Brienne of Tarth: everything you need to know about Game of Thrones' strongest Lady

Lela London
Gwendoline Christie as Brienne of Tarth -  HELENSLOAN

I’m just going to put it out there – Brienne of Tarth is a feminist icon.

Not only does she rise above being rejected – if not resented – for a pragmatic and perfectionist approach to fighting (simply for being a woman) but never falters as one of the most loyal, honest and determined women of Westeros.

By the Seven Kingdoms’ patriarchal standards, she simply doesn’t fit in. And is regularly belittled by inferior swordsmen who feel they should remind her. Not that being underrated has got in the way of her defeating the likes Loras Tyrell or The Hound (two of the greatest fighters in the realm).

With Game of Thrones season 8 now underway, here is everything you need to know about Brienne of Tarth’s story so far:

Who is Brienne of Tarth?

Brienne Tarth, commonly called Brienne of Tarth after her island home, is the only living child and heir of Lord Selwyn Tarth, Lord of Evenfall and head of House Tarth on the island of Tarth, located in the Narrow Sea off the coast of the Stormlands

By Westerosi standards she is unusually tall and muscular for a woman (therefore sometimes pejoratively referred to as Brienne the Beauty) but used her differences to her advantage by practicing martial activity from a young age.

Brienne was introduced in series two as a dedicated member of Renly Baratheon’s Kingsguard. His subsequent slaying at the hand of Melisandre’s smoke demon instigated a calamity of errors which turned her dream (of becoming a knight) into a nightmare (killing her fellow Kingsguard in self defence).

She then fled the camp to avoid being blamed for Renly’s death, swore her sword to Catelyn Stark, and eventually escorted hostage Jaime Lannister back to King’s Landing – their antagonism developing into an unexpected friendship.

Brienne of Tarth, left, battles with Sandor "The Hound" Clegane in season 5

Following the Red Wedding’s tragic murder of Catelyn Stark (and – well – most of our favourite characters), Brienne transferred her oath of protection to the dead woman’s children.

She would finally avenge Renly by killing Stannis (following his defeat by Ramsay).

Who is Gwendoline Christie who plays her?

Gwendoline Christie was born on October 28, 1978 in Worthing, West Sussex and made her TV debut in the second season’s third episode in April 2012. She is just under 6ft 4in tall.

Starting off as a theatre actress, Christie’s collective playbill includes performances as the Queen in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline (alongside Tom Hiddleston) and Mag Wildwood in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

In 2015, Christie played Commander Lyme in the final film in The Hunger Games series, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. In the same year, Christie co-starred in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as Captain Phasma, one of the film’s main antagonists.

She reprised the role in 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Since early 2013, Christie has been in a relationship with fashion designer Giles Deacon.

British actress Gwendoline Christie  Credit:  AFP

What’s happened to Brienne so far in Game of Thrones?

Season 2

Brienne joins King Renly Baratheon’s forces in the War of the Five Kings, proving herself by winning a tournament amongst his men, including a victory over Renly’s favorite/love interest Ser Loras Tyrell.

She asks to be named to his Kingsguard as a reward, which Renly does, despite her gender and consequent lack of knighthood. Brienne guards Renly during an unsuccessful meeting with his brother, King Stannis Baratheon, and is devastated at witnessing his death at the hands of a shadow demon with the likeness of Stannis.

At Robb Stark’s camp Catelyn Stark decides to free captive Jaime Lannister in an attempt to exchange him for her two daughters, who she believes are both being held hostage in King’s Landing. She orders Brienne to smuggle Jaime from the camp and deliver him to King’s Landing in order to secure the safety of her daughters.  Jaime vows to return Sansa and Arya Stark to Catelyn in exchange for his return.

Season 3

In the Riverlands, Jaime and Brienne are captured by Bolton soldiers. He dissuades them from raping Brienne by claiming her father will pay them her weight in sapphires as a ransom, provided she is unharmed, but their leader Locke cuts off Jaime’s sword hand when he tries to bargain for his own release.

Brienne and Jaime are taken to Harrenhal, where Jaime reveals to Brienne that he killed the Mad King Aerys II Targaryen to stop him from burning King’s Landing.

 Lord Bolton allows Jaime to leave for King’s Landing, but decides to keep Brienne in Harrenhal for abetting treason, in spite of Jaime’s protests. Jaime compels his escorts to return to save her. Jaime and Brienne arrive at the gates of the Red Keep. 

Season 4

Several weeks after their return, Brienne visits Margaery Tyrell. After enduring Olenna Tyrell’s comments regarding her appearance and her gratitude for putting Loras Tyrell in his place, Brienne and Margaery slip off to discuss Renly’s assassination. Brienne explains what she saw and how the shadow had Stannis’ face. She assures Margaery that she will find a way to avenge their king. 

Brienne cannot now return Sansa to Catelyn Stark, since murdered by the Freys. Jaime argues that Sansa (now married to Tyrion) is safer staying in King’s Landing. Brienne attends King Joffrey Baratheon's wedding to Margaery Tyrell, and witnesses his death by poisoning.

 After Jaime's brother Tyrion is accused of the murder, Jaime gives Brienne a Valyrian steel sword, which Brienne names “Oathkeeper”, in order to find Sansa and take her to safety. He also gives her 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 learn that Arya is alive, and 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.

Season 5

Despite their failure to retrieve Arya, Podrick wishes to remain with Brienne as her squire in order to find Sansa. While dining at an inn, Podrick identifies Sansa Stark sitting with Petyr Baelish. Brienne approaches them and reveals to Sansa that she swore an oath to her mother to keep her safe. Sansa refuses to respond and Brienne, realising that she is in danger from Baelish, flees with his guards in pursuit. Undeterred, she later follows Sansa to the ancestral Stark stronghold of Winterfell, where she has been wed to Roose Bolton’s sadistic son Ramsay.

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. Sansa eventually manages to escape the room where Ramsay has kept her captive, while the Boltons are preparing to battle Stannis’ approaching forces.

However, Brienne left to find and kill Stannis (having sworn to avenge his brother Renly’s death) before she could 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, telling him she is doing so in the name of the rightful king – Renly.

Season 6

With Stannis dead, Brienne and Podrick continue their search for Sansa. Eventually, they manage to find Sansa and Theon Greyjoy apprehended by a Bolton hunting party. Brienne kills the soldiers and once again offers her services to Sansa, who readily agrees this time.

Brienne reveals to Sansa that Arya is still alive, although her whereabouts are unknown. Brienne, Podrick, and Sansa journey on to Castle Black (Theon having returned to the Iron Islands), where Sansa’s half-brother Jon Snow has just resigned as Lord Commander. 

Brienne and Podrick travel to Riverrun to deliver a letter from Sansa Stark to her great-uncle Brynden “Blackfish” Tully. (Sansa is seeking reinforcements for her campaign to retake Winterfell from the Boltons.)

Upon arriving, they discover that the Lannisters and Freys are besieging the castle. Jaime and Brienne meet discreetly in a tent and she tells Jaime that she has come to secure Brynden’s help. She convinces Jaime to let her negotiate with the Blackfish so that Brynden and his men can leave the castle at night to travel to Winterfell.

Before she leaves she points out that, if she is unsuccessful, she will be compelled by honor (to Sansa’s family) to fight against Jaime. Jaime voices his hope that it doesn’t come to that. 

Brienne fails to convince the Blackfish but, in the end, the castle is taken with him as the only casualty. Just before he goes off to meet his death, Blackfish puts Brienne and Podrick into a rowboat in a secret escape tunnel. As Brienne and Podrick row quietly away in the dawn, Jaime sees her from the castle. She meets his gaze as they both wave a quiet farewell.

Podrick, Sansa and Brienne of Tarth in season 6

Season 7

On their return to Winterfell, Brienne and Podrick are met by the aftermath of the Battle of the Bastards. When Jon Snow announces that he expects women to be trained for the coming war with the undead, Brienne smiles. While tutoring Podrick in the courtyard, wildling Tormund Giantsbane tries to steal her attention but is rebuffed.

When Jon announces Sansa’s control of the North (at least during his trip to visit Daenerys in Dragonstone), Brienne again warms at the opportunity for women to seize power. Some time later, Arya – who has recently returned to her home of Winterfell – challenges Brienne to a spar. The fight is intense and equally matched; they eventually reach a respectful stalemate. When King’s Landing calls for a collective parley, Sansa sends Brienne to represent the North. She arrives – with Podrick – and is stunned to discover that Sandor Clegane is alive and well, even siding with the North. She remains quiet, under Jon's canopy, during the tense negotiations.

Will Brienne die in Season 8?

While many Game of Thrones fans are hoping for some kind of unlikely love story between Jaime and Brienne (myself included), or Brienne and Tormund, it’s unlikely whether Lady Tarth will have any semblance of a happy ending.

Should survival come down to pure combat skills, Brienne has greater odds than most characters. She is as strong as any swordsman and wholly relentless in battle, no matter how tough her opponent.

Should anything progress in the unlikely friendship between her and the fleeing Lannister, however, a vengeful Cersei would undoubtedly place a target on Brienne’s back. 

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