Brienne of Tarth

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Brienne of Tarth
A Song of Ice and Fire character
Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in Game of Thrones
First appearance A Clash of Kings
Last appearance A Dance with Dragons
Created by George R. R. Martin
Portrayed by Gwendoline Christie
Aliases The Maid of Tarth
Brienne the Beauty
Brienne the Blue
Gender Female
Occupation Previous Kingsguard
Family Lord Selwyn Tarth (father)
Galladon Tarth (brother)
Nationality Westerosi (of House Tarth)

Brienne of Tarth is a fictional character in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels. She is a prominent point of view character in the fourth novel, A Feast for Crows, and a main character in the television adaptation.



Brienne is the only daughter of Lord Selwyn Tarth, lord of Evenfall Hall, based on the island of Tarth. Her mother died when she was young. She had a single older brother, Galladon, who drowned when she was eight, and two younger sisters, both of whom died in infancy. Her father tried to find Brienne a suitor to wed; however, this was not easy, owing to Brienne's resistance and her ungainly appearance, and several offers were unsuccessful. Her last offer was from Ser Humfrey Wagstaff who wanted Brienne to become more feminine after their wedding, Brienne stated she would acquiesce if he could beat her in combat. They fought and Brienne was the victor, and so their betrothal never came to fruition. At one point in her history, Brienne met Renly Baratheon when he visited her island on a tour. He treated Brienne with courtesy and respect and she subsequently fell in love with him.[1]


In the books, Brienne is described as unfeminine in appearance, and is considered unattractive. She is very tall, muscular, flat-chested and ungainly, with straw-colored hair and broad, coarse features that are covered in freckles. Her teeth are prominent and crooked, her mouth is wide, her lips are swollen, and her nose has been broken more than once. However, her large blue eyes are described as beautiful.[2]

When former model Gwendoline Christie, considered a beautiful woman, was cast in the role in the TV series, it was reported that some fans thought her too pretty.[3]

Personality and development[edit]

In the books[edit]

In the novel A Feast for Crows, Brienne describes herself as "the only child the gods let [my father] keep. The freakish one, one not fit to be son or daughter."[4] In "Beyond The Wall", a collection of essays, Caroline Spector describes Brienne as a "study in heartbreaking contradictions. She embraces the romantic ideals of her culture, both emotionally and through her actions, but is continually betrayed by the real world simply because she cannot turn herself into the woman the Westerosi legends tell her she should be."[5]

In the tv adaptation[edit]

Charlie Harwood of HBOwatch describes Brienne as "loyal, stubborn, headstrong, and judgmental. Despite the repeated insults from knights, who mockingly call her "Brienne the Beauty", she holds a simple idea of knighthood, believing that knights should be chivalrous and always honor their vows."[6] In an Interview for SFX magazine, Gwendoline Christie described her as an outsider who has had to develop "outer strength that often matches or supersedes that of any man in order to be treated with equality. She doesn't want to get married...yet she's internally romantic...she has an overriding sense of honour and what is right, and that's what makes her such a brilliant character to play: that her outer is so stable and masculine, but inside she's so fragile."[7]


Brienne is first introduced in A Clash of Kings where she fought in a great melee of 116 knights at Renly Baratheon's camp at Bitterbridge. Brienne wanted to defeat the knights who had all wagered on who would take her maidenhood, amongst them was Mark Mullendore and Hyle Hunt. She was victorious over the other combatants, defeating the famous Knight of Flowers with a morning star. As a reward, she requested to be made a member of Renly's personal guard, The Rainbow Guard, and this was granted, earning Brienne the moniker Brienne the Blue. During her stay in the camp, she was often scorned by the other Knights and mockingly called "Brienne the Beauty." When Renly treated with Stannis Baratheon, Brienne was in attendance as his standard-bearer. The next day, Brienne was helping Renly prepare his armour for battle when he was assassinated by a mysterious shadow. Brienne was accused of his murder but Catelyn Stark came to her defense. Brienne respected Catelyn and found her to be courageous in her own way, and so pledged fealty to her.[8] Catelyn later frees Jaime Lannister from her son's custody with the aim of sending him back to King's Landing and exchanging him for her daughters Sansa Stark and Arya Stark. She orders Brienne to go with him as an escort. Initially, Jaime and Brienne have a stony relationship, and at one point, Jaime is bested by Brienne in combat when, manacled and in a weakened state, he tries to escape. Both are kidnapped by The Brave Companions and taken to Harrenhal where Jaime is released by the duplicitous Roose Bolton and Brienne is kept to be tortured by Vargo Hoat. Jaime, however, returns and frees her. Both travel to King's Landing where they find that Arya and Sansa have both gone missing and their whereabouts are unknown, Sansa having fled the city quite recently. Jaime gives Brienne his sword (which was given to him by his father Tywin and forged from Eddard Stark's sword), renames it Oathkeeper, and sends her out so she can continue her mission to find and return Sansa.

Brienne travels the Riverlands searching for Sansa. Her search leads her to a crossroad near the Trident where she is eventually captured by a group of outlaws known as The Brotherhood Without Banners and who are led by the now undead Catelyn Stark. Catelyn believes Brienne is a traitor working for the Lannisters and sentences her to hanging. However, in A Dance With Dragons, Brienne appears to Jaime Lannister and beseeches him to come with her alone to rescue Sansa who has been spotted with The Hound a day's ride away. [9] The scenario she describes is extremely unlikely, however (as it is known to the reader that Sansa is in the Vale and the Hound is presumed dead), and suggests that Brienne has agreed to lure Ser Jaime into a trap.[10]


Character in A Song of Ice and Fire series[edit]

Brienne has proved to be a popular character with fans of the Ice and Fire series. Her popularity has led to some merchandising and HBO have released a t-shirt with her house sigil on it.[11] Brent Hartinger writes in his essay, "A Different Kind of Other: The Role of Freaks and Outcasts in A Song of Ice and Fire", that Brienne is a disappointment, even a freak, to her family and culture. He believes her character is a well-written departure from fantasy novels where the main characters are commonly "the slender, the heterosexual, the average-heighted, the conventionally abled and traditionally gendered."[12] Writing for, Samantha Mann describes Brienne as an "awesome" character who "sticks to her belief that a knight is an honorable person who always keeps their oaths," even in a story where "good people do bad things (and vice versa)."[13] Arthur McCulloch, writing for, states that "Brienne, who while unique as a character, is never really developed. Brienne's issues and struggles remain constant. The reader merely follows her on her quest, which is an unsatisfying one at best."[14]

Feminist critique[edit]

In her essay "Power and Feminism in Westeros," Caroline Spector describes Brienne as a woman who does not conform, and who defies cultural expectations. Her character highlights the perception of women in Westeros in that her fellow warriors assume that her sexuality is "something to be coerced or taken, not something over which she has control... So, too, the consistent rejection Brienne endures for failing to offer the men around her a pleasing countenance." Spector also observes Brienne as a woman who has "taken for herself most of the attributes of male power," and thus provides a "stark lesson how women who dare to take male power for their own are judged and treated not only in Westeros but in all conventionally patriarchal societies."[5] Rihannon, a feminist writer for writes that Brienne's story follows "a traditionally male narrative, one that usually sidelines or victimises female characters," in that she goes on a quest to save "the beautiful maiden," however "not to marry her or benefit from the quest in any way, but to return her to her mother." She describes it as a storyline where "the mother, the young girl and the shieldmaiden are all given equal weight and worth.... She uses her strength and her skill to respect and help other women in ways that most men in Westeros would never even think to attempt, because she understands, more than any other knight, that women are truly worth something as individuals."[15] Danica Liu writing for The Duke Chronicle comments that George RR Martin challenges the traditions of appearance and sexuality, because Brienne is a "'butch' female character who is not a lesbian," and other "'straight-looking' female characters ... have homosexual encounters." She states Brienne demonstrates "trailblazing feminist badassery," because she refuses to fulfil the traditional female role expected of her.[16]


  1. ^ A Feast For Crows, Brienne IV.
  2. ^ A Clash of Kings, Catelyn XXI.
  3. ^ Staff, Starcasm (May 3, 2014). "Before and after Gwendoline Christie transformed into Brienne of Tarth for Game of Thrones". Retrieved May 30, 2014. 
  4. ^ A Feast For Crows, Brienne XXXI.
  5. ^ a b Lowden, James (2012). "Power and Feminism in Westeros". Beyond The Wall: Exploring George RR Martin's Song Of Ice And Fire. Dallas, Texas: BenBella Books. ISBN 978-1-9366-6175-6. 
  6. ^ Harwood, Charlie (May 7, 2012). "Brienne of Tarth: Loyalty without Charge". HBOwatch. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  7. ^ Davies Cole, Andrew (April 11, 2012). "Game of Thrones: Gwendoline Christie Interview". SFX. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  8. ^ A Clash of Kings, Catelyn XXXIX.
  9. ^ A Dance With Dragons, Jaime XLVIII.
  10. ^ A Dance with Dragons Chapter 48
  11. ^ Martin, George RR (April 11, 2012). "Game of Thrones Brienne of Tarth's Women's T-Shirt". Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  12. ^ Lowden, James (2012). "A Different Kind of Other: The Role of Freaks and Outcasts in A Song of Ice and Fire". Beyond The Wall: Exploring George RR Martin's Song Of Ice And Fire. Dallas, Texas: BenBella Books. ISBN 978-1-9366-6175-6. 
  13. ^ Mann, Samantha (Jan 7, 2012). "Awesome Female Characters: Brienne of Tarth and Why It's a Man's Westeros". Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  14. ^ McCulloch, Arthur (May 17, 2012). "Review: A Feast For Crows". Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  15. ^ "There Are No True Knights: Brienne of Tarth". The Chronicle (Duke University). June 28, 2012. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  16. ^ Liu, Danica (October 1, 2012). "In the game of feminism you win or you well no you pretty much win". The Chronicle (Duke University). Retrieved April 5, 2013.