Sansa Stark and Penelope, Queen of Ithaca
“Young men, my wooers, since goodly Odysseus is dead, be patient, though eager for my marriage, until I finish this robe — I would not that my spinning should come to naught.” - The Odyssey
Penelope (Greek: Πηνελόπεια, Penelopeia) was a cousin of Helen and Clytemnestra, the daughter of the Spartan king Icarius. She caught Odysseus’s eye when he was one of Helen’s many suitors, and the two fell in love immediately. Penelope and Odysseus had a brief but happy life together that produced one son, Telemachus, who was born shortly before Odysseus was called to fight in the Trojan War.
Most famous as an icon of marital fidelity, Penelope waited twenty years for Odysseus, though the rest of the world believed him dead after he was lost at sea. 108 suitors gathered in her castle and attempted to force her to marry one of them, thereby allowing the chosen man to claim Ithaca as his own kingdom. Through trickery and guile — and her mastery of the art of weaving — she managed to hold them off for years by weaving and then secretly unraveling her husband’s funeral shroud, arguing she could not remarry while it remained unfinished. She was eventually betrayed by one of her maids, as some of them had taken to sleeping with the suitors. After Penelope’s duplicity was revealed, the suitors grew even more restless.
When Odysseus returned to her in disguise, Penelope was overjoyed, and helped him orchestrate the execution of the suitors by setting up a contest involving the use of Odysseus’s old and unwieldy bow. Only Odysseus himself could complete the feats of archery she laid before the men, and once he stood victorious he revealed his true identity and slew them all.
Sansa’s general arc is the same as Penelope’s — she is the lady in the tower using traditionally feminine-coded skills (weaving, courtesy) in order to survive — but with one obvious and important difference: she has no Odysseus. All Sansa has are nasty suitors, and lots of them. They’re massing at the bottom of her castle trying to take her claim, and there is no husband at sea to return in disguise and save her from the Hound, Littlefinger, and the rest. Obviously no one can say where this story is going with any certainty, but I think Martin is aiming toward a Penelope who saves herself.
Secretly I want her and Tyrion to work it out. But this is fabulous commentary.