Brienne of Tarth

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Brienne of Tarth
A Song of Ice and Fire character
Brienneoftarth.jpg
Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in the season 3 episode "Dark Wings, Dark Words".
First appearance Novel:
A Clash of Kings (1998)
Television:
"What Is Dead May Never Die" (2012)
Created by George R. R. Martin
Portrayed by Gwendoline Christie
Information
Aliases The Maid of Tarth
Brienne the Beauty
Brienne the Blue
Occupation Former Rainbow Guard (Novels)
Former Kingsguard (Television Series)
Warrior
Family House Tarth
Relatives Selwyn Tarth (father)
Galladon Tarth (brother)
Nationality Westerosi

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.

In the series, Brienne is portrayed by British actress Gwendoline Christie, and is introduced in the show's second season. After appearing as a recurring cast member for two seasons, Christie was promoted to the main cast from season four onwards. For her performance in the third season, she was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress on Television, and was nominated for two Screen Actors Guild Awards alongside the rest of the cast for the third and fourth seasons.

Character[edit]

Background[edit]

In the books[edit]

Brienne is the only daughter of Lord Selwyn Tarth, Lord of Evenfall Hall, on the island of Tarth. House Tarth is a bannerman to House Baratheon, lords of the Stormlands. Her mother died when Brienne was a child. She had a single older brother, Galladon, who drowned when she was eight, and two younger sisters - both of whom died in infancy. Brienne as a child was under the tutelage of Septa Roelle who found fault in everything about Brienne and destroyed her self-esteem. She told Brienne that though a man would marry her, as she is heir to her father's land, he could never desire her.

Her father tried to find Brienne a suitor to wed, however, this has not been easy, owing to Brienne's resistance and her ungainly appearance, but three unsuccessful betrothals have been made. The first was when she was seven and her fiance was ten, but he died of an illness. Next a betrothal was brokered by the lord of land poor house Connington to his young newly knighted heir Ronnet, but young Ser Ronnet broke the betrothal the first time he met her. Her father's last attempt was to betroth her at sixteen to Ser Humfrey Wagstaff, a middle aged friend of his, who was castellan of another house. He informed Brienne that she was expected to give up her training and become more feminine after their wedding. Brienne stated she would acquiesce, but only if he could beat her in combat. Their fight resulted in three broken bones and a broken betrothal.

Brienne's had begged Tarth's master-at-arms Ser Goodwin to teach her skill at arms. As her skills grew, this restored her confidence. He made her get over her inability to inflict pain by slaughtering pigs. At one point in her history, Brienne met Renly Baratheon when he visited her island on a coming of age tour. He treated Brienne with courtesy and respect and danced with her, as a result she fell in unrequited love with him.[1] When the War of Five Kings begins, with Stannis and Renly Baratheon both claiming the crown, Tarth remains neutral, but Brienne gets her father's permission to go independently and declare for Renly.

Appearance[edit]

In the books[edit]

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]

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."[3] 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."[4]

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."[5] 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."[6]

Storylines[edit]

In the books[edit]

Brienne is introduced in A Clash of Kings (1998), in which she is first seen by Catelyn Stark as she is fighting in a melee tournament at Renly Baratheon's camp. She furiously beats several knights that she had learned from Lord Randyll Tarly had made a betting pool as to which could seduce her. She also gets the chance to beat her ex jilting fiance Ser Ronnet Connington and Lord Commander of Renly's guard Loras Tyrell. As a reward, Brienne is made a member of Renly's personal guard, the Rainbow Guard and is named Brienne the Blue. She holds Renly's banner as he negotiates with Stannis. Shortly after, Brienne is helping Renly don his armor for a dawn battle with Stannis Baratheon when he is assassinated by a mysterious shadow. Catelyn Stark who had just negotiated an alliance between Renly and Robb Stark convinces the other guards on duty that Brienne is innocent, but realizes that eventually they will be accused of his murder and persuades her to flee. Brienne respects Catelyn and finds her to be courageous in her own way, and so pledges fealty to Lady Stark.[7]

Catelyn goes to Riverrun castle and frees Jaime Lannister from the dungeons with the aim of sending him back to King's Landing in exchange for her captive daughters Sansa and Arya. She orders Brienne to escort Ser Jaime and his cousin Cleos Frey. Brienne fights with and kills three northern soldiers who hanged innocent tavern girls, they are the first men Brienne has ever killed.

Cleos is killed by bandits, and Jaime and Brienne are captured, as they are fighting in a stream (having beaten Ser Jaime in a sword fight, Brienne is repeatedly dunking his head underwater, as he refuses to yield the match to her). They are captured by a group of Essos sellswords who call themselves the Brave Companions, but others call them Bloody Mummers. This group had been hired as mercenaries by Tywin Lannister, but after capture had defected to the other side and fight under Roose Bolton who controls Harrenhal. Jaime is released by Roose Bolton who has been secretly plotting with Tywin Lannister, despite Hoat's attempt to forestall this by cutting off Jaime's hand. Jaime had saved Brienne from being raped by the Mummers by telling their leader that she would bring a valuable ransom of sapphires, but later, when their leader Vargo Hoat has been left in charge of Harrenhal, he tries again. Brienne savagely bites off his ear, and Hoat retaliates by having her thrown into the bear pit to fight with a wooden sword. Jaime had left the day before, but having a dream about Brienne, he returns in time to save her.

Both travel to King's Landing, but find that the Lannisters never had Arya and Sansa had disappeared after King Joffrey Baratheon's murder a few days earlier. Jaime must arrest Brienne for her own safety as Ser Loras still thinks she murdered Renly. Jaime, deciding to try to keep his oath to Catelyn, sends Brienne on a mission to find Sansa and take her to safety. He gives Brienne his new Valyrian steel sword, which he names Oathkeeper along with gold and a letter signed by the new King Tommen Baratheon which allows her to ask for aid and identifies her as being on a royal mission.

Brienne travels the Riverlands searching for Sansa, and unknown to her nearly finds Arya, whose ship to Braavos is just leaving a harbour. She realizes that a young lad has been following her. This turns out to be squire Podrick Payne, who learning that Brienne is searching for Sansa Stark, hopes this might lead to his master Tyrion Lannister, as she is his wife. At Maidenpool, Brienne meets Ser Hyle Hunt one of the knights she knew from Renly's camp, who attempts to persuade her to marry him, though Brienne treats him with disdain. Hiring a guide named Nimble Dick Crabb, Brienne tracks a jester trying to hire a ship, but finds it not to be Dontes Hollard with Sansa, but instead several members of the Brave Companions who are now hunted and scattered, and she kills them.

Following a rumor of the Hound travelling with a girl, Brienne meets a septon who tells her of how he found the badly wounded Hound who he says is now "dead", but that a bandit using the Hound's helmet is pretending to be him and inflicting terror. Brienne, while protecting a number of orphans at an inn at a crossroad near the Trident, finds and defeats these bandits lead by Rorge, but is gravely wounded and nearly killed by Biter until saved by Gendry. She is then captured by a group of outlaws known as The Brotherhood Without Banners, who are led by the now undead Catelyn Stark. Catelyn believes Brienne is a traitor working for the Lannisters and sentences her to hanging along with Podrick and Hyle Hunt who had followed them. The only chance she has to save them is if she agrees to bring them Jaime Lannister.

Then, in A Dance with Dragons, Brienne appears to Jaime in the Riverlands and beseeches him to come with her alone to rescue Sansa, who she claims has been spotted with The Hound a day's ride away. [8][9]

In the show[edit]

Gwendoline Christie plays the role of Brienne of Tarth in the television series.

Season 2[edit]

Brienne defeats Ser Loras Tyrell to win the tornament held by Renly Baratheon, as he is camped with his army, and is rewarded with a place in his kingsguard. Brienne rides with Renly as he goes to negotiate with Stannis. She is helping Renly don his armor when he is assassinated by a shadow with Stannis' face. Brienne kills two other kingsguard who think that she was the murderer, then is persuaded by Catelyn Stark to flee. Brienne takes service with Catelyn and returns with her to Robb Starks army in the Riverlands. She is with Catelyn as she releases Ser Jaime Lannister from his cell in the army camp and is charged with escorting him to King's Landing in exchange for Catelyn's daughters.

Season 3[edit]

Escorting Jaime through the Riverlands Brienne chooses not to kill a man whom Jaime thinks recognized him. The man sells them out to Locke, a northern soldier of Roose Bolton's, who finds them having a sword fight on a bridge. Locke attempts to rape Brienne, but is persuaded not to by Jaime, as she would bring a valuable ransom. When Locke maliciously cuts off Jaime's hand, Brienne must persuade him to live on in order to get revenge. Jaime's wound is treated by Qyburn, a disgraced maester who was found alive among the dead when Harrenhal was taken by the north. In the baths, a still feverish Jaime tells Brienne of how he killed Mad King Aerys to save the city of King's Landing from being burned. Roose Bolton releases Jaime, but leaves Brienne as Locke's captive. Jaime promises her that he will keep the vow made to Catelyn Stark. When the ransom turns out to be not as high as promised by Jaime, Locke decides to stage a fight with Brienne and a bear for entertainment, but Jaime returns to save her. Jaime and Brienne return to King's Landing in the company of Qyburn.

Season 4[edit]

Brienne cannot return Sansa to Catelyn Stark, as she has been murdered by the Freys, and Jaime argues that Sansa now married to Tyrion is safer staying in King's Landing. Brienne speaks with Margaery Tyrell and explains that she did not kill Renly, then attends King Joffrey's wedding to Margaery Tyrell, and witnesses his death by poisoning. Cersei confronts Brienne and implies that Brienne loves Jaime. After Jaime's brother Tyrion is accused of the murder, Jaime gives Brienne a valyrian steel sword, which Brienne names Oathkeeper to honor Jaime, in order to find Sansa and take her to safety, now that she is wanted for murder. He also gives her armor and Tyrion's former squire Podrick Payne, whose life is in danger after being coerced to offer false testimony against Tyrion.

On their way through the Riverlands, the two meet Arya Stark's former travelling companion Hot Pie; after learning from him that Arya is alive, they decide to travel to the Vale, as they suspect she is being sheltered by her aunt Lysa Arryn. Brienne encounters Arya in the Vale, being escorted by Sandor "The Hound" Clegane. When Arya refuses to go with Brienne, she and the Hound fight, culminating in Brienne forcing him off a cliff and apparently dealing him a mortal wound, though Arya escapes in the confusion.

Season 5[edit]

After searching fruitlessly for Arya, a dispirited Brienne and Podrick spot Sansa Stark in a tavern in the company of Lord Petyr Baelish, and Brienne offers Sansa her services. Sansa refuses and Brienne, realizing that she is in danger from Baelish, flees with his guards in pursuit, but undeterred she follows Sansa to the ancestral Stark stronghold of Winterfell, now under occupation by House Bolton. Staying in the nearby town, Brienne manages to have a message smuggled into Winterfell instructing Sansa how to signal if she is in need of help. Though the woman who relays this message is tortured, she dies before revealing who sent it. Sansa eventually manages to escape the room where Ramsay Bolton has kept her captive, while the Boltons are preparing to battle the approaching forces of Stannis Baratheon. However, Brienne has left to find and kill Stannis (having sworn to avenge his brother Renly's murder) before she can see Sansa's signal. Brienne finds Stannis gravely wounded in the aftermath of the battle and, after he confesses to his role in Renly's death, she executes him.

Season 6[edit]

Brienne follows a group of Bolton soldiers sent to recapture Sansa, who had fled Winterfell along with Ramsay's slave Theon Greyjoy, and kills the soldiers before offering her services again to Sansa, who accepts. Brienne reveals to Sansa that Arya is still alive, though her whereabouts are unknown. Brienne accompanies Sansa to Castle Black, where Sansa is reunited with her half-brother, Jon Snow. At Castle Black Brienne encounters Davos Seaworth and Melisandre, whom she remembers from the negotiations with Renly. She informs them not only that she was the one who executed Stannis, but that she still blames them for their part in Renly's death. She also meets the wildling leader, Tormund Giantsbane, who is clearly fascinated by, and attracted to her, but before he can act on it, Sansa sends her South to recruit Tully forces to the Stark cause. At Riverrun castle, Brienne finds Ser Jaime Lannister laying siege. She offers to return his sword, encourages him to try for victory without bloodshed, and receives permission to go to the castle to treat with Brynden Tully the Blackfish. Jaime swears that if the castle is surrendered, he will allow the Blackfish to freely take the Tully forces north to aid Sansa, however the Blackfish refuses the offer. When Riverrun is surrendered by the freed Lord Edmure Tully, Brienne and Podrick slip away by boat.

Reception[edit]

Functional weapons and armor, like Brienne of Tarth's (left), were manufactured for the series.

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.[10] 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."[11] Writing for witandfancy.com, 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)."[12] Arthur McCulloch, writing for chamberfour.com, 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."[13]

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."[4] Rihannon, a feminist writer for feministfiction.com 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."[14] 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.[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ A Feast For Crows, Brienne IV.
  2. ^ A Clash of Kings, Catelyn XXI.
  3. ^ A Feast For Crows, Brienne XXXI.
  4. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Harwood, Charlie (May 7, 2012). "Brienne of Tarth: Loyalty without Charge". HBOwatch.com. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  6. ^ Davies Cole, Andrew (April 11, 2012). "Game of Thrones: Gwendoline Christie Interview". SFX. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  7. ^ A Clash of Kings, Catelyn XXXIX.
  8. ^ A Dance With Dragons, Jaime XLVIII.
  9. ^ A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 48
  10. ^ Martin, George RR (April 11, 2012). "Game of Thrones Brienne of Tarth's Women's T-Shirt". georgerrmartin.com. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  11. ^ 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. 
  12. ^ Mann, Samantha (Jan 7, 2012). "Awesome Female Characters: Brienne of Tarth and Why It's a Man's Westeros". Witandfancy.com. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  13. ^ McCulloch, Arthur (May 17, 2012). "Review: A Feast For Crows". Chamberfour.com. Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  14. ^ Rhiannon (June 28, 2012). "There Are No True Knights: Brienne of Tarth". The Chronicle (Duke University). Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  15. ^ 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.