the peaceful community that Sandor was a part of until it was wiped away and Brother Ray was hanged.

From Sandor's general reaction both when part of the commune and on discovering the massacre, you can see that Ray had a big impact on Sandor; he seemed to open up to the idea of a peaceful life and letting go of his bitterness.

2. "Beheaded"

Ned Stark.

When Ned was still alive, Sandor was still the Hound. He was Joffrey's bodyguard. Sadly, Sandor's "awakening" happened after Ned had already been murdered.
To clarify the awakening: it is the moment where he pushed away from being a Lannister puppet ("Fuck the king") and (in my eyes) stopped being the Hound and started being Sandor again.

Although Sandor isn't a proud man, he does stick to a moral code that is similar to Ned's. This is evidenced by offering to take Sansa away from King's Landing, actually saving her from being raped, burying the dead in the same scene that I am talking about, and also the "every fucking chicken in this room" scene a few seasons ago.
Sandor is much more crude than Ned would be, but their underlying ideal is the same: standing up to injustice and bullies.

Even if he did not directly observe Ned in King's Landing, he did spend a lot of time travelling with Arya. It took a while, but Arya grew on him. Arya's character is mostly based on Ned's (compared to Cat's). Arya lives by a similar code as Ned.
If Sandor respected Arya for who she was, he must by extension also connect with Ned's moral code.

3. "Shat themselves to death in a field somewhere"

I am not understanding who this is referring to. I considered the fact that shitting was not the cause of death, but rather the miserable circumstances of their death (e.g. bowel release after being poisoned, or even just figuratively shitting themselves in fear).

However, I can't think of anyone who Sandor would look up to who died such a death.

Who is being referenced here?


Edit As per the comments below.

People have argued that Sandor's statement uses the plural ("crossbeams", "themselves"), therefore not referencing specific people.

However, I think that is a much too literal reading of the quote. Sandor was not trying to be factually accurate to Berric. He wasn't talking about the three better men; he was merely listing ways in which he has seen better men die.
As far as his intended message to Berric is considered, he did indeed mean that there are many better men, and he merely listed some (miserable) ways in which he had seen them die.

But that does not necessarily mean that the list of examples he draws from isn't from personal memory! It does not stand to reason that Sandor would be inventing ways that better men could die. His phrasing inherently implies that the examples he gives are things he experienced (although it does not necessarily state that he was present when they died, only that he has met these men and knows how they died).

I'm not saying there is definitely a specific person who is referenced, but I do not think that the pluralization is reason enough (by itself) to discard the possibility that it references someone we know (of).

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    As he uses the plural: shat themselves, I just assume he was talking about any number of people who died in war or any other battle. Shat themselves could just be a reference to the fear of dying in battle. I don't put this as an answer because its just my humble interpretation. – LeonX Jul 18 '17 at 13:06
  • @LeonFreire: He also pluralizes crossbeams, but he seems to be referencing Brother Ray directly. Furthermore, Sandor isn't particularly known for his eloquence or grammatical correctness. I don't think you can argue the semantics of his statement to such detail. As to the context of his statement to Berric, it also doesn't really matter that he is referencing one person per method of dying. Factual accuracy was not his goal, but the references he makes seem to hint that he is referencing actual events from his past. – Flater Jul 18 '17 at 13:09
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    @Flater The thing is, he is pluralizing the whole sentence. He could be referencing any number of people (the minimum of three). The first two could be more memorable people for him, but the third one could just be any number of people dead in war. As he says "JUST shat themselves". – LeonX Jul 18 '17 at 13:12
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More likely it's a reference to dysentery, which quite literally caused people to have "shat themselves to death" and was a huge problem not only in the real-life Middle Ages but also in books Game of Thrones is based on, where it is called "the bloody flux" (or in Essos after a particularly bad outbreak, "The Pale Mare") and is greatly feared:

Tyrion felt a pang of rage. "You fucking son of a pox-ridden ass," he spat. "I hope you die of a bloody flux."

A Game of Thrones - Tyrion V

As well as fitting the Game of Thrones tradition of showing a realistically grim fantasy version of the Middle Ages full of unpleasant but historically appropriate details, people crapping themselves to death is a big deal in the books and so referencing undignified deaths from dysentery like this is one of the many passing nods the show makes to details from the books.

"...Soon after came the sickness, a bloody flux that killed three men of every four..."

...Ser Barristan frowned. "Your Grace, I have known the bloody flux to destroy whole armies when left to spread unchecked... The bloody flux has been the bane of every army since the Dawn Age..."

A Dance with Dragons - Daenerys V

In the books:

  • Ironically, it might be one of the many ways Beric himself died:

    They [Lannister torturers in Harrenhal] learned that Lord Beric had ten starvelings with him, or else a hundred mounted knights; that he had ridden west, or north, or south; that he had crossed the lake in a boat; that he was strong as an aurochs or weak from the bloody flux...

    A Clash of Kings - Arya VI

  • I think Beric is the closest we come to a named character in Westeros dying of it, though it's often talked about, mostly as something that effects the commoners. For example, there's an outbreak in the slums of King's Landing, and Jaime and Brienne meet an innkeep in the riverlands whose son died of it:

    We had two sons, but the lions killed one and the other died of the flux

    A Storm of Swords - Jaime II

  • Good Man #1 Ser Davos also has a similar near-miss when he is washed up on the shore after the Battle of the Blackwater:

    His ordeal had weakened him. If he stood too long his legs shook, and sometimes he fell prey to uncontrollable fits of coughing and brought up gobs of bloody phlegm. It is nothing, he told himself. Surely the gods did not bring me safe through fire and sea only to kill me with a flux.

    A Storm of Swords - Davos II

  • There's a lot of people crapping themselves to death in a major book-only plotline:

    Dany accidentally causes/contributes to a huge dysentery pandemic that sweeps across Slaver's Bay, causing thousands of the good people she liberated to crap themselves to death

  • This is then followed by a dramatic scene where...

    ...it really, really looks like Dany has caught it herself and that her entire storyline might literally end with her shitting herself to death in a field

Credit to A Search Of Ice And Fire for helping me find the quotes.


In real life:

It's also a reference that people familiar with comparable real-life history will recognise. Some examples from Wikipedia's "notable cases" list:

  • King Henry V of England, whose shitting himself to death in 1422 was an important event in the build-up to the War of The Roses (which the War of the Five Kings is loosely based on)
  • King John of England in 1216, the real-life version of the king Robin Hood is supposed to have crossed paths with
  • Erasmus in 1536 - an undignified end for a much-loved scholar
  • Sir Francis Drake in 1596, a famous seafarer (or pirate, depending on who you ask) who was one of the first sea captains to sail around the world and played a major part in defeating the Spanish Armada. Before shitting himself to death.

So who was it who shat themselves to death?

Whoops, I haven't answered the question yet...

The nice thing about this line is it alludes to three very different types of good people who suffer and are forsaken by the gods, in a way that tells us something about how Sandor's character is evolving:

  • The hanged: People like his friend the septon. Most times we've seen people hanged, it's been innocent victims of marauding pillagers (e.g. the women Brienne cut down and buried). It brings to mind the people trying to live their lives being deliberately preyed on by the monsters that awaken when you put a sword in a man's hand.
  • The beheaded: People like Ned, who Sandor seemed to respect judging by amongst other things his empathic reaction to Joffrey tormenting Sansa with Ned's head. Most times we've seen people beheaded, they've been victims of politics and the ambitions of the powerful (sometimes their own).
  • The shat: The thousands of anonymous people killed simply by the deprivation of a war-torn land. People so lowly in power and poverty we haven't even seen them on screen except as emfeebled extras huddled in the background. It contrasts sharply with the Neds of the world, and it tells us a lot that Sandor isn't just one of the few who even cares to think about these people, he's wondering why the gods too forsake them

It would make perfect sense if Sandor was thinking of some decent, respect-worthy commoner of such modest means they didn't get a name or screen time. Someone like the anonymous innkeeper's son from the books.

Someone similar to the too-trusting farmer and his daughter who Sandor robbed and left to starve and whose house they are now in - but the visibly shaken reformed Sandor can't quite bring himself to reference that directly. If he'd said "or starved in a corner", Beric might say "Like the bodies we found?" and notice how uncomfortable the question makes him. Best not go there. Wait until after dark to bury the bodies, hopefully the others will be asleep and won't ask any difficult questions.

  • And here comes an answer filled with sources from the books! :D – Deepak Kamat Jul 18 '17 at 18:28
  • Excellent answer, just what I was looking for :) – Flater Jul 18 '17 at 18:29
  • Another excellent answer mate. Good sources, well reasoned and brilliantly formatted. – Möoz Jul 18 '17 at 22:47
  • George RR Martin has made a point of showing the gritty reality that people faced in the middle ages: militaryhistorynow.com/2016/03/02/… – JFA Jul 19 '17 at 17:05
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    You've just made me realise, Berric was also hung, and I believe beheaded? .... could he of been all 3? – djsmiley2k Jul 19 '17 at 20:51
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One addition to CyberClaw answer :

He might be talking about the farmer who took him and Arya in when they were on the road.

Yes, Sandor beat him for a bag of silver but it doesn't mean he did not see that generous farmer as a "better man". He merely thought better men like the farmer don't get to live long and bad men like himself make better use of those silvers.

The farmer did die in a field somewhere (because Sandor has probably no clue where the farm was) and as CyberClaw said "people soiling themselves as they die is common."


I found that famine (which the farmer and his daughter were condemned to) has the following effect:

This is one of the causes of the intractable diarrhoea, which is found in so many famine victims.
(source)

Even if you don't believe the Hound doesn't know where to put the farm on a map he might have said somewhere just because he couldn't say in this very field which fits perfectly the "shat themselves to death in a field somewhere".

The farmer was a good man who due to famine was subject to diarrhea in a field which location the hound probably doesn't know the name of and died because of it.

  • Good point about the farmer being a better man. If Sandor retroactively sees Ned as a better man now (according to my own interpretation), then it stands to reason that he feels the same about the man who took him in. – Flater Jul 18 '17 at 14:36
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    I think he's always seen them as better men. He just thought it was a foolish and naive way to live and most likely die. – Liquid Same Jul 18 '17 at 15:23
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    I would argue that it is a matter of Sandor's changed perspective between then and now, rather than having held both opinions at the same time. Also, minor note: you said he killed the man for his silver, but it's part of the story in the last episode that they probably killed themselves because they were starving. He may have killed them figuratively (by stealing their money), but not literally. – Flater Jul 18 '17 at 15:30
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    "Because Sandor has probably no clue where the farm was" - ummm, no. When he asked Berric the question they were in that farm house. The dead bodies of the farmer and the little girl in the corner of the house were that farmer and his daughter. That's why the Hound didn't want to go in there (before he knew they were dead), said he "didn't like" how it felt, and how he was definitive that they didn't have ale and wouldn't want them there. That's why he buried their bodies, that's why he said "not really" (instead of "no") when asked if he knew them. – PoloHoleSet Jul 18 '17 at 17:10
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    @Flater to be honest, the scene with the beating was shown at the start of the episode in the "previously on" recap. – JAD Jul 19 '17 at 7:43
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People soiling themselves as they die is common.

So we only need to see what deaths Sandor was present at, and if they match. I can only think of Mycah, the butcher's boy. He was male, and it was in a field, but, I don't think he'd call him a better man due to his young age.

But here is the thing, the way he talks "shat themselves in a field somewhere" makes it sound like he didn't know the exact location, which points to deaths he was not present for, or just probable deaths from his perspective.

He might not know if Arya survived, and odds are, a girl so young met her untimely end when left alone. Although she is a girl so it doesn't fit the "man" part.

He might be referring to the rightful heir to the throne, Stannis Baratheon who died at the end of Brienne's sword in a field after losing a battle.

He might know of Jon Snow's death as commander of the night's watch.

He might have heard of the mutiny against Jeor Mormont.

He might have heard of Barristan Selmy's demise. He knew him while serving the king.

Tywin Lannister was killed in the privy while shitting, but not on a field.

Maybe he was referring to the Viper. Since it'd be connected to him in a way. He'd be rooting for his victory against his brother after all.

It's hard to tell exactly who he meant, even if anyone in particular or someone's death we witnessed.

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    Sandor would not look up to Tywin; he specifically detached himself from the Lannisters. The others predominantly did not die in a field, Sandor did not look up to them (e.g. Mycah), or he hasn't heard of their deaths (Jon Snow) as he has lived his recent life mostly shying away from society. However, your argument for "somewhere" does make sense. I'm awaiting other possible answers but will accept this as the answer if no references are found. – Flater Jul 18 '17 at 14:19
  • I guess Tywin was a stretch, but he can be seen as a better man in the right light. I did try to list everyone even slightly good, because there might be some reference I'm missing. – CyberClaw Jul 18 '17 at 14:21
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I believe this is actually part of the importance of this particular scene to the development of Clegane's character.

While the first two deaths referenced are easy to pin to specific persons (Brother Ray and Ned Stark, respectively), the third seems as though it is a reference to an unnamed soldier (or possibly more than one, although based on the previous references I suspect Clegane, at least, has a particular soldier in mind) alongside whom he once fought (who, as mentioned by others, would have died of dysentery, based on the description).

This tells us that the Hound is capable of recognizing goodness not only in holy men and powerful men, but in base, common men that we the audience would not even be expected to notice in the background, and who likely only displayed their character in small, relatively insignificant ways (i.e., smaller ways than being a just and fair lord or leading a group of strangers in the ways of peace).

  • Good point. That point would also be supported by burying the people (who he had even robbed in the past), another case of him recognizing that even common people can be good, and deserve better than what they get. – Flater Jul 18 '17 at 18:18
  • He could mean even those common men are better men than Berric; an exaggerated comparison like "I've met beggars richer than you". In fact his tone of voice when he says that part suggests this is the case. So I don't think we can conclude from this quote that he has a high view of common men (necessarily). – Arthur Tacca Jul 19 '17 at 10:58
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You're assuming that he's thinking about specific people. This isn't necessarily true.

Remember that this is a brutal, violent world. For "beheaded", I'm sure you're thinking of Ned Stark; but it could just as well apply to Robb, Rickard Karstark or Rodrick Kassel. Executions happen all the time, whether for actual crimes or simply for being on the losing side. So the Hound will have seen any number of commoners hanged, and a fair number of nobles beheaded.

As for "shat themselves to death in a field", even if we assume he's talking literally, this is a world without any particular medical knowledge and there are plenty of diseases which would cause that - typhoid or cholera, for example. It's quite likely he's talking metaphorically though and simply referring to people dying on the battlefield.

Does Clegane think any particular person is better than Dondarrion? Most probably not, but Clegane doesn't really respect people anyway. He shows that lack of respect by comparing Dondarrion to executed criminals and plague victims. And Dondarrion himself wonders the same thing - why he is any different.

  • "I'm sure you're thinking of Ned Stark; but it could just as well apply to Robb, Rickard Karstark or Rodrick Kassel." There is little to no reason for Sandor to think of any of them as better men (I don't know Kassel, but the others would not apply from Sandor's perspective). Also, I do think that the first example directly related to Brother Ray, even if the second doesn't relate to Ned. Ray's death, which clearly affected him, is too fresh in his memory to be a coincidence, since he was literally a good man hung from a crossbeam. – Flater Jul 18 '17 at 18:11
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    "Does Clegane think any particular person is better than Dondarrion?" He literally says that he has met better men, so for the context of his statement, he is claiming that specific people (that he knows of) are better than Dondarrion (in regards to deserving to be resurrected). "Most probably not, but Clegane doesn't really respect people anyway." In the continuation of the scene I mention, he buries the two people and even goes to the trouble of (trying to) deliver a eulogy. I'm not saying it's his default behavior, but it clearly shows he is both capable of it and intent on doing so. – Flater Jul 18 '17 at 18:12
  • @Flater You're assuming he's claiming that specific people are better than Dondarrion. That's an assumption which the OP made too. I'm pointing out that this is not necessarily the case, and you could just as well interpret this as Clegane's usual disrespect to those around him. – Graham Jul 19 '17 at 10:28
  • @Flater As for respect, Clegane is a properly fleshed-out character with his own drives. I'm not honestly sure you can say he respects anyone - he's seen and experienced too much for that. But he does care about people, and he hides that affection (and need for affection) under a layer of brusqueness to those few people he cares about. – Graham Jul 19 '17 at 10:31
  • I am the OP :) Also, while you can argue about the third (and possible second) option, the "hanged from a crossbeam" so aptly describes Brother Ray, an unfair murder of a really good man that is fresh in Sandor's memory; that I don't think you can argue that this is mere coincidence. Also, the fact that Sandor says that there are better men seems to prove his ability to respect others. Respect can also be seen from his interactions with Brother Ray, as Ray managed to get Sandor to let go of his bitterness (well, we saw a first step on that road at least, until Ray was murdered) – Flater Jul 19 '17 at 11:02
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Is it possible that he was referring to himself? We can logically assume he didn't die after his battle with Brienne, but we know he was very near death. He probably should have died and if he had, the Lord of Light wouldn't have brought him back... right?

As he laid on the stone in that field, he was unable to move for any reason, including bodily function. He would have sat with that stench interrupting his thoughts as he looked over the field dying, humiliated. Did he deserve that? Perhaps, he recognized that he had done terrible things, but had also done some good things as well. Maybe he was saying, "So why does the Lord of Light keep bringing you back? Brother Ray was better than you. Ned Stark was better than you. Hell, I'm better than you. If I had actually died, would he have brought me back?". He is trying to understand why and what earns you that right...

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    There is no justification for Sandor to think he is a better man than Dondarrion. He doesn't even remotely think of himself as a good man (remember that he's specifically talking better men who are worthy to resurrect). Sandor's low self esteem is a major factor in his personality. – Flater Jul 19 '17 at 7:14
  • This does not provide an answer to the question. Once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post; instead, provide answers that don't require clarification from the asker. - From Review – Luciano Jul 19 '17 at 8:53
  • @Luciano: As much as I disagree with the answer itself, this does attempt to provide an answer. "Who is the third man he's referring to?" "It could be referring to himself". Or is it because he phrased his answer as a question because he isn't conclusively sure either? Given the nature of the question, which asks for interpretation, that seems acceptable... – Flater Jul 19 '17 at 11:50
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Guy your missing it. Mycah was kill somewhere in a field, he shat himself for sure "my saddle stank for weeks". (When arya leaves him to die). In this scene you see he has remorse for killing the boy because he knows it truely hurt arya. This is the point where he begins to think of other besides himself. The boy was not ned or ray, not a great man but if that boy would have come back to life he would probably would have said "fuck the kings son" and everthing could be better in that world.

  • Mycah had no control over the world whatsoever. "he would probably would have said "fuck the kings son"" That is an unfounded assumption. "and everthing could be better in that world." That is a wildly unfounded claim. Mycah was an insignificant character as to the global picture (even though he meant something to Arya on a personal level) – Flater Jul 19 '17 at 11:10

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