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Rereading "A Storm of Swords" in preparation for our reread podcast, I
couldn't help but ruminate on the alternate history if Sansa hadn't told
Dontos about the Tyrell conspiracy of marrying her off to Willas.
Imagine this had happened for a moment.
Sansa is whisked away to Highgarden and meets a guy who is basically a bit of a nerd, bookish but nice, and overcomes her initial disappointment about his lack of marital progress, using the maturing she has reached in her days as Joffrey's captive in "A Clash of Kings". This is entirely realistic from her character development's point of view.
She would then have become a loving wife to Willas, much like Catelyn to Ned: not the marriage she wanted, but once she remembered the family words of "Family, Duty, Honor", it would have been a perfectly acceptable life. A lot of her illusions would have survived intact, some traumas wouldn't have been suffered. Highgarden would have served as a refresher course for her romantic ideals. She would have been a model lady in Highgarden, beloved and benevolent, as she dreamed, although at times a bit haughty, as highborn are prone to be.
The Red Wedding would have come as a shock, of course, much as in OTL, but there would have been a loving and caring husband to comfort her, one who's comfort she'd accepted, and maybe it would even have acted as a reverse Robb-and-Jeyne-scenario, ending in the conception of her first child. It is so melodramatic it makes your teeth ache.
Then, with Euron's impending invasion, she rises to the occasion, building on her experiences from the siege of King's Landing, and rallying the women and other helpless people around her while Willas coordinates the military part, keeping the homefront intact, a model of a Lady Wife. She's listen to Sam kindly, maybe even sensing a kindred spirit (or rejecting him for not fulfilling romatic ideals of the Night's Watch, both is possible), and in the end help rebuild the South, while forging an alliance with Bran or Rickon in the North.
Isn't that a happy, sedated alternative? But her character arc takes her through the trials she experiences so she can become a ruler and decider in her own right, and to fulfill the family destiny rather than attach herself to that of the Tyrells. She has to go North, and to do whatever her time in the Vale currently prepares her for, and I fear that if she didn't do that, the Others would miss a decisive stumbling block on their way south. Maybe she'll fulfill a role much like above, only in Winterfell, and with more agency. More wholesome. Who knows? Only The Winds of Winter will tell.