It’s easy to argue that Sansa Stark transformed more than any other character in Game of Thrones. She’s gone from a naive brat to a wise leader. Some of this is simply because of all the horrible things that have happened to her, but it’s also because she had the two best teachers that Westeros could offer — Cersei Lannister and Petyr Baelish (aka Littlefinger). It would be easy for someone to spend time around these two characters and not learn a thing.
So, what makes Sansa a good student?
She’s a good listener.
When the show begins Sansa wants nothing more than to marry Joffrey Baratheon and become queen someday. She can’t comprehend doing anything else with her life. In fact, she gets so caught up in her “perfect” view of the world, she screams at Arya, telling her she spoiled her romantic walk with Joffrey in episode 2 of season 1. Her demeanor and actions can easily lead you to think that she’s not very smart. In the beginning, she’s more of a brat than a student, especially to her septa. In episode 6 of season 1, she has this exchange with Septa Mordane:
Sansa: “Where are you from…”
Septa Mordane: “I come from a small village…”
Sansa: “Oh wait. I just realized I don’t care.”
After spending time in King’s Landing, Sansa begins to learn from Cersei Lannister, who takes it upon herself to give Sansa some life lessons. This happens first when Sansa has her first menstrual period and again during the siege of King’s Landing at the end of Season 2. It’s during these two events that we see Sansa start to really listen. She doesn’t say much during either of these conversations, but Cersei says quite a bit. Even though Sansa still looks young and innocent, you can tell she’s starting to take in everything Cersei is telling her.
After Littlefinger smuggles Sansa out of King’s Landing after Joffrey’s murder, he starts to impart his wisdom upon her, and he continues to do so all the way up to his death. But we start to see Sansa learning, not just listening, as she starts to ask smart questions and work out other people’s motives. After Littlefinger pushes her aunt Lysa out the moon door in the Eyrie, we see Sansa’s first example of the fact that she has learned manipulation and knows how to use it. When telling her story to the leaders of The Vale, she cleverly mixes lies with the truth. Later when Littlefinger asks her why she helped him avoid being found guilty of Lysa’s death.
Sansa: “If they had executed you, what would they have done with me?”
Littlefinger: “I don’t know.”
Sansa: “Neither do I.”
It’s also during her time Eyrie that she figures out what Littlefinger really wants.
Wise and Fearless
By the time Sansa escapes from Ramsay Bolton and convinces Jon Snow to raise an army and retake Winterfell, she’s learned not only how the world really works, but also how to manipulate those she knows have power over. After she figures out what Littlefinger wants, she uses that knowledge to get him to mobilize the Knights of Vale to help in the Battle of the Bastards, even though he committed the worst betrayal he could have by negotiating with the Boltons to have her marry Ramsay. But rather than kick him to the curb after getting that help, she keeps around and learns even more from him.
Once again, we see her listen intently to what he has to say.
By the time she orders his execution in the final episode of season 7, she’s become one of the smartest characters in the entire show.
It will be interesting to see how Sansa’s character develops in the final season of the show. We already know she’s more than capable of ruling the North, so much so that she’s angry with Jon for not heeding her advice. We’re looking at the possibility of a showdown between Sansa and Daenerys, which will be something that’s not to be missed.