Sandor Clegane was a normal boy once, before his brother savagely burnt his face. Sandor was scarred by his brother because he was simply playing with Gregor’s toys. Their own father hid Gregor’s savagery by blaming the facial scars on burnt bedding. Since that day Sandor’s only friends were sword, and drink.
When we first meet Sandor, he has earned the moniker “The Hound” and is Joffrey’s loyal bodyguard. We see him serve Joffrey loyally, cutting down poor Mycah and showing no signs of remorse. He is called The Hound because he always listens to his masters, like a loyal dog. He continues to be an ominous presence in the series until the second season when he becomes a more fleshed out character. He is Sansa Stark’s only friend on the Kingsguard, the one who looks out for her, and keeps her out of danger. When the riot of King’s Landing begins he is the one who saves Sansa. The Hound causes Sansa to change how she views the world; his very existence questions the songs and fairy tales of her youth. The grotesque man is oftentimes the villain in childhood stories, and the knight is the one who saves the day. Sansa dreams of a knight who will come to save her from Joffrey’s cruel wrath, but Sandor is the one who keeps her safe, and he is a man that despises the hypocrisy of knighthood.
During the battle of Blackwater, Sandor Clegane flees the battlefield and King’s Landing, loudly declaring “fuck the king”. This by many is seen as an act of cowardice, but how could they comprehend the horror Sandor see’s when he looks into the burning bay? This marks the first time in the Hound’s history where he stops being someone else’s pet, and becomes his own man. We see him speak his mind more openly with a candor, and honesty that would make Tyrion blush. His new found freedom is short lived however, as he is captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners. In a fearsome fight the Hound yet again wins his freedom slaying Beric Dondarrion, and eventually kidnapping Arya Stark with the intention to ransom her to Catelyn at Riverrun.
This is where we see the biggest change in Sandor’s character. While travelling with Arya we see him truly start to care for her. The Hound even goes so far as telling Brienne in the final episode of Season 4, that he is the person who should be looking after Arya. Clegane is not kind to Arya, but he does teach her about the harsh realities of Westeros. Sandor knows the true nature of the horrors that can befall a person if they aren’t raised to be strong. This is a one-sided relationship as Arya is still intent on killing him due to Clegane slaying her friend Mycah. Whether she knows it or not, The Hound became her father figure. Where Eddard Stark taught her honor, Sandor Clegane taught her survival.
In many ways, The Hound and Tyrion are two sides of the same coin. They are both seen as deformities in their families, and are disliked by the common folk. The big difference is how they deal with being the outcast. Tyrion – due to having the name of Lannister – is able to use his house and coin to give him a more comfortable life. He puts all of his time into books, gaining knowledge to make his intelligence a compensation for his looks. The Hound deals with being an outcast through anger. Unable to have a life of luxury he puts all of his time into the sword, becoming one of Westeros’ most dangerous fighters. Tyrion is able to speak his mind because he is part of a rich, and powerful house, while The Hound must obey, keeping his opinions to himself. When The Hound tells Tyrion to “watch his mouth” it may be less of a threat, and more of a warning, he knows how the deformed are punished. Tyrion and The Hound are also bizarre sides of the same coin when it comes to protecting Sansa. Whilst under Joffrey’s reign both characters do what they can to stop Sansa from being beaten. Tyrion’s help is more showy and obvious, which merits him the credit in the eyes of the viewer. The Hound’s assistance is more subtle – backing up her story, or advising Joffrey to heed her advice. It’s Tyrion’s more likable personality that gives him the stronger fanbase, whilst in reality The Hound does just as much.
Overall, The Hound is a man of honesty and integrity. He channels his anger and fear into his fighting style. He has a better view and understanding of Westeros than any lord or lady. Sandor Clegane may not be appreciated by Westeros, but he should be loved by fans. Let’s just hope there’s a wandering maester somewhere in the Eyrie who will save this tragic swordsman.