‘Game of Thrones’ 101: Tracing Sansa Stark’s Traumatic History

Sansa’s story has been one traumatic event after another, including the most controversial scene in the history of the show

Last Updated: April 23, 2016 @ 6:37 PM

In “Game of Thrones,” one of the common themes is the destruction of high fantasy. This is not a world of knights and their ladies fair. Those who believe in tales and high ideals get their naivete crushed in the most devastating way possible. Such is the fate that fell upon Sansa Stark.

At the start of the series, Sansa was the most naive character in the cast. She believed in her caretaker’s fairytales and hoped to one day be wed to a handsome knight. She loved being a lady, which caused her to lock horns constantly with her younger sister, Arya. She fell in love immediately with Prince Joffrey Lannister and was elated when she learned that she would be betrothed to him.

But that wide-eyed enthusiasm was quickly crushed.

Sansa didn’t see what a vile cretin Joffrey was until it was too late. Her father, Ned, was framed and accused of attempting to seize the throne for himself. Despite Sansa’s pleas and Ned’s confession to the false charges, Joffrey had Ned executed and mocked Sansa by forcing her to look at her father’s head on a spike.

It just got worse from there.

For much of the series, Sansa has been a pawn moved by the chess masters of Westeros. She was forced into one wedding after another and often relied on others to get out of predicaments. After watching Joffrey die of poison while being married to another woman, she escaped the Lannisters with the master manipulator Petyr Baelish, who had a hand in the deaths of both Ned and Joffrey.

In recent seasons, she began to gather some power for herself by learning how to manipulate others with words, but that didn’t save her from entering an abusive marriage with Ramsay Bolton. She agreed to the marriage with the hopes of bringing the Boltons under her control and reclaiming the Starks’ ancestral home, Winterfell, which Ramsay controlled.

Instead, in the most controversial scene in the show’s history, Ramsay raped Sansa while forcing his slave, Theon Greyjoy, to watch. The episode got intense backlash from fans and critics, who saw it as a sign that the show’s writers were using rape as a shock tactic and as a crutch for writing their female characters. It was also noted that Sansa did not rape or even marry Ramsay in George R.R. Martin‘s novels.

Despite this, Sansa ended Season 5 by making yet another attempt to take charge of her own destiny. She escaped Ramsay’s clutches with Theon by making a leap of faith off the ramparts of Winterfell and into a deep patch of snow.

Now on the run together, where will these two turn as they venture into the frigid North? We will find out when Season 6 gets underway on HBO on Sunday.

In the meantime, let’s look back at the parade of tragedy that forms the life of Sansa Stark, in the gallery below.

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