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Sand Snakes

Obara, Tyene, and Nymeria (from left to right).

"The Sand Snakes are with me. They have the love of their people. They will avenge their father while you sit here in your chair doing nothing!"
Ellaria Sand to Doran Martell[src]

The Sand Snakes are the eight bastard daughters of Prince Oberyn Martell. Although noble-born bastards are often ignored by their parents, Oberyn has acknowledged and looked after all his daughters and has loving relationships with each of them. They are all loyal members of House Martell, and are treated as such by their uncle Doran Martell, the Prince of Dorne and Lord of Sunspear. Their collective nickname comes from the bastard surname used for noble bastards in Dorne and the nickname of their father: the "Red Viper." Oberyn trained the oldest three —Obara, Nymeria, and Tyene— extensively in combat.

The eldest of Oberyn's daughters with his paramour Ellaria is Tyene Sand. Ellaria is also mother to the three youngest Sand Snakes, including Elia Sand. The three eldest are now deceased.

The Sand Snakes

History

Background

The Sand Snakes are the group of Prince Oberyn Martell's several bastard daughters, led by his paramour, Ellaria Sand, a bastard herself.

Season 4

Oberyn writes a poem to one of his daughters, Elia, and mentions his eight daughters to Queen Cersei Lannister.[1]

Season 5

Ellaria Sand goes to the Water Gardens to scold Doran for his inaction to Oberyn's murder, and tells the Prince that Dorne must go to war against the Lannisters, and points out that the Sand Snakes, who have the love of their people, agree with her, and that they will avenge their father if Doran remains "in his chair doing nothing".[2]

Tyene, Nymeria, and Obara meet with Ellaria, and discuss rallying Dorne to go to war against House Lannister. When the conversation shifts to Myrcella Baratheon, Obara reveals information she received from a merchant captain she met in Planky Town news that Jaime Lannister has been smuggled into Dorne. Ellaria insists that they must stop Jaime from reaching Myrcella, or they lose their last chance for vengeance. They are presented with a choice: side with Doran and have peace, or side with Ellaria and have war.[3]

The Sand Snakes attempt to kidnap Myrcella, as Tyene battles Bronn with the help of her sister Nymeria and her whip while Obara goes after Jaime Lannister. Although she manages to wound Bronn in the arm with one of her daggers, the battle is quickly broken up by Captain Areo Hotah and the rest of Doran's personal guard. Obara commands her sisters to drop their weapons, and Tyene does so. They, along with Jaime, Bronn and Ellaria Sand, are taken into Martell custody.[4]

As Tyene and Nymeria are playing a game of reflexes with each other, Areo Hotah arrives at their prison cell to escort the three Sand Snakes to the Water Gardens. Tyene is forced to watch along with the other Sand Snakes as Prince Doran forces Ellaria to swear her allegiance to him in the Water Gardens, bound at the wrist. [5]

510 Martells assembled

The Sand Snakes watch Myrcella and Jaime depart from Dorne after poisoning the former with the Long Farewell

The Sand Snakes later watch as Princess Myrcella departs for King's Landing along with Jaime, Bronn, and Prince Trystane. Tyene sexually jokes with Bronn and promises that they may see each other again. After Ellaria seals Myrcella's fate with a poison kiss, Tyene offers a cloth for her mother to wipe the blood from her nose, an effect from the poison coated on her lips, as they watch Myrcella's boat from afar. Though the young Lannister is killed, Ellaria survives, drinking up the antidote. [6]

Season 6

Tyene and Ellaria walk with Doran in the Water Gardens before Maester Caleotte delivers a message with the Lannister sigil, bearing news of Ellaria's murder of Myrcella. Before Dorna is given a chance to react Tyene stabs Areo Hotah in the spine, killing him immediately before Ellaria stabs Doran in the chest with a dagger concealed in her bracelet. Tyene also kills Maester Caleotte by throwing her dagger into his back as he tries to flee for her own enjoyment, and watches with satisfaction as her uncle bleeds to death.[7]

Months later, the Sand Snakes are present with Ellaria and host Olenna Tyrell in the Water Gardens. Ellaria claims that Dorne and House Tyrell must work together for justice and vengeance, as Queen Cersei has declared war on both of their factions. Varys then appears, claiming that they will defeat Cersei with "Fire and Blood", making it quite clear that Ellaria, the Sand Snakes, and House Tyrell will support Daenerys Targaryen's claim to the Seven Kingdoms.[8]

Season 7

The Sand Snakes travel with Yara Greyjoy's Ironborn fleet through the Narrow Sea to lay siege to King's Landing. Tyene, Obara, and Nymeria casually joke about killing Lannisters. Shortly later, Yara's fleet is ambushed by the new Lord Reaper of Pyke Euron Greyjoy's Iron Fleet. Tyene and Ellaria flee below the deck while a skirmish rages above. Obara is stabbed with her own spear before Nymeria meets a similar fate, being strangled to death and later hanged with her own whip by Euron Greyjoy. Euron takes Tyene, Ellaria, and Yara prisoner.[9]

Ellaria-Tyene-the-end

Ellaria and Tyene's final moments

Euron Greyjoy proudly parades his prisoners through the streets of King's Landing and presents them as a gift to Queen Cersei. She imprisons Ellaria and Tyene, and teases her prisoners about the plans she has to torture them. She suggests various ways, such as having The Mountain crush Ellaria's head like Oberyn's, or having him crush her daughter's skull in front of her. Whatsoever, she later kisses Tyene on the lips and poisons her with the Long Farewell, the same poison used to assassinate Myrcella, forcing her mother Ellaria to watch her daughter collapse to bone and dust.[10]

Personalities

The Sand Snakes are all Oberyn's daughters and raised in Dornish culture, but they have a variety of personalities that play off each other. As sisters, they might bicker on a course of action from time to time, but when faced with an external threat they will instantly band together to overcome it.

Obara, the eldest, inherited her father's martial prowess. Unlike the other Sand Snakes she is not the daughter of a noblewoman but of a commoner that caught Oberyn's eye. When she was a little girl Oberyn came to bring her to court, and made her choose between him or her mother; she chose to go with him, knowing she would never see her mother again (who later died). While the Dornish are often hot-blooded and passionately display their emotions, Obara is very taciturn, trained not to outwardly show her emotions. However, this does not mean that she is the most rational member of the group: she is in fact one of the more irrational of the sisters, ruled by her emotions. The distinction is that she will not shout or make threats if someone angers her - she will simply kill them unexpectedly, with little heed to the long term consequences. She is exceptionally skilled at combat with a traditional Dornish spear, having been trained extensively by her father.

Nymeria, the second eldest, is the daughter of an eastern noblewoman. She is the most rational and calculating of the Sand Snakes, having inherited Oberyn's cunning, evidenced by her choice of weapon: a 12 foot bull whip. In the right hands, a whip can be used for unpredictable attacks to disarm or trip up a larger opponent carrying heavier weapons, but it requires a large amount of strategy and planning during the fight in order to use effectively. In situations in which the other sisters would charge ahead, Nymeria will hold back and try to assess the situation, to calculate if it would be more opportune to wait to strike at a later time (in this she is actually somewhat like her uncle, Prince Doran Martell). Nymeria is Obara's closest confidant: she will do nothing without Obara's approval. At the same time, Nymeria is the only person (besides Oberyn) that can say "no" to Obara: to outsiders it might seem like they might be bickering, but Nymeria is the only person that Obara will even bother to heed the advice of, though she might still disagree. With anyone else, Obara doesn't even pause to listen, and simply charges ahead to do what she wanted.

Tyene is the youngest of the three (the other five are younger and not traveling with them). As the youngest, she is the most impetuous, trying to prove herself to the others, and the most overtly hot-tempered. In a situation where Nymeria would pause to assess her enemy before making a precision strike, and Obara would silently charge right in and attack with cold force, Tyene will passionately shout and threaten her enemy as she attacks them head-on. This prowess is exemplified in her choice of hand weapons: short daggers for quick attacks, which she can draw and strike with before her sisters can restrain her. She also greatly enjoys using poison against her enemies - most often using poisons to coat the blades of her daggers, as Oberyn was known to poison the blades of his spears.[11]

Family Tree

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
House-Martell-heraldry
Ruling Princess Martell of Dorne
Deceased
 
House-Martell-heraldry
Consort of the Princess of Dorne
Deceased
 
Lewyn Martell familytree
Lewyn Martell Kingsguard-Main-Shield
Deceased
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Doran Martell family tree
Doran Martell
Deceased
 
House-Martell-heraldry
Mellario of Norvos
 
Elia-family-tree
Elia Martell
Deceased
 
Famtree-RhaegarTargaryen
Rhaegar Targaryen House-Targaryen-Main-Shield
Deceased
 
 
 
 
 
Unknown tree
Various women
 
Oberyn-Martell-family-tree
Oberyn Martell
Deceased
 
Famtree-EllariaSand
Ellaria Sand
of House Uller
Mother of 4 or 5 Sand Snakes
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Trystane Martell family tree
Trystane Martell
Deceased
Rhaenys tree
Rhaenys Targaryen House-Targaryen-Main-Shield
Deceased
 
House-Targaryen-heraldry
Aegon Targaryen
Deceased
 
Obara Sand familytree
Obara Sand
Deceased
 
Nymeria Sand familytree
Nymeria Sand
Deceased
 
User-Sand
One or two other Sand Snakes
 
Tyene Sand familytree
Tyene Sand
Deceased
 
User-Sand
Three or four younger Sand Snakes

In the books

In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Sand Snakes are infamous throughout Dorne. Their names, in order of age, are Obara, Nymeria, Tyene, Sarella, Elia, Obella, Dorea, and Loreza. Obara was born of a prostitute from Oldtown; Nymeria of a noblewoman from Volantis; Tyene of a septa; Sarella of a trader from the Summer Isles; the rest of Ellaria Sand. Despite inheriting widely different appearances from their birthmothers, they are all said to have their father's eyes. Being Dornish bastards, they all have the surname "Sand" and are associate members of their father's House.

The oldest four are close friends and confidants of Prince Doran Martell's daughter and heiress, Princess Arianne.

Each of the eldest four Sand Snakes inherited or took after one of their father's famous traits: Obara has her father's martial prowess; Nymeria inherited Oberyn's good looks, sex drive, and cunning; Tyene has her father's skill with poisons; Sarella inherited her father's keen intellect.

The Sand Snakes' choice of weapons are different than in the TV show: Obara uses both a spear and a whip; Nymeria - daggers; Tyene is not mentioned to have any martial skills.

The younger four Sand Snakes do not appear prominently in the first five novels, due to their ages: Elia Sand, the eldest, is fourteen years old near the end of the fifth novel, and Loreza (the youngest) is only around six years old. Elia, however, is old enough to share her half-sisters' rapport with Princess Arianne, and is just starting to be old enough to take part in the activities of her elders by the beginning of the sixth novel. Sarella has not make any appearances in the novels yet either; she is only mentioned to be at unknown location outside of Dorne.

"Tyene Sand" in the TV series is basically a combination of book-Tyene Sand and book-Elia Sand into one character. It's not clear if this means that Ellaria is also Sarella's mother in the series or if she still has a different parentage.

Doran Martell acts very cautiously when any of his nieces are present. He is aware how dangerous they are, and that their kinship will not stop them from harming him (after he caressed Tyene's head, Maester Caleotte examined his palm very carefully and thoroughly for any scratches or a particular smell to see if she poisoned him). Areo Hotah watches them closely in such occasions, ready to take action whenever they make a potentially harmful move.

On the second novel, Tyrion said "The Martells have every cause to hate us. Nonetheless, I expect them to agree. Prince Doran's grievance against House Lannister goes back only a generation, but the Dornishmen have warred against Storm's End and Highgarden for a thousand years". Tyrion was wrong at least in respect of the Sand Snakes, whose hatred is mainly aimed at the Lannisters, and barely speak about the Tyrells. The reason is perhaps that specific and recent atrocities - let alone exceptionally savage ones, as the murder of Elia and her children - are burnt in memory much more vividly than general hostilities. Morever, Oberyn's death has greatly increased the hatred the Sand Snakes feel toward the Lannisters, thus belittling any grudge (if at all) that they have against the Tyrells.

In the beginning of A Feast of Crows, the three eldest Sand Snakes come up with various plans to avenge their father, none involves harming Myrcella:

  • Obara, who relies most on martial prowess and brute force, demands her uncle to give her and Nymeria an army, that she can sack Oldtown while Nymeria heads to King's Landing.
  • Nymeria, the most cunning of the sisters, suggests that she and Tyene will lead a precision strike: to assassinate Tywin, Cersei, Jaime, and Tommen.
  • Tyene's plan is to crown Myrcella in order to provoke the Lannisters and Tyrells into attacking Dorne, then the Dornish will bleed them in the passes and bury them beneath the blowing sands.

Prince Doran rejects the above plans, and takes steps to prevent all his nieces from stirring up troubles, by arresting the three elder daughters and confining the four youngest and their mother to the Water Gardens; Sarella he leaves alone, as she is not in Dorne at the time. However, his daughter Arianne attempts to accomplish Tyene's plan, which nearly results in Myrcella's death: one of Arianne's escorts, Ser Gerold "Darkstar" Dayne, injures her severely and escapes. Myrcella survives but is terribly disfigured. Arianne is imprisoned, like her seven cousins.

As much as the Sand Snakes hate the Lannisters and wish to exact revenge, they (and Ellaria Sand) never had any personal grudge against Myrcella, and never intended to harm her. They are not responsible at all to the near-fatal attempt on her life, although it can serve their purpose well, as Obara commented.

In the fifth novel, after Ser Balon Swann arrives in Dorne to retrieve Myrcella (and to play his part in Cersei's scheme to assassinate Trystane), Doran orders the release of his daughter and nieces. At a secret meeting, Doran reveals to his nieces that he has been conspiring for years to gain total revenge on the Lannisters by working to restore House Targaryen; only then the Sand Snakes realize they judged their uncle wrongly. Doran gives them tasks: Obara will lead Ser Balon in the chase after Darkstar, while Nymeria and Tyene accompany Myrcella to King's Landing; Nymeria will take her father's seat on the Small Council, while Tyene, disguised as septa, will befriend the new High Septon. All three of the Sand Snakes swear that they will serve their uncle loyally.

As for the youngest Sand Snakes: according to Arianne's sample chapters of the sixth novel, Elia accompanies Arianne on a mission to meet potential allies; Loreza and her mother travel to her grandfather's seat at Hellholt; Obella is dispatched to Sunspear to serve as a cupbearer to the wife of the castellan Manfrey Martell; Dorea remained at the Water Gardens. 

In sharp contrast to the show, as much as the Sand Snakes are angry at their uncle for lack of action against the Lannisters, none of them has ever harmed him or Trystane; even if they had such intentions, Areo Hotah would have never acted so carelessly as he did in the show: he always watches the Sand Snakes very carefully when they are around his prince (perhaps even more closely than he watches other people), knowing how deadly they are, ready to react to any potentially harmful move on their behalf. It's quite the contrary, after Doran tells them about a plot of Cersei to kill Trystane in an ambush, with the plan to get her daughter back and to blame Tyrion for this, all the Sand Snakes are shocked; Obara is outraged and wants retaliation against Ser Balon and his party who are part of this scheme.

Though in the novels the Sand Snakes are fierce warriors, they adhere to a strong code of honor and absolutely refuse to harm innocent people, unlike in the television series where they are depicted as villainous mercenaries similar to the likes of Ramsay Bolton: Obara is presented as almost machine-like in nature, ready to commit cold-blooded murder solely for her own amusement; Nymeria appears indifferent towards the taboo of kinslaying but has a very competitive personality; and Tyene possesses a particularly sadistic streak, greatly enjoying poisoning her enemies and watching the effects kill her opponents slowly. While they claim to fight for Dorne, it is heavily implied that the Sand Snakes have no true alliance to anyone but themselves, and appear prepared to kill anyone who might stand in the way of their goals, even their own people or family members.

By the point the books reached, the prominent three and the youngest four Sand Snakes are alive; Sarella's status is unknown.

See also

References

v  d  e
Lord: Heir:
House-Martell-Main-Shield
Seat: Sunspear Lands: Dorne
Title(s): Prince of Dorne · Lord of Sunspear
Ancestors:Princess Nymeria · Prince Mors Martell · Daughter of Mors · Meria Martell · Prince Maron Martell · Princess Daenerys Martell · Queen Myriah Martell
Current members:Ellaria Sand · Sarella Sand · Elia Sand · Obella Sand · Dorea Sand · Loreza Sand
Deceased members:Prince Lewyn Martell · Princess Elia Martell · Prince Oberyn Martell · Prince Doran Martell · Prince Trystane Martell · Obara Sand · Nymeria Sand · Tyene Sand
Household:{Areo Hotah} · {Caleotte}
Overlord:House Baratheon of King's Landing