Games of Thrones' The Hound: A Broken Man & Strangely Beloved Character Returns
A Broken Man Returns
A small group of rural villagers work on building some sort of structure. The structure seems to be the inner framework of what is soon to be a large wooden church. Workers struggle to carry logs across the grass of a green landscape. Several men have a hard time holding onto the logs. One man - a large man - struggles to carry a huge log. Out of breath, he drops his burden, gasps for breath, and turns to the camera. We see him. The Hound has returned to Game of Thrones.
The following is a follow-up sequel of sorts to my older HUB A Dogs' Life Brings Death: The Tortured Soul of the Hound.
Fans of George R.R. Martin's work now he is very direct in his prose. Characters that meet their end do so in the most final of fashion. Serious readers of the Song of Ice and Fire books and watchers of the Game of Thrones television show knew full well Sandor Clegane, The Hound, was doubtfully deceased. He was alive, but dying when last we saw of him. (Or read about him) In the books, it is mentioned he was buried. We never saw the body or the burial. There was just much too much ambiguity about his "passing". All of that points to a return of the character at some point. How the events are slated to play out in the books won't be revealed for some time. On television, we can watch the events unfold in season six.
The episode "A Broken Man" featured the live-action return of The Hound. And what a brilliant and poignant return it was.
A Renewed Life And Purpose For The Hound
"In all my days, I never seen a man swing an axe like that." So says Brother Ray (Ian McShane) when he watches The Hound (Rory McCann) violently chop wood and get his aggression out of his system. The Hound no longer kills. He lives in the commune of Brother Ray, a man who also gave up killing. Brother Ray saved The Hound from his near death experience and gave him a new life. "Hate" is the reason The Hound believes he survived. He lived his whole life to kill his brother Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane, and he would not die unless he found a means to do so.
Brother Ray is a reformed killer. A soldier (possibly a soldier of fortune) who saw the error of his ways and now has become a religious man. He wants to save The Hound's soul, but the Hound has no time or belief in god (or gods). A philosophical discussion between the two characters takes place about The Hound's place in the plans of the gods.
The Hound - "If the gods are real, why haven't they punished me?"
Brother Ray - "They have."
They have. The terrible life of Sandor Clegane is punishment in and of itself. A horrible life is the life of The Hound. His only purpose in life is to commit vicious, vindictive violence. What kind of life is that? None of any worth.
Brother Ray knows this for he lived a life very similar to the one of The Hound. The Hound feels a connection to Brother Ray, a "brother" in the religious sense and, to The Hound, one in a religious sense as well. There is a strange sense of peace The Hound finds in this commune.
When The Hound listens to the sermon of Brother Ray, a sermon focusing on his violent and evil life. Like The Hound when he killed The Butcher's boy, Brother Ray once murdered an innocent child as well. Brother Ray and The Hound have much (sadly) in common.
The Hound knows that life and feels a kinship. For one time in his life, The Hound sees there is another way, another path. A violent man became a good man who serves a purpose to his community. The Hound now sees a path exists for him. Brother Ray has shown him the way.
And then reality arrived in its typical violent way. It arrives in the night, a dark night, "full of terrors".
Anti-Heroes Shedding The Violent Life
A common theme in found in works of fiction focusing on anti-heroes or tragic characters is the violent man wishes to a peaceful life. Self-loathing exists in a character forced to shed his humanity to become a killer. Later in life, the violent man looks for meaning. Guilt and shame overwhelm him. Violence is no longer something the character wants to experience (or commit) in life. A turn of the page occurs and a new, peaceful life commences. It's always a short-lived one.
The character's true nature - and true path in life - is a violent one. That is the only life the character can live regardless of the continually awful consequences.
Giving up the path of violence is not easy when violence exists in all it forms everywhere. Finding peace is next to impossible when violence seeks out those wishing for peace. The Hound soon learns this.
(Read About Archetypes in Game of Thrones)
A History of Violence Resurrected
The Brotherhood Without Banners, a brutal roving band of extorting murders come on the scene. They ominously threaten to raid the camp if protection money is not paid. Brother Ray won't pay protection. Nor will he fight. Nor can his villagers fight.
Brother Ray - "Violence is a disease. You don't cure disease by spreading it to other people."
The Hound - "You don't cure it by dying, either."
The Hound travels deep into the wood to chop firewood for the people of the commune. He returns after hours of hard and self-less work....only to find his new family has been slaughtered. His friend, Brother Ray, has been lynched from the church he built.
The Hound sees the axe he used to chop wood, an axe reflective of his new, serene life. And he picks it up to seek revenge...and go back to his old life.