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A Song of Ice and Fire character
Game of Thrones
Melisandre-Carice van Houten.jpg
Carice van Houten as Melisandre
First appearance
Created byGeorge R. R. Martin
Portrayed byCarice van Houten
(Game of Thrones)
  • The Red Priestess
  • The Red Woman
Significant other(s)Stannis Baratheon
NationalityUnknown; Came from Asshai to Westeros

Melisandre of Asshai is a fictional character in the A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels by American author George R. R. Martin, and its television adaptation Game of Thrones. She is a priestess of the god R'hllor from the continent Essos and a close advisor to King Stannis Baratheon in his campaign to take the Iron Throne. She is often nicknamed The Red Woman due to the color of her hair and clothes.

Introduced in 1998's A Clash of Kings, Melisandre has come to Westeros to propagate her faith in the Red God. She subsequently appeared in Martin's A Storm of Swords (2000) and A Dance with Dragons (2011). Melisandre is not a point-of-view character in the first four novels, her actions are witnessed and interpreted through the eyes of other characters such as Davos Seaworth and Jon Snow. In the fifth novel A Dance with Dragons, she has a single point-of-view chapter. George R. R. Martin stated she will return as a viewpoint character in future novels.[1]

Melisandre is portrayed by Dutch actress Carice van Houten in the HBO television adaptation.[2][3][4]

Character description[edit]

Also known as "The Red Woman", Melisandre is a shadowbinder and a priestess of R'hllor in service to Stannis Baratheon. Originally a slave from Asshai called Melony, she is chosen by the Red Temple and recruited as a red priestess, and as a result has prophetic powers that give her partial knowledge of future events. She is also referred to as a shadowbinder, being able to cast glamours and perform certain feats of dark magic. Melisandre is introduced in A Clash of Kings and serves as the third-person narrator for one chapter of A Dance with Dragons. She is described as a beautiful voluptuous foreign woman with red eyes and red hair, always dressing in red robes and wearing a red gold choker set with a large ruby, and rarely sleeps or eats. She possesses magical abilities that can cast glamour and manipulate fire and shadow, has prophetic visions by looking into fire, and takes an aggressively militant stance against the other religions of Westeros.


A coat of arms showing a crowned black stag in a red heart engulfed in orange flames on a field of yellow.
Personal coat of arms of Stannis Baratheon

In the books[edit]

Early history and A Game of Thrones[edit]

Melisandre was born an unknown number of years before the start of the series, possibly with the name "Melony". As a child slave, she was sold to the Red Temple and trained for the priesthood. Believing Stannis Baratheon to be the reincarnation of Azor Ahai, a mythic messiah prophesied by her faith, she travels to his island stronghold, Dragonstone, during the events of A Game of Thrones. Tywin Lannister indirectly mentioned her as "a shadowbinder from Asshai" during a private conversation with Tyrion Lannister after the Battle in the Whispering Wood.

A Clash of Kings[edit]

Melisandre converts Stannis's wife Selyse to her religion, along with several other members of Stannis' court. Stannis' maester Cressen, fearing Melisandre's power and her influence over him, tries to assassinate Melisandre with poison in a murder-suicide, and although Melisandre drinks most of the poison her powers allow her to survive. When Stannis' brother Renly also declares himself king, Melisandre has a vision of Renly defeating Stannis' host at King's Landing. She convinces Stannis to impregnate her, giving birth to a shadow demon that kills Renly. She also births another demon that kills Storm's End's castellan, Ser Cortnay Penrose, when he refuses to yield Storm's End. Ser Bryce Caron convinces Stannis to leave Melisandre at Dragonstone during the Battle of the Blackwater, which ends in Stannis' defeat. During the battle, Ser Garlan Tyrell dons Renly's armor and leads the Tyrell-Lannister vanguard, thus fulfilling Melisandre's earlier prophecy.

A Storm of Swords[edit]

Stannis' advisor Davos Seaworth blames Melisandre for Stannis' defeat and plans to assassinate her before Melisandre sees the plot in her flames and has him arrested. She attempts to persuade Stannis to sacrifice his bastard nephew Edric Storm to awaken stone dragons beneath Dragonstone. Stannis refuses, but allows her to leech him and burns the leeches to curse Stannis' rivals: Balon Greyjoy, Robb Stark, and Joffrey Baratheon. All three die in various circumstances soon after, but Davos smuggles Edric to Lys, fearing he will be sacrificed. Melisandre then accompanies Stannis and Davos to the Wall to defeat Mance Rayder's wildling host.

A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons[edit]

Jon Snow swaps Mance Rayder's baby son with Gilly's baby, and sends the baby with Gilly, Samwell Tarly and Maester Aemon to Oldtown, to prevent Melisandre from burning the baby to perform fire magic. When Stannis orders Mance Rayder to be burned alive for deserting the Night's Watch, she uses her magic to secretly switch Mance's identity with Rattleshirt's, another wildling raider, resulting in Rattleshirt being burned instead. She later reveals this to Jon Snow, and sends Mance to Winterfell with six spearwives to rescue "Arya Stark" (actually Sansa Stark's handmaiden Jeyne Poole) from Ramsay Bolton. Melisandre remains at the Wall while Stannis marches on Winterfell. Noting that her powers are stronger at the Wall, she asks R'hllor for a vision of Azor Ahai, but only sees "Snow". She also warns Jon of having seen "daggers in the dark". Jon ignores her warnings, and is later stabbed by mutineers led by Bowen Marsh.

In the show[edit]

Melisandre is played by Dutch actress Carice van Houten in the television adaption of the book series.[5]

Season 2[edit]

In a ceremony on Dragonstone, Melisandre burns the statues of the Faith of the Seven, drawing the ire of Stannis' maester Cressen. Cressen attempts to poison her in a murder-suicide attempt; despite drinking the poison, Melisandre is unharmed. She convinces Stannis to impregnate her, giving birth to a shadow demon that kills Stannis' brother Renly, a rival claimant to the throne. However, Stannis' advisor Davos Seaworth counsels Stannis to leave Melisandre on Dragonstone when he attacks King's Landing; when the attack fails, Melisandre claims that Stannis' defeat was a result of not bringing her to the battle. Stannis attempts to strangle Melisandre in a fit of rage, before she makes him understand his role in Renly's death, and assures him that his betrayals will be worth it in the end.

Season 3[edit]

Melisandre begins burning members of Stannis' court alive at Dragonstone. Davos, blaming Melisandre for Stannis' defeat, tries to assassinate her but fails and is imprisoned. She travels to the Riverlands to meet up with the Brotherhood without Banners, who have taken on Robert Baratheon's bastard Gendry as a blacksmith. During her meeting, Melisandre is astonished when the Red Priest Thoros of Myr reveals he has resurrected the Brotherhood's leader Ser Beric Dondarrion six times. Melisandre purchases Gendry from the Brotherhood, much to the fury of Gendry's friend Arya Stark. Melisandre uses Gendry's blood in a ritual to kill Stannis' rivals. However, before Gendry can be sacrificed, Davos helps him escape. Davos staves off his own execution by showing Stannis a letter from the Night's Watch, claiming that the White Walkers have returned. After burning the letter in the flames, Melisandre corroborates Davos' story, and declares that Stannis will have need of Davos in future.

Season 4[edit]

Melisandre accompanies Stannis, Davos and their army to the Wall. Before the Baratheon forces sail north, she convinces Selyse Baratheon to bring Stannis' daughter Shireen to the Wall with them, claiming that the Lord of Light has use for her.

Season 5[edit]

Melisandre presides over Mance Rayder's burning. She attempts to seduce Jon Snow, but he rejects her advances. She later joins Stannis and Davos on their mission to take Winterfell from the Boltons. When a large snowstorm delays their march, Melisandre suggests that Stannis sacrifice Shireen. Stannis initially refuses, but after a raiding party led by Ramsay Bolton burns their supplies, he gives in and allows her to burn Shireen at the stake. The blizzard lifts, but half of Stannis' army deserts and Selyse commits suicide out of guilt for Shireen's death. Melisandre flees to Castle Black, where her distraught demeanour leads Davos and Jon to realise that Stannis and Shireen are dead.

Season 6[edit]

Melisandre's true form is revealed in the episode "The Red Woman".

Still reeling from Stannis' defeat, Melisandre is further shocked when Jon is assassinated by his officers, as she had had a vision of him fighting at Winterfell. In shock and suffering a crisis of faith, she returns to her chambers, removing her necklace and hence revealing her true form of an extremely old woman. Following the imprisonment of the mutineers by the wildlings, Davos persuades her to attempt a resurrection of Jon, which, to her shock, is ultimately successful. Melisandre comes to believe that the "prince that was promised" was not Stannis, but Jon, and dedicates herself to his service. Realizing that her constant meddling had done more harm than good, Melisandre works no magic without Jon's permission, nor does she try to convert anyone – including Snow – to worship the Lord of Light.

Melisandre joins Jon in his march on Winterfell to confront Ramsay Bolton. Although Jon forbids her from resurrecting him again if he falls. Melisandre says she will at least try, as the Lord of Light might still need him. In the aftermath of House Stark's recapture of Winterfell (which validates her vision), Melisandre is confronted by Davos, who has discovered that she burned Shireen at the stake. Jon Snow exiles her from the North, threatening to have her executed if she ever returns. Melisandre protests that she is now dedicated to the cause of defeating the White Walkers, but ultimately agrees to leave and rides south.

Season 7[edit]

Melisandre arrives on Dragonstone, which is now occupied by Daenerys Targaryen. Melisandre claims that both she and Jon (who has been crowned King in the North since her exile) are the "prince that was promised", and suggests that Daenerys summon Jon to Dragonstone to hear of his experiences fighting the White Walkers. When Jon and Davos arrive on Dragonstone to meet Daenerys, Melisandre avoids them and decides to return to Volantis. Although Daenerys' advisor Varys warns that Melisandre will not be safe if she ever returns to Westeros, she declares that she will eventually make one final journey to Westeros to die.

TV adaptation[edit]

Carice van Houten plays the role of Melisandre in the television series

Melisandre is portrayed by Dutch actress Carice van Houten in the television adaption of the series of books.[6]

Recognition and awards[edit]

Year Award Category Result Ref.
2014 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated [7][8]
2016 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated [9]
2017 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series Nominated [10]


  1. ^ JUEGOS DE TRONOS de George R.R Martin en la FIL de Guadalajara 2016 Event occurs at 27:22
  2. ^ "Game of Thrones Cast and Crew: Melisandre played by Carice van Houten". HBO. Retrieved December 29, 2015.
  3. ^ "The Official Website for the HBO Series Game of Thrones - Season 4". HBO.
  4. ^ "From HBO". Archived from the original on 2016-03-07.
  5. ^ "'Game of Thrones': Carice van Houten on Melisandre". Vulture.
  6. ^ Peters, Lucia (September 11, 2011). "Meet the Second Season Cast of Game of Thrones!". Defy Media. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  7. ^ "SAG Awards Nominations: 12 Years A Slave And Breaking Bad Lead Way". Deadline Hollywood. December 11, 2013. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  8. ^ "SAG Awards: Lone Survivor, Game Of Thrones Win Stunt Honors". Deadline Hollywood. January 18, 2014. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  9. ^ "SAG Awards Nominations: Complete List". Variety. December 9, 2015. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  10. ^ Nolfi, Joey (December 14, 2016). "SAG Awards nominations 2017: See the full list". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 16, 2017.