Hypothesis: The Hound is not dead but in fact alive at the Quiet Isle living the life of a monk.
In the season four finale (The Children) Arya leaves The Hound to die at the edge of a cliff after losing a duel with Brienne Of Tarth. In the books he is critically injured at the crossroads inn. This is the inn in which they appear in episode one of season 4. The renowned phrase “Lots Of Cunts” comes to mind and many references to chickens. Many fans such as myself have resorted to the ideology that nobody is dead in A Song Of Ice & Fire/Game Of Thrones if we do not see the body or it is not directly said that this person is dead. Implied meanings are a no fly zone. We do not see his body or see him die. It is merely implied in the books and on television.
There is a Brienne POV in A Feast For Crows which heavily implies that he is still alive. Pod & Brienne are trying to find the Hound in the belief he has Sansa Stark but he had Arya. Brienne swore an oath to Lady Catelyn before she died that she would find both of them. Whilst searching for The Hound, they pass through a tiny section of the Riverlands called the Quiet Isle. The Brothers Of The Faith dwell here. The Faith is another term for The Seven and they have taken Vows Of Silence which means they are never allowed to talk.
Brienne talks with the Elder. He is the only one allowed to speak. He says “The Hound is dead” and he nursed him until his death and buried him.
He also says:
“I died in the Battle Of The Trident”
This is merely a metaphorical death. The person he was died and a new one was born. He is a changed man. So in the relation to The Hound, The Hound died and Sandor Clegane was born.
“The man you hunt is dead…he is at rest”
The violent and hateful man is gone. A better man has come. Brienne sees a man digging graves matching Sandor’s description.
“A brother bigger than Brienne was struggling to dig a grave”
Brienne is often called a beast of a woman due to her great height and her masculine build. I believe that Randyll Tarly calls her beast of a woman when she asks him about Sansa Stark in a tavern. Brienne is over six feet tall but only a bit a shorter than The Hound. The only other person in the Seven Kingdoms who can match Brienne and Sandor is Sandor’s brother, Gregor ‘The Mountain’ Clegane. He is often referred to as Tywin Lannister’s mad dog. Examples of The Mountain’s violence include killing peasants on the order of Cersei Lannister. Also he raped Elia Martell, killed her children and then cut her in half with his sword. He also murdered Oberyn Martell by crushing his skull with his bare hands.
“From the way he moved, it was plain to see he was lame”
“The big gravedigger …walked with the awkward lurching gait of one half crippled”
“The wound in his thigh smelled…smelled funny to her”
Arya XIII A Storm Of Swords
These quotes show that he was injured severely from the fight at the crossroads inn.
“When a dog went to sniff him he dropped his spade and scratched its ear”
Three dogs on a yellow field is the sigil of House Clegane. His nickname is ‘The Hound’. Joffery references him as “dog”. Plus he has a helmet shaped like a hound. This is iconic symbolism and it shows he has firm connection with hounds.
His Horse, Stranger: violent and aggressive:
“Was gentle as an old gelding with his master, but otherwise he had a bad temper as black as he was. She had never known a horse so quick to bite or kick”
Arya IX A Storm Of Swords
“When we sought to harness him to plow he kicked brother Rawney and broke his shin bone in two places”
“Podrick gasped “the horse bit off your ear?”
The Path Of Faith is the only way to the Quiet Isle. It is described as a mazelike unnatural path. They say it is one and a half miles in distance but it is across mud.
“Be careful where you set your feet”
“Swallowed by the quicksands, or drowned when the tide comes rushing in”
“He paused from time to time, to probe ahead with his quarterstaff”
The Elder could not have taken Stranger on such a treacherous path by himself. Nobody can control Stanger but The Hound. Logically, The Elder healed The Hound and Sandor was born.
“The Seven have blessed out Elder Brother with healing hands. He has restored many a man to health that even maesters could not cure, and many a woman too”
The Elder Brother is punishing himself from all the killing he did in The Battle Of The Trident.
My life was writ in red, in blood and wine..I died in the Battle Of The Trident..I spent the next ten years in silence.
In my opinion, I believe that Sandor should stay at the Quiet Isle. He can be at peace and rest until the end of his days unlike his brother, The Mountain. Gregor is just a sociopathic killer through and through. Sandor has sensitivity and has instances of humanity. He helps Sansa in Kings Landing with Joffery. He keeps her out of trouble when he can without letting on that he is helping her to the King. He looks after Arya. He even fathers her to an extent when they are on the road going to Riverrun and then to the Eyrie. His humanity is hidden behind a metaphorical and literal helmet of thoughtless animalistic brutality thus we have The Hound. Even his helmet is in the shape of a dog’s face.
“Sandor Clegane was a man in torment”
Thoros Of Myr, Asha II, A Dance With Dragons
He has huge disregard for his own health. He is constantly drinking. He is drinking wine at the Battle Of Blackwater. Tyrion gets frustrated at him for doing so. He is sleeping outdoors on many an occasion too. The most notable being when the Brotherhood Without Banners find him asleep in a forest, drunk. This was after he had left Kings Landing during the Battle Of Blackwater. His last words being (before he left Kings Landing):
“Fuck the Kings Guard, Fuck the city, Fuck The King”
Another reference to him being a changed man:
“Set his helm upon atop the cairn to mark his final resting place”
I think that he is the only man in the whole saga to obtain true happiness. He has played hero on a couple of occasions and won. He didn’t get cocky or greedy. He didn’t do it for glory. He did it because it felt right and it was in his heart. The more honourable characters are all dead (Ned, Cat, Robb). Robb got greedy and trusted the wrong people despite being offered sound advice at every corner. Ned was playing the Game without an instruction manual and Catelyn was there being inexistent. Wrongdoers win and the heroes lose tremendously. Look at the Red Wedding.
N.B: The unmarked quotes are from Brienne IV in A Feast For Crows.