Of all the many houses in Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire, House Clegane is among the smallest, newest, and least politically relevant. But the Cleganes still manage to make an enormous impact on the story, despite the fact that only two members of the House, Gregor and Sandor, still live. The Cleganes have already played an important role in Westerosi history thus far, and their story doesn’t appear to be over quite yet.
Gregor, the Mountain Who Rides, and Sandor, the Hound, are two of the most violent individuals alive in Westeros, and that’s definitely saying something. Despite the humble origins of House Clegane, both brothers have found themselves intimately involved with the wars and politics of Westeros, with Gregor becoming one of history’s greatest monsters and Sandor attempting to forge his own unique path in the world. Of course, this being the work of George R. R. Martin, no family is too small to have an intriguing backstory and a number of possible mysteries surrounding them, and the Cleganes are no exception.
Gregor, The Mountain Who RidesPhoto: HBO
Gregor Clegane is the eldest member of the current Clegane generation, and undoubtedly the cruelest. Gregor has done much of his butchery in the name of House Lannister, but he was originally knighted by Rhaegar Targaryen – the man whose wife and children Gregor would go on to brutally slay. Gregor’s gargantuan size earned him the nickname "The Mountain Who Rides," but it was as much a curse as a blessing as it left Gregor with excruciating migraines, which he treated with opiate abuse. This left Gregor as a nearly uncontrollable animal, prone to extreme violence and despicably cruel acts.
One man, however, could control Gregor: Tywin Lannister. Gregor committed horrific acts for Tywin, from the murder and rape of Elia Martell to the slaughter of her young children. During the opening stages of the conflict in A Song of Ice and Fire, Tywin sets the Mountain loose on the Riverlands, resulting in a multitude of atrocities.
Gregor’s actions finally caught up to him during a trial-by-combat against Oberyn Martell, champion of Tyrion Lannister and the brother of the slain Elia. Oberyn’s quest for revenge was successful as he fatally poisoned Gregor, albeit at the cost of his own life. However, Gregor’s story didn’t end there; he was soon resurrected by Qyburn so he could keep serving the Lannisters as the undead Ser Robert Strong.
Sandor, The HoundPhoto: HBO
Sandor Clegane is marginally more heroic than Gregor Clegane, though the bar is admittedly low. It was actually the atrocities committed by his brother that turned Sandor away from thoughts of knighthood. Instead, he served as the personal bodyguard to Prince Joffrey Baratheon, earning him the nickname of "the Hound." Sandor’s hatred of his brother and all other knights even led to him refuse his knightly vows when he was made a member of the Kingsguard.
Sandor didn't end up keeping those vows, either. Although he bravely protected Sansa Stark on numerous occasions, the Hound eventually left his post at a crucial moment. During the Battle of the Blackwater, Sandor’s fear of fire led to him abandon King Joffrey and flee northward, where he encountered Arya Stark and the Brotherhood Without Banners. After a bit of roadtripping with Arya, the Hound was eventually wounded and left to die, with his story appearing to end there. However, that wasn’t actually the case.
The GravediggerPhoto: HBO
In both the books and the show, Sandor Clegane is saved by a religious figure. The show is explicit about this, depicting Sandor briefly joining a sept before the return of violence to his life disturbs his peaceful retirement. So Sandor hits the road once again, this time with his former enemies in the Brotherhood Without Banners.
Things aren’t quite so crystal clear in the books. While searching around the Riverlands for the Stark girls, Brienne of Tarth visits a monastery called Quiet Isle, and while there meets a mysterious and gigantic man identified only as a gravedigger, who never shows his face. However, eagle-eyed readers have noticed more than a few clues that make it a near guarantee that the gravedigger in question is actually Sandor Clegane, living out a peaceful existence far away from Westerosi conflict.
First and foremost, the Elder Brother of the monastery admits to encountering a dying Sandor Clegane and helping him find peace. He cryptically describes “the Hound” as having died, but he’s likely just talking about the persona. The gravedigger is as large as Sandor, which is rare, and shows an affinity for dogs, which fits with his family history.
The real icing on the cake for the Gravedigger Theory is that Sandor’s horse, Stranger, is present on the Quiet Isle. Stranger was a notoriously mean horse who could only be handled by Sandor, and the Quiet Isle can only be accessed by an extremely tricky and treacherous path across the water. It stands to reason that the only way Stranger could feasibly end up on the Isle would be for Sandor himself to lead him there.
Cleganebowl: Get HypePhoto: HBO
Many fans believe that, at least in the books, Sandor Clegane’s story ends with him as the unidentified gravedigger, living out his final days in peace. However, others think his continued existence in the story mean he’s destined for something greater, and that something greater is Cleganebowl.
Cleganebowl is such a popular theory in the A Song of Ice and Fire community that it has become a meme, with its own slogan: "Get Hype." The basic premise is that Sandor and Gregor Clegane are destined to confront one another once and for all, perhaps with Sandor representing his newfound religion against the undead abomination that his brother has become. There’s plenty of foreshadowing for conflict between the brothers in the books, but there has yet to be any real indication that Sandor will ever leave the Quiet Isle.
The theory used to revolve around the idea of Sandor representing the Faith of the Seven in their trial against Cersei Lannister, but recent events in Game of Thrones make it unlikely that the trial will ever end up happening. Either way, Sandor doesn't really need any particular motivation to take on his brother, who he has ample reason to hate even without the whole disgusting zombie thing. One thing is for sure: as long as Sandor and Gregor remain active in Game of Thrones, the hype of Bowl fans will never die.