This essay is also available as a video on my youtube channel. Click here to watch the video, fellow moderator bookshelfstud reads the quotes with his smooth vocal tones.
In my previous Essay “How Brienne the Beauty became Pretty”, I discussed how potentially GRRM recycled his abandoned future for Brienne of Tarth into the captain of the Windblown, Pretty Meris. Here today, I bring you another captain of the Windblown and unmask their true identity. This captain’s name is Caggo, the Corpsekiller. And Caggo is a dog.
As discussed previously, GRRM is a collector and tends to hoard his favorite ideas for years at a time. He dreamed of a dark, brutal future for Brienne after the Five Year Gap, but when that idea was scrapped, Brienne’s future was repurposed into Pretty Meris. After looking closer, I believe her fellow Windblown member received the same treatment. We should expect to see similar connections for Caggo’s doppleganger as well.
Let’s look first at Caggo’s appearance. First we see his face
The Corpsekiller was garbed as a Brazen Beast, his seamed, scarred face hidden behind a cobra mask, but the familiar black arakh slung at his hip gave him away.
– A Dance with Dragons The Dragontamer
A face “scarred” and “seamed”. Interesting.
Next we learn of his enormous size and fierce temper:
Denzo D’han was there as well, with Caggo huge beside him. Caggo Corpsekiller the men were calling him now, though not to his face; he was quick to anger, and that curved black sword of his was as nasty as its owner.
– A Dance with Dragons The Windblown
A huge man with a scarred face, and a quick temper. There are very few characters besides the Clegane brothers that resemble that description in ASOIAF. However: only Sandor has the facial scars.
Caggo is also known for his cruelty – he stole and then killed a slave from fellow Windblown Ser Lucifer Long.
Ser Lucifer is still seething about that slave girl Caggo took from him.”
“He could have given her back when he’d had her,” Lucifer Long complained. “He had no cause to kill her.”
“She was ugly,” said Caggo. “That’s cause enough.”
– A Dance with Dragons – The Windblown
A man without honor or pity. Even stole a slave from Lucifer himself! Caggo clearly lacks any kind of empathy for others. He kills at will and lets death roll off his huge shoulders like water. With these descriptions, who else looms larger in your mind than the Clegane brothers?
While Caggo is Dothraki, this is less of a problem than you’d think. Pretty Meris is very similar to Brienne physically but not identical. Brienne is taller, their eye colors are different, Meris is noticeably older than Brienne. These small touches make the connections easily brushed off by readers, much like turning the very distinctive Sandor into a Dothraki with a valyrian steel arakh. Your eyes are drawn towards the shiny bit of metal and away from the Clegane holding it.
A huge man, scarred face, disregard for human life, quick temper. When I hear that description I think Sandor Clegane with his burned face, body count (including the murder of Arya’s friend Mycah), and the quick temper of an angry dog.
Caggo and Sandor also both have equally enormous warhorses.
Caggo was the one who finally cut him down, fighting through the king’s protectors on his monstrous warhorse and opening Cleon the Great from shoulder to hip with one blow of his curved Valyrian arakh.
– A Dance with Dragons – The Windblown
The Hound died there, in my arms. You may have seen a big black stallion in our stables. That was his warhorse, Stranger. A blasphemous name. –
A Feast for Crows – Brienne VI
As to Caggo’s behavior, there’s a connection between the ugly slave girl Caggo killed and Arya Stark. In ADWD, one of the alternate identities Arya takes up in service of the House of Black and White, is a ugly little girl.
An ugly girl should dress in ugly clothing, she decided, so she chose a stained brown cloak fraying at the hem, a musty green tunic smelling of fish, and a pair of heavy boots. Last of all she palmed her finger knife.
– A Dance with Dragons – The Ugly Little Girl
There’s also Caggo’s curious nickname the “Corpsekiller”. Caggo picked up the title in the Sack of Astapor after cutting King Cleon in half. Unfortunately for Caggo’s pride, Cleon was already long dead.
Caggo was the one who finally cut him down, fighting through the king’s protectors on his monstrous warhorse and opening Cleon the Great from shoulder to hip with one blow of his curved Valyrian arakh. Frog did not see it, but those who did claimed Cleon’s copper armor rent like silk, and from within came an awful stench and a hundred wriggling grave worms. Cleon had been dead after all. The desperate Astapori had pulled him from his tomb, clapped him into armor, and tied him onto a horse in hopes of giving heart to their Unsullied.
– A Dance with Dragons – The Windblown
The rest of the Windblown refer to him as “Corpsekiller” afterwards, although not within his hearing. Sandor Clegane has also killed a corpse as well: the fire wight Lord Beric Dondarrion.
the Hound’s cold steel plowed into Lord Beric’s flesh where his shoulder joined his neck and clove him clean down to the breastbone. The blood came rushing out in a hot black gush.
Lord Beric’s knees folded slowly, as if for prayer. When his mouth opened only blood came out. The Hound’s sword was still in him as he toppled face forward.
– A Storm of Swords – Arya VI
With the recent revelation that fire wights like Beric no longer count as living from George R.R. Martin
And poor Beric Dondarrion, who was set up as the foreshadowing of all this, every time he’s a little less Beric. His memories are fading, he’s got all these scars, he’s becoming more and more physically hideous, because he’s not a living human being anymore. His heart isn’t beating, his blood isn’t flowing in his veins, he’s a wight, but a wight animated by fire instead of by ice, now we’re getting back to the whole fire and ice thing.
Blood does not pump in their veins, Sandor has also killed a corpse. And although my own Cleganebowl hype levels are tragically low, many think that Sandor will fight his undead brother Gregor again. Should Sandor topple Qyburn’s champion that used to be Gregor, Sandor will again be the killer of a corpse.
When Caggo killed King Cleon, he also echoed his counterpart in a different way. Before Cleon was king of Astapoor, he was the favorite butcher of Grazdan the Great. After Dany left Astapoor, Cleon led a rebellion and became the “Butcher King”. And then Caggo cut the Butcher King in half. Sandor also has cut a butcher in half, although not a full grown one. Mycah, Arya’s friend, the Butcher’s Boy.
There was something slung over the back of his destrier, a heavy shape wrapped in a bloody cloak. “No sign of your daughter, Hand,” the Hound rasped down, “but the day was not wholly wasted. We got her little pet.” He reached back and shoved the burden off, and it fell with a thump in front of Ned.
Bending, Ned pulled back the cloak, dreading the words he would have to find for Arya, but it was not Nymeria after all. It was the butcher’s boy, Mycah, his body covered in dried blood. He had been cut almost in half from shoulder to waist by some terrible blow struck from above.
– A Game of Thrones Eddard III
Nearly the same kind of wound given to both “butchers” by Sandor and Caggo from horseback. And although Cleon was a king, in truth he was a slave before his self-appointed crowning placing him in a similar social class as Mycah. As well the killing of Cleon and Mycah follow our dogs around like a chain around their necks. Caggo is lampooned by the Windblown for his amazing defeat of the dead Cleon. Sandor’s murder of Mycah haunts him personally and in the form of Arya Stark who nearly gets him executed by the Brotherhood without Banners. In addition, Sandor refers to himself as a butcher.
“I killed my first man at twelve. I’ve lost count of how many I’ve killed since then. High lords with old names, fat rich men dressed in velvet, knights puffed up like bladders with their honors, yes, and women and children too—they’re all meat, and I’m the butcher. Let them have their lands and their gods and their gold. Let them have their sers.” Sandor Clegane spat at her feet to show what he thought of that. “So long as I have this,” he said, lifting the sword from her throat, “there’s no man on earth I need fear.”
– A Clash of Kings Sansa IV
What this means for our big loveable dog is that much like Brienne, George had interesting plans in store for him. The story he gave Sandor in Feastdance is a path of redemption through peace, becoming a gravedigger on the Quiet Isle. As far as we know, he learned to live with his pain and forget the hatred of his assumed dead brother. Post Five Year Gap Sandor would’ve gotten no such peace.
From the name Corpsekiller we can infer that perhaps during those five years Cleganebowl takes place in some fashion, but doesn’t satiate Sandor’s rage. Although Sandor focuses much of his hatred on his older brother, killing Gregor won’t solve all of the Hound’s issues. His problems are deep rooted, starting with the brutal treatment from his older brother as a child and forming a negative pattern of behavior that Sandor leans on for survival. And from that, Caggo is born. A Sandor whose rage and hatred weren’t sated by vengeance. We know this because George tells us through the elder brother of the Quiet Isle.
he drank, to drown his pain in a sea of wine. He did not love, nor was he loved himself. It was hate that drove him. Though he committed many sins, he never sought forgiveness. Where other men dream of love, or wealth, or glory, this man Sandor Clegane dreamed of slaying his own brother, a sin so terrible it makes me shudder just to speak of it. Yet that was the bread that nourished him, the fuel that kept his fires burning.
– A Feast for Crows – Brienne VI
Killing Gregor wouldn’t save or soothe Sandor’s soul. Instead, it would steal his purpose, and you’d be left with a man still broken inside that has lost his murdery compass. As the Northerners say, no man is so accursed as the kinslayer. Stannis may believe it was the right choice to murder his brother, but several books later we see how that choice rips his soul into shreds and he obsesses over that choice. Tywin deserved Tyrion’s crossbow bolt, that doesn’t stop Tyrion from attempting suicide via wine. Gregor deserves Sandor’s vengeance, however it won’t be the soul cleansing cure-all that Sandor desires.
But, like Pretty Meris, Sandor still has a lot to offer as a mercenary. After all, Sandor is a widely feared fighter and skilled warrior with a mean streak. And that’s what Caggo is, the most brutal possible future of Sandor Clegane. Although, we know from Sandor’s interactions with Sansa and Arya that he is not the ferocious Hound at heart. He does care for others, he’s more a wounded puppy lashing out than thehulking mad dog his brother is. In this way, you can see Caggo as Sandor’s reputation come to life. The Hound walking on its own separated from the pupper beneath the mask. Sandor Clegane, the Hound, the Corpsekiller.