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Brienne Tarth, commonly known as Brienne of Tarth, is the only living child and heir of Lord Selwyn Tarth, Lord of Evenfall Hall. She is a a valiant and skilled warrior in A Song of Ice and Fire. Brienne follows the traditional style and codes of a knight, despite not being one (women can't be Ser). She is extremely loyal to whoever she deems as worthy of serving. She sometimes called the Maid of Tarth and mocked as Brienne the Beauty. She had a now deceased brother, Galladon Tarth, and two sisters, Arianne and Alysanne Tarth, who both died while still in the cradle. She's 15 at the beginning of the second book.
Brienne Tarth, daughter of Lord Selwyn Tarth, is considered ugly and ungainly, but is immensely skilled at combat. She is taller and stronger than many men, and her father and his head of household guards have trained her for many years in the arts of combat. Some people consider her a freak, while other men hope to marry her to inherit her father's wealthy lands. For her part, Brienne yearns for respect, acceptance and a chance to prove her valor in a worthy cause.
Brienne is described as homely: her hair is a squirrel's nest of dirty straw; her features are broad and coarse; her teeth are prominent and crooked; her mouth is too wide; her lips are so plump they seemed swollen; a thousand freckles speckle her cheeks and brow; and her nose had been broken more than once. Her only lovely feature is her eyes, large and very blue, trusting and guileless. Very few people (Renly, Cortnay Penrose, Catelyn, and Jaime) see beyond her ugliness and realize that she is honest, decent and honorable, if also naive and stubborn.
Brienne is the oldest daughter of Lord Selwyn of Tarth. She had two younger sisters but they both died in the cradle. She had an older brother named Galladon, but he drowned when she was eight years old, leaving her as Selwyn's only surviving child and heir. She has been engaged to marry three times (contracts made by her father, none of which ended well
When Brienne was young, Septa Roelle was her tutor. Instead of helping Brienne to gain confidence despite her ugliness, Roelle did the opposite: she kept telling Brienne that she was freakish big, mannish and slow learner, and that men talked to her kindly only because they wanted to win her father’s favor.
The books don't make specific mention of her mother: in the TV series she says that she never knew her, implying that she died when Brienne was very young. Brienne has a good relationship with her father and describes him as a good man. She notes that (since her mother died) he is in a relationship with a new female romantic interest every year or so.
There is widespread speculation that Brienne of Tarth is a descendant of the famous knight Duncan the Tall, who eventually rose to be Lord Commander of the Kingsguard under his friend King Aegon V Targaryen. Ser Duncan ("Dunk") and Aegon "Egg" Targaryen are the two main characters in the "Tales of Dunk and Egg" prequel novellas, which start about 90 years before Game of Thrones begins. George R.R. Martin has stated that, with time-jumps in between each story, he intends for the prequel novellas to cover the entire lives of Dunk and Egg, up until about 50 years ago. There are three pieces of evidence that Brienne might be Duncan's descendant. First, Martin actually said that a descendant of Duncan would appear in the fourth novel, but he never indicated who it was. Second, during the fourth novel, Brienne mentions in passing while selecting a new shield that she recalls an old shield from her youth which was present in her family's armory at Evenfall Hall, and the description she gives matches Ser Duncan's personal sigil (a green shooting star over a green elm tree, on a sunset-orange field). Third, though most general, is that "Ser Duncan the Tall" was famously a very tall man, nearly seven feet in height, and Brienne is unusually tall for a woman by Westeros standards. There is also speculation that Hodor may be a descendant of Ser Duncan, as Hodor is also extremely tall, over seven feet in height, and the upcoming fourth prequel novella, The She-Wolves of Winterfell, reveals that Ser Duncan traveled to Winterfell. At one point Bran Stark has a greensight vision of the past, and sees a very large man "as tall as Hodor" in the Winterfell godswood, being kissed by a slender young woman - who might have been Old Nan.
She first met Renly when he came to Tarth to see her father who was his bannerman. He treated her with courtesy and respect. He danced with her, and she has been in love with him ever since. Lady Catelyn realizes this the first time she sees Brienne looking at Renly (down at him, as she stands a half-hand taller than him). Brienne always tries to be at Renly's side. She offers to guard him the night before the battle, but Renly says no as he and Loras are going to "pray together privately". He accepts her offer to come before dawn to arm him for the battle, others who hear this snicker, and Lady Catelyn thinks it sad that she is thought of as a joke, because she acts the part of a squire and dresses him just to have the opportunity to touch him.
According to Loras, Renly thought that Brienne was absurd - a woman dressed in man's mail, pretending to be a knight. Yet he kept her close, because all his other knights wanted things of him, castles or honors or riches, but all that Brienne wanted was to die for him. Loras also believes that Brienne killed Renly. When she and Jaime return to King's Landing, Loras (a member of the Kingsguard in the book narrative) confronts Brienne and orders her to draw her sword. Jaime intervenes and warns Loras that Brienne is as strong as Gregor Clegane, and if Loras duels her it will likely be his corpse that is carried away afterwards.
When Brienne joined Renly's army, he greeted her courteously and welcomed her to his service. She expected the other knights to treat her with coldness and mockery, but to her surprise many of them were exceedingly kind to her, going above and beyond the others to win her favor, except Randyll Tarly who was openly hostile toward her. Brienne was confused and suspicious to be treated so warmly. The mystery was solved when Dickon Tarly overheard by chance four knights talking about a wager that three of the soldiers put on the first who could claim Brienne's maidenhead, and many others joined the contest. Dickon told his father, and Randyll put an end to the wager, knowing that some of the challengers were less honorable than others, and it was only a matter of time before one of them decided to claim the prize by force. He told Brienne about the wager, bluntly claiming it was her fault. Brienne was deeply offended, and said that she came to fight and never did anything to encourage those knights. Randyll was not appeased, and told her that her presence alone encouraged them because a war host is no place for a maiden.
When taking Jaime to King's Landing on Catelyn Stark's orders, Brienne and Jaime are captured by the Brave Companions, also known as the Bloody Mummers, a particularly vile sellsword company, led by the insane and cruel Vargo Hoat. Before the Companions can rape Brienne, Jaime claims her father owns so many sapphires they will get a great ransom for her unspoiled. Later the Brave Companion Rorge, a sadistic rapist, tries to rape Brienne, but Jaime shouts for Hoat, who stops Rorge.
After Brienne remains at Harrenhal when Jaime is sent away by Roose Bolton, Vargo Hoat (Locke in the TV series) attempts to rape her, but she fights him off, biting off his ear in the process. Jaime is amused when he later learns that the wound festered, driving Hoat half mad with the pain.
When she is dispatched by Jaime to find and protect Sansa Stark, Brienne spends most of her time in the Riverlands, fruitlessly seeking information on Sansa's whereabouts. Podrick Payne runs away from King's Landing and meets up with her, hoping that if they find Sansa, they will also find Tyrion Lannister.
She and Pod never encounter Arya Stark or the Hound (though they do later meet a man posing as the Hound), but encounter several dispersed Brave Companions, with Pod saving Brienne's life in the subsequent encounter. Their quest eventually leads them to the Brotherhood Without Banners.
They are joined by Ser Hyle Hunt, a household knight of Randyll Tarly who is dismissed from his service for trying to tell him of Brienne's role in killing three of the Brave Companions. Hyle tries to woo her, being landless and hoping to become Lord of Tarth, but Brienne refuses. The group begin travelling with Septon Meribald and his dog, Dog. At the Quiet Isle the Elder Brother tells them the Hound is dead. Recently the town of Saltpans was attacked by a group of outlaws, apparently including the Hound, but the Elder Brother says it is a man wearing Sandor Clegane's helm, which he left to mark the Hound's grave. It is implied Sandor is alive and living as a gravedigger on the Quiet Isle.
When she goes to the Inn at the Crossroads Brienne encounters a group of orphaned children, who are being cared for by Jeyne and Willow, two nieces of Masha Heddle, who owned the Inn but was hanged by Tywin Lannister's forces. Brienne meets Gendry, who is working at the forge, and mistakes him for Renly due to his Baratheon looks. She suspects that Gendry is a bastard of Robert Baratheon. However a group of Brave Companions then ride to the Inn, one who is wearing the Hound's helm. Brienne recognises them as Rorge. Despite the odds Brienne cannot leave the children and confronts the outlaws. She kills Rorge, but is attacked by another Brave Companion, Biter, who pins her to the ground and starts eating her face. However she is saved when Gendry runs a spear through Biter's head.
Brienne is captured by the Brotherhood without Banners and taken before Lady Stoneheart. She is treated by Thoros of Myr, who tells her the Brotherhood has changed from its original mission. Due to her sword and letter from Tommen, Stoneheart believes her to be conspiring with the Lannisters, and says she must kill Jaime. When Brienne refuses Stoneheart sends her, Pod, and Hyle to be hanged. However Brienne shouts a word. Later she meets Jaime and tells him the Hound has Sansa and if he doesn't come with her alone he'll kill her.
Brienne of Tarth's behavior and personality in the books and the TV show are different from each other. In the books she is very uncomfortable to be a warrior woman, she is mistrusting, but also very good hearted, moral, and cheerful young girl. In the TV show she likes being a warrior, she is a very hard-edged and brutal grown woman. In the novels Brienne has promised she would act entirely like a typical Westerosi woman towards any potential husband who will defeat her in combat.
She has been mocked her entire life for her size and ungainly facial structure. She has also been the target for misogynistic remarks and mockery since childhood. Brienne is unfailingly loyal and devoted to people who show her kindness, such was the case with Renly Baratheon. Brienne is extremely brave, selfless and fiercely courageous, and would stand up for anyone she saw as innocent. Although she is not a real knight, Brienne has decided to live following the traditional vows of a knight, which compel her to defend and protect every innocent/weak person she sees under danger, regardless of danger level of the threat. She is brave enough to face terrifying opponents such as the Brave Companions (or the Hound in the TV show). Normally Brienne adopts an aloof but affable and polite persona in the presence of her betters, but can be effectively pragmatic and stoic when faced with people she is paired with - like Podrick, and Jaime Lannister.
In the TV series Brienne is more vengeful and highly determined, she was incredibly driven to avenging Renly Baratheon by killing Stannis Baratheon. In the novels Brienne never meets Stannis save at a parley. Though she talks of killing him immediately after Renly's death, taken by grief, this doesn't concern her for the rest of her appearances. Her desire to avenge Renly burned for a few weeks: at Riverrun she urged Ser Edmure Tully to answer Ser Cortnay Penrose's call by defending Storm's End from Stannis and had Catelyn Stark promise she would not interfere in killing Stannis. Edmure refused to make himself and Robb Stark enemies of Stannis and while Catelyn made the promise, she also defended Stannis's claim and reminded Brienne that Renly was planning to kill Stannis as well, despite himself had no right to usurp his elder brother, causing Brienne to cry. Currently, nightmares of Stannis's shadow killing her other loved ones keep haunting Brienne, but despite this, avenging Renly's death is no longer a thought of Brienne in the books, who now has simply chosen to forsake Stannis's cause.
Brienne is unnaturally tall and stocky, and therefore extremely strong. Her brute strength alone enables her to survive intense confrontations with other, more physical opponents. She is also an extremely skilled, relentless and experienced swordsman: she is shown to be driven by a need to be respected as an equal by her peers and her fellows, which leads her to getting up even after a critical beating or fatal injury has been sustained.
Character portrayal differences
As stated before, Brienne in the TV series has been drastically changed from her original younger book counterpart and her show personality is very different:
In the TV show Brienne is a lot more aggressive, mistrusting, vengeful, violent, lethal and unfriendly. In the books, Brienne has shown so far only the typical "pure good" heroic traits, with extremely high morals and a good forgiving personality that often make her a target for vicious characters. Also, in books Brienne is a teenager, while in the show she is a grown woman.
With that, Show-Brienne can be considered an anti-hero and a more self-serving character, even hypocritical at times. She is also more violent, quickly resorting to fighting and killing, in contrast to her book version, who does everything in her power to avoid physical violence only kills as a last resort. Every time she kills something, Book-Brienne feels awful and always digs a grave for every man she killed, regardless of the man's moral background.
When Renly died, Brienne's companions, Ser Emmon Cuy and Ser Robar Royce, taken by rage and shock for failing to protect their king, attack her. In the TV series, Brienne kills them both without hesitation or trying to stop them, even killing one of them after he was already wounded. In the novels she fights Renly's knights but she only makes them fall unconscious to avoid killing her companions, and Ser Robar helps her to escape; Emmon and Robar are both killed by Ser Loras Tyrell in a fit of rage for failing to protect Renly. In the TV show, during arguments Brienne easily gets to fight and savagely kill people, in contrast to her more positive and reasonable personality from the books. Finally her murder of Stannis Baratheon has caused many fans of the show to consider her an unpleasant hypocrite, as she spitefully tells Stannis she is killing him in the name of the rightful King Renly, even though Renly was clearly a usurper who intended to kill Stannis as his claim to the throne was better then Renly's. Later, Brienne spitefully tells Davos Seaworth and Melisandre how she murdered Stannis and takes glee in this, while Book-Brienne never takes any joy in killing even the worst people, and questions Davos' loyalty for hypocritical reasons, also insinuating that Davos deserted Stannis and was at the Wall for the prospect of a better leader when it was actually Stannis who sent Davos to the Wall.
In the TV series, Brienne is more cynical and rude, and separates herself from anything traditionally female. Her book version is more kind-hearted and polite, even internally wishing she could be a traditional woman, but can't due to her size. In the novels Brienne has a lot of empathy and self-reproach; she's a kind and polite girl who protects the smallfolk from the Brave Companions because of knight's honor and duty. She's doesn't mind having company or help, she's kind to Podrick Payne, and can accept apology from those who hurt her, even digging graves for evil people. She feels remorse even for killing monsters like Rorge. In the show Brienne attacks and kills people for little to no reason beside anger, and choses personal revenge over duty, going as far as killing a wounded Stannis Baratheon without a proper unbiased judgement, even taking the execution on behalf of a dead usurper king for her own sake, despite having no legal power to execute a higher member of a great house of Westeros, making it a murder and not a real execution. She has no trouble rubbing it in to others and even badmouths Stannis's former servants.
Overall, Brienne Tarth in the original story is presented as a traditional hero, and is one of the few truly good and selfless characters, such as Maester Luwin, Davos Seaworth, Samwell Tarly, Maester Aemon, and Hodor. Her TV show counterpart is more presented as an anti-hero and independent warrior who mistrust humanity and hates the system, like Sandor Clegane, who is similar to her.
- She is portrayed by Gwendoline Christie.
- In the books, Brienne never finds Sansa and thus does not travel to Winterfell to rescue her, nor does she kill Stannis Baratheon. In the TV series, her storyline has been somewhat merged with that of Mance Rayder, who infiltrates Winterfell to rescue Arya Stark from Ramsay (unaware that it is a disguised Jeyne Poole), although unlike Mance, Brienne ultimately does not enter Winterfell.
- According to author George R.R. Martin, Brienne in the books is supposed to be unusually tall and muscular for a woman, but not freakishly so. She is above six feet tall but not near seven feet (i.e. Brienne's actress, Gwendoline Christie, matches this at 6 feet 3 inches). She is taller than Jaime Lannister or Renly Baratheon, and significantly more heavyset. Still, she is not quite as tall as either Greatjon Umber or Sandor Clegane (i.e. Rory McCann, who plays the latter, is 6'6").
- Brienne always presents herself or is announced as "Brienne of Tarth", and never "Brienne Tarth", which is her actual name. The reason for this naming preference is not known.