Brienne of Tarth

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Brienne of Tarth
A Song of Ice and Fire character
Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth in the season 3 episode "Dark Wings, Dark Words".
First appearance Novel:
A Clash of Kings (1998)
"What Is Dead May Never Die" (2012)
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 Rainbowguard
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 regular 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.



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, their betrothal therefore never coming 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]

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]


In the books[edit]

Brienne is first introduced in A Clash of Kings (1998), in which she wins a tournament at Renly Baratheon's camp. As a reward, Brienne is made a member of Renly's personal guard, the Rainbowguard; Shortly after, Brienne is helping Renly prepare his armor for battle when he is assassinated by a mysterious shadow. She is immediately accused of his murder and flees with Catelyn Stark. Brienne respects Catelyn and finds her to be courageous in her own way, and so pledges fealty to Lady Stark.[7] Catelyn later frees Jaime Lannister from her son Robb's custody with the aim of sending him back to King's Landing in exchange for her captive daughters Sansa and Arya. She orders Brienne to go with him as an escort. Both are captured by the Bloody Mummers and taken to Harrenhal, Jaime saving Brienne from being raped by the Mummers. Jaime is released by the duplicitous Roose Bolton; Brienne is thrown into the bear pit by Vargo Hoat. Jaime, however, returns and frees her. Both travel to King's Landing where Jaime gives Brienne his new Valyrian steel sword, renames it Oathkeeper and sends her out so she can continue her mission to find and return Sansa and Arya.

Brienne travels the Riverlands searching for Sansa and Arya. 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 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]

Brienne's storyline diverges from the books halfway through the fourth season. Jaime Lannister gives her the services of Tyrion Lannister's former squire Podrick Payne, whose life is in danger following Tyrion's arrest. 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 mortally wounding him, though Arya escapes in the confusion.

In the fifth season, Brienne discovers Sansa Stark is being harboured by Lord Petyr Baelish. Baelish has his guards chase Brienne away, but she is undeterred and follows Sansa to the ancestral Stark stronghold Winterfell, now under occupation by the cruel House Bolton. Brienne manages to have a message smuggled into Winterfell telling Sansa how to signal for help and makes camp outside the castle, unaware that Ramsay Bolton has flayed the maid who gave Sansa the message and kept Sansa locked in her chambers. Sansa eventually manages to signal for help while the Boltons are preparing to battle the approaching forces of Stannis Baratheon, but Brienne leaves to find and kill Stannis (having sworn to kill him to avenge his brother Renly) before she can see. Brienne finds Stannis gravely wounded in the aftermath of the battle and, after he confesses to his role in Renly's death, she apparently executes him.


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, 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, 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 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]


  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". 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". 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". Retrieved April 9, 2013. 
  13. ^ McCulloch, Arthur (May 17, 2012). "Review: A Feast For Crows". 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.