Let’s just assume this one will be my last book/show comparison post at least until Season 6. I’m also hoping for this one to be my last substantial Game of Thrones-related post until either Season 6 or The Winds of Winter, whichever arrives first.* This won’t really be a compare & contrast so much as a big contrast. If you’re a TV-only fan and you want to know who exactly this Lady Stoneheart character is and what she does, you may appreciate this. If you’re a Jaime/Brienne enthusiast who hasn’t read the books, there’s something in here I think you will enjoy.
(And if you’re currently at work, you might want to bookmark this for later reading. This post is long, even for me.)
Lady Stoneheart first appears in the Epilogue of A Storm of Swords, from the POV of Lord Walder Frey’s ninth son, Merrett (aka Roose Bolton’s new father-in-law), who’s been sent to ransom his nephew Petyr. The Brotherhood Without Banners have already hanged Petyr, and they take Merrett’s gold and hang him, too. The face of undead Catelyn Stark is the last thing he sees as they string him up. It’s not a pretty sight; death and resurrection have not been kind to Lady Catelyn.
Under the leadership of Lady Stoneheart, the Brotherhood Without Banners has a new goal: to kill everyone associated with the Frey side of the Red Wedding. That means they find and hang as many Freys, Boltons and Lannisters, plus their associates and hangers-on, as possible. The threat of the Brotherhood, filling trees with Frey and Lannister corpses, hangs over the Iron Throne’s allies all through A Feast for Crows.
Remember how, during the Red Wedding episode, Roose Bolton says, “the Lannisters send their regards,” just before he stabs Robb Stark in the chest? In the same scene in A Storm of Swords, his line is a bit different.
A man in dark armor and a pale pink cloak spotted with blood stepped up to Robb. “Jaime Lannister sends his regards.” He thrust his longsword through her son’s heart, and twisted.
(A Storm of Swords, pg. 704)
This is one of the last things Catelyn hears before she dies. The name of Jaime Lannister—the one she sent back to his family so she might see her daughters again—is one she directly associates with the death of her son.
We’ll get back to her later. I’ll diverge for a while to talk about Jaime and Brienne, but I assure you it’ll be relevant.
Brienne came into Catelyn’s service because they fled Renly Baratheon’s camp together following his death. Brienne has to cope not only with the upheaval of losing her king, but of taking the blame for his murder. One divergence of book and show is that Loras is among Brienne’s chief accusers in the books. On the show, he decides early on that she’s not the killer.
A theme that runs through Jaime’s interactions with Brienne in A Storm of Swords is their shared reputation as Kingslayers. It’s a theme because Jaime pointedly and repeatedly mentions that this is something they have in common. When he first brings up Brienne’s supposedly having killed Renly, we’re allowed to think it’s ridiculous for Jaime to suggest that this is a similarity between them, as he does not deny having killed his king whereas she did her best to protect hers. We later learn that Jaime had no better options and his act of regicide saved half a million lives, which means that what they have in common is the unfairness of being labeled Kingslayers rather than protectors. When they return to King’s Landing, they encounter Loras Tyrell accusing Brienne of Renly’s murder, and Jaime is the one who convinces Loras to hear her side of the story.
The show doesn’t change their burdens of being viewed by the circumstances of their respective kings’ deaths, as Jaime has people calling him Kingslayer all over the place and Brienne keeps hearing about her supposedly having killed Renly as late as Season 5. (Though not from the Tyrells, and they’re the ones whose opinions matter the most.) But the show leaves out any acknowledgment that this is something Jaime and Brienne have in common. At no point do we ever hear him say anything to the effect of, “Kingslayers should band together.” Yet that is precisely what Jaime says to Brienne when he gives her Oathkeeper and asks her to keep Sansa safe and hidden from the queen.
Remember the Brave Companions? They’re the ones who captured Jaime and Brienne on the road, and their leader, Vargo Hoat, was the one who decided, for his own plans for world domination, to cut off Jaime’s right hand. When Jaime was feverish and refusing food, Brienne urged him to stay alive so he could take revenge.
While Jaime headed out with his escort, Vargo Hoat found out Lord Selwyn was not offering a huge load of gemstones, and he tried to rape Brienne. She bit his ear off, and he tossed her in the bear pit with a tourney sword. When Jaime returned to Harrenhal with his escort, he found Vargo Hoat at the bear pit with a bandage around his head. “Your theemooth bit off my ear,” he says to Jaime. “Thmall wonder her father will not ranthom thuch a freak.” (I think “theemooth” is supposed to be “sea-moose” because Brienne grew up on an island.) I suppose the show replaced Vargo Hoat with Locke because they didn’t want to be insensitive to people with speech impediments.
After Bolton left Harrenhal, the Brave Companions fell apart. Because his bite wound was infected and made him too sick to run away, Vargo Hoat stayed at Harrenhal, where the Mountain eventually killed him by maiming and starvation. The rest of his company abandoned their leader and ran out to make trouble all over the Riverlands. As Jaime heads out to the Riverlands with a host of men from among the Iron Throne’s allies, he keeps thinking about where he might find some of the Brave Companions so that he can kill them. It’s a disappointment to learn he didn’t get to be the one to kill Vargo Hoat.
Meanwhile, Brienne is already in the Riverlands, searching for Sansa with Podrick at her side. (She doesn’t name Sansa Stark; she tells people she’s looking for her sister. Take a moment to absorb how adorable that is.) Book!Podrick is younger, smaller and less clueless than TV!Podrick, he finds Brienne without Jaime’s help, and she warms up to him a lot faster. She remembers what it was like to be a tongue-tied, awkward kid, and she sympathizes with him. Her training him in swordplay is the cutest thing ever. Let me see if I can find a quote from the text:
Brienne cut two wooden swords from fallen branches to get a sense of Podrick’s skills. The boy was slow of speech but not of hand, she was pleased to learn. Though fearless and attentive, he was also underfed and skinny, and not near strong enough. If he had survived the Battle of the Blackwater as he claimed, it could only be because no one thought him worth the killing. “You may call yourself a squire,” she told him, “but I’ve seen pages half your age who could have beat you bloody. If you stay with me, you’ll go to sleep with blisters on your hands and bruises on your arms most every night, and you’ll be so stiff and sore you’ll hardly sleep. You don’t want that.”
“I do,” the boy insisted. “I want that. The bruises and the blisters. I mean, I don’t, but I do. Ser. My lady.”
So far he had been true to his word, and Brienne had been true to hers. Podrick had not complained. Every time he raised a new blister on his sword hand, he felt the need to show it to her proudly. He took good care of their horses too.
(A Feast for Crows, pg. 225)
I’m so annoyed that Season 5 never gave us a glimpse of their combat training sessions.
They spend a whole lot of time trying to find Sansa, and accomplishing nothing aside from ruling out several locations. The tricky thing about their mission is that lots of other people are also trying to find Sansa, because Varys has offered a bag of gold for her return, so Littlefinger has to keep her hidden from all of them, and he’s done a very good job of that. She’s still in the Vale with him, she’s still posing as his bastard daughter Alayne (not his niece), her hair is still dyed dark brown, and Littlefinger is pretty much the only person there who knows who she is since he chucked Vicious Aunt Lysa out the Moon Door. So, no, Brienne and Podrick still don’t know where she is, though not for lack of trying.
They follow one lead that seems promising, eats up days of their time, and leads them into an encounter with three of the Brave Companions: Shagwell, Pyg and Timeon. Brienne’s informant had mistaken Shagwell for Dontos Hollard, thought he might have Sansa and Arya with him, and ended up paying for his mistake with his life. With Podrick serving as lookout, Brienne kills all three of the Brave Companions and walks away from the encounter with minimal injuries, but it’s an experience she could have done without.
Later on, after another lead has achieved nothing except a conversation in which the Elder Brother very kindly urges Brienne to abandon her mission before it robs her father of his last living child, they make a stop at the Inn at the Crossroads, which the Brotherhood Without Banners has converted into a sort of orphanage. There, she spots Gendry, who stands out to her because he looks just like Renly. On the show, Gendry is doing double duty for himself and his half-brother Edric Storm, but in the books, Gendry signs on as a blacksmith for the Brotherhood and he stays with them in the Riverlands. Brienne goes outside to take some food to Gendry, and she runs into more of the Brave Companions, including Rorge and Biter.
The outlaws turned as one. One laughed, and another said something in a tongue Brienne did not know. The huge one with the broad white face gave a malevolent hissssssssssssssss. The man in the Hound’s helm began to laugh. “You’re even uglier than I remembered. I’d sooner rape your horse.”
“Horses, that’s what we want,” one of the wounded men said. “Fresh horses, and some food. There are outlaws after us. Give us your horses and we’ll be gone. We won’t do you harm.”
“Fuck that.” The outlaw in the Hound’s helm yanked a battle axe off his saddle. “I want to cut her bloody legs off. I’ll set her on her stumps so she can watch me fuck the crossbow girl.”
“With what?” taunted Brienne. “Shagwell said they cut your manhood off when they took your nose.”
(A Feast for Crows, pg. 630)
The show appears not to have filmed any equivalent scene to her killing Shagwell, Pyg and Timeon, but we do see Rorge and Biter. Arya and the Hound kill them in Season 4. Book!Rorge is considerably uglier and more formidable than that creep who takes Needle in the chest, and Book!Biter is much heavier and more ferocious than that little monster who takes a bite out of the Hound’s shoulder and promptly comes down with a bad case of broken neck.
(Oh, and a quick digression: there’s some speculation that the Hound isn’t really dead, and I’m on board with that speculation. I think the Hound survived his injuries and is living quietly in the Riverlands.)
Rorge, Shagwell and Zollo are the ones who, after Jaime was maimed, threatened to rape Brienne before they reached Harrenhal. Now Rorge is wearing the Hound’s helmet. Brienne duels with him during a thunderstorm, surrounded by mud, darkness and several more Brave Companions. She runs Oathkeeper through his chest, and just as she’s dropping his corpse to the ground, Biter jumps on her, and he does quite a number on her. The phrase “that creature chewed off half your cheek” comes up later, though that’s nowhere near the extent of her injuries. While Biter is on top of Brienne, Gendry comes out and kills him with a spear through the back of his neck. By which point Brienne is unconscious due to Biter repeatedly smashing her head against the ground. But that’s just as reinforcements from the Brotherhood Without Banners arrive to fight off the rest of the Brave Companions. By putting herself between the orphans and the Brave Companions, Brienne kept them occupied long enough for the Brotherhood outlaws to show up from wherever they’d gone, and in doing so, she kept a bunch of defenseless children alive. What does she get for her troubles?
Once the Companions were all killed or chased away, Brienne and her peeps (including Podrick) were taken captive by the Brotherhood. Because she’d kept the orphans alive, they tended Brienne’s wounds and gave her time to wake up before they put her and her fellow travelers on trial. She was in and out of consciousness, delirious with fever, for probably a couple of days before she was strong enough to answer for her crimes. Just as Vargo Hoat had developed a nasty infection and become too sick to flee after Brienne bit his ear off, she came down with a similar infection after Biter ate part of her face. She wakes up to find Lem wearing the Hound’s helmet, having taken it off Rorge’s corpse.
Wait a minute: trial? Crimes? What the fuck?
That brings us back to Lady Stoneheart. When the Brotherhood found Catelyn Stark’s body in the river, Thoros of Myr refused to give her the kiss of life, as she was too far decomposed. Instead, Beric Dondarrion resurrected her, and in doing so, he died for the last time. Now Lady Stoneheart is in charge of the Brotherhood Without Banners, and under her leadership, they’ve gone in a direction that Thoros of Myr doesn’t like. Here is a conversation between him and Brienne after she wakes up from her fever:
“My lady,” Thoros said, “I do not doubt that kindness and mercy and forgiveness can still be found somewhere in these Seven Kingdoms, but do not look for them here. This is a cave, not a temple. When men must live like rats in the dark beneath the earth, they soon run out of pity, as they do of milk and honey.”
“And justice? Can that be found in caves?”
“Justice.” Thoros smiled wanly. “I remember justice. It had a pleasant taste. Justice was what we were about when Beric led us, or so we told ourselves. We were king’s men, knights, and heroes … but some knights are dark and full of terror, my lady. War makes monsters of us all.”
(A Feast for Crows, pg. 720)
He’s still there with the Brotherhood, though not happy with what they’ve become. Since Lady Stoneheart rose up and Beric Dondarrion breathed his last, they’re not about justice anymore so much as just hanging anyone who appears remotely affiliated with the Freys, Boltons and/or Lannisters. Podrick makes the mistake of telling the Brotherhood that he served as Tyrion Lannister’s squire. That makes him a Lannister associate, which, according to the Brotherhood under Stoneheart, makes him guilty. By association with the Imp’s squire, Brienne is also guilty.
That’s not the half of it, though. She’s also carrying a sword hilted with a ruby and gold lion, and she’s carrying a parchment (which Jaime arranged) signed by King Tommen. Oh, and there’s also this embarrassing habit she’s developed since she took those injuries from Biter:
“M’lady,” said the big man. “Here she is.”
“Aye,” added the one- eyed man. “The Kingslayer’s whore.”
She flinched. “Why would you call me that?”
“If I had a silver stag for every time you said his name, I’d be as rich as your friends the Lannisters.”
(A Feast for Crows, pg. 723)
Oh, dear. She kept crying out Jaime’s name while she was delirious and semi-conscious. This is a problem, because the last thing Roose Bolton said before he killed Robb Stark was: “Jaime Lannister sends his regards.”
Due to remembering those words from the murder of her son, what’s left of Catelyn Stark (and all the good parts of her stayed dead) is not inclined to be merciful to anyone who seems friendly to Jaime. With that in mind, the Brotherhood’s idea of a trial is that the defendants’ guilt has already been decided, and they can either do Lady Stoneheart’s bidding to expiate their guilt, or they can be hanged along with the rest of the Frey-Bolton-Lannisters.
In summary: Brienne took several broken bones, a head injury, and a near-fatal infection from defending the orphanage, and for her troubles, the Brotherhood kept her alive just long enough to hang her for being friends with Jaime Lannister.
Remember the things Jaime told her, during their bath together at Harrenhal?
“Do you think the noble Lord of Winterfell wanted to hear my feeble explanations? Such an honorable man. He only had to look at me to judge me guilty.”
(A Storm of Swords, pg. 507)
And before that, there was:
“It fell to me to hold the Red Keep, but I knew we were lost. I sent to Aerys asking his leave to make terms. My man came back with a royal command. ‘Bring me your father’s head, if you are no traitor.’ Aerys would have no yielding.”
(A Storm of Swords, pg. 506)
This is now what Lady Stoneheart is doing to Brienne: she takes one look at the sword, the parchment, her squire, and the things she moans in her sleep, and judges her guilty. Not interested in hearing her feeble explanations. Nothing will ever convince Lady Stoneheart that Jaime Lannister is anything but an enemy to whatever remains of the Starks. She gives Brienne just one chance to prove her loyalty to the promises she made to Lady Catelyn, though, and if she performs that task, she and her companions are free to go. What is that one chance to prove her loyalty?
Lady Catelyn’s fingers dug deep into her throat, and the words came rattling out, choked and broken, a stream as cold as ice. The northman said, “She says that you must choose. Take the sword and slay the Kingslayer, or be hanged for a betrayer. The sword or the noose, she says. Choose, she says. Choose.”
(A Feast for Crows, pg. 725)
All Brienne has to do is get out there with her shiny sword, and kill Jaime Lannister. Her guilt as a betrayer has already been decided, just from the looks of her, but all she has to do to save her and Podrick’s lives is to ride out there and kill the man whose name she keeps crying out in her sleep.
This encounter is the first time we’re seeing Lady Stoneheart since she hanged Merrett Frey at the end of A Storm of Swords. Her presence brings us back to the Kingslayer parallel. Lady Stoneheart plays the same role with Brienne as Mad King Aerys played with Jaime. She sees enemies at every turn, and she’s determined to kill them all. She commands Brienne to kill someone she cares about, to prove she’s no traitor.
At first, Brienne refuses to choose, which means she effectively chooses the noose. Podrick is being hanged in the next tree, and the sight of his little flailing legs leads her to cry out at the last second. That’s the last we see of them in A Feast for Crows.
Now, for a quick compare/contrast between books and show: I feel sorry for TV!Hound. He seems to be taking a lot of abuse that involved Brienne’s role in the books. Biter takes a chunk out of his shoulder, rather than Brienne’s face, and the resulting infection slows him down. He and Arya never encounter Brienne in the books, but she does battle someone wearing his helmet. When he and Brienne have their infamous duel in S4:E10, she bites his ear off after it’s established that neither of them is walking away until one of them is dead, whereas in the book, it was Vargo Hoat who lost his ear to the big swordswench’s jaws, and he absolutely had it coming. In their initial conversation, the Hound is the one who points out to Brienne that her pretty Valyrian steel sword marks her for a Lannister associate. (And the really tragic thing about the Hound/Brienne duel is that there was no good reason why they had to fight. They could have both been Arya’s protectors, they could have banded together to find Sansa, and they could have both looked after the Stark girls. She wasn’t out to get him, but there was no good reason she had to take his little she-wolf away from him. They fought because they each woke up on the wrong side of the ditch and behaved like assholes.)
At the same time, Jaime is marching his host around the Riverlands and getting their noble houses straightened out. He has just settled the latest rivalry between the Brackens and Blackwoods and accepted the Blackwoods’ surrender to the throne, when two of his scouts come back one night with Brienne on horseback. She’s healthy enough to stay on her horse, and her wounds seem to have mostly healed, though her face is still bandaged. Jaime thinks she looks ten years older than when he last saw her. She has Oathkeeper in her belt. Podrick is nowhere in sight. Jaime asks whether she’s found the girl, and she says: yes. A day’s ride away. She can take Jaime to her, but he must come alone, or else the Hound will kill her.
When Jaime asks after “the girl,” I’m sure he means Sansa, and I’m sure Brienne knows that. She has led Jaime away from his host, letting him believe that Sansa is a day’s ride away, and the Hound is threatening to kill her.
The story is clearly bullshit. Brienne still has no idea where Sansa is, but we know she’s still in the Vale, which is considerably more than a day’s ride from Pennytree. The Hound is no longer a danger to anyone. However, it’s enough of a story to convince Jaime to ride off with her, and that’s the last we see of Jaime or Brienne in A Dance with Dragons. Cersei needs Jaime to come back to King’s Landing and be her champion, and he’s not answering her raven.
“He took Raventree and accepted Lord Blackwood’s surrender,” said her uncle [Kevan], “but on his way back to Riverrun he left his tail and went off with a woman.”
“A woman?” Cersei stared at him, uncomprehending. “What woman? Why? Where did they go?”
“No one knows. We’ve had no further word of him. The woman may have been the Evenstar’s daughter, Lady Brienne.”
Her. The queen remembered the Maid of Tarth, a huge, ugly, shambling thing who dressed in man’s mail. Jaime would never abandon me for such a creature. My raven never reached him, elsewise he would have come.
(A Dance with Dragons, pg. 794)
Cersei, he totally abandoned you for such a creature. He read your raven scroll, he tossed it in the fire, and he rode off with that ugly, shambling thing in man’s mail. Oh, yes he did.
(Note: we never actually see Cersei and Brienne interact on-page, but clearly they’ve been in the same room at some point.)
I won’t mince words: Brienne’s reunion with Jaime takes place under worrisome circumstances. One might get the impression that she’s about to kill her one-handed knight and bring his head back to the Brotherhood. She certainly appears to have said she’ll give them what they want. GRRMartin has told us that the word she screamed to stop the hangings was “sword!” She did so because that’s what it took, in the moment, to get Podrick’s skinny neck out of that noose.
This is where I run out of canon information and have to start speculating. The fact that Brienne is on her horse and armed with Oathkeeper would be promising, if only she weren’t alone, but she is alone. She doesn’t have Podrick with her when she finds Jaime at Pennytree, and his absence is the complicating factor. What does it mean that Brienne is out of the Brotherhood’s custody, healthy enough to stay on her horse, and has her sword, but not her squire?
I think it means the Brotherhood is keeping Podrick hostage until Brienne comes back with Jaime’s head. “The girl” most likely means Podrick (though I suppose they could also be manipulating Brienne by threatening one of the Heddle girls), whereas “the Hound” means Lem wearing the Hound’s helmet. If Brienne shows up with anyone other than Jaime, Lem will kill Podrick.
Here’s the thing, though: she won’t give them what they want. No doubt she’s in a tough situation, and she may be putting Jaime in serious danger just by taking him away from his army, but she won’t betray him. They’re heading for some sort of confrontation with the Brotherhood, and I’m sure it’ll be terrifying and traumatic, as such events in A Song of Ice and Fire tend to be, and I’m not sure even Brienne quite knows how she’ll get Podrick out of there alive without also getting herself and/or Jaime killed in the process, but she will not slay the Kingslayer. Why am I so confident about this, you may ask?
They’re both Kingslayers.
Brienne’s situation with Lady Stoneheart is a repeat of Jaime’s predicament with the Mad King. She’s being asked to kill someone dear to her as a show of loyalty to whatever is left of someone to whom she had previously sworn vows. When Jaime was in that position, he didn’t do what was asked of him. He did not kill his father, and he did not stand aside and allow half a million people to die in a fire. Rather than keep his oaths, he became the Kingslayer.
Whatever comes of their confrontation with the Brotherhood, Jaime won’t be the one betrayed. Kingslayers band together.
GRRMartin has this to say about Lady Stoneheart:
“Lady Stoneheart is not Catelyn. I’ve tried to set it up beforehand with Beric Dondarrion and his repeated [resurrections]. There’s a brief appearance by Beric in Book One and he rides into the city and he’s this flamboyant Southern knight. That’s not that man we meet later on.”
Lady Stoneheart is really not Catelyn. The woman we saw in the first three books loved her children more than she hated her enemies. Stoneheart simply hates her enemies, and she sees enemies everywhere she turns. I interpret Brienne’s asking after Sansa as her sister this way: she views Catelyn as a mother figure, thus Sansa and Arya could be her adopted sisters. (Brienne was not always an only child; she had an older brother who drowned in childhood, and two sisters who died in infancy.) Catelyn Stark decided to set the Kingslayer free so she could get what remained of her family back together. Lady Stoneheart is trying to destroy the few people in the realm who intend to look after Sansa just because she’s already suffered enough. Lady Stoneheart is much less similar to Catelyn than the repeatedly resurrected Beric Dondarrion was to the flamboyant Southern knight from the first book. He should have listened to Thoros, and not breathed life into that horribly decayed body they fished out of the river.
On the show thus far, there’s been no sign of Lady Stoneheart. There’s also been no sign of the Brotherhood Without Banners since Arya and the Hound made their departure in Season 3. We also haven’t seen much of the Freys since S3:E10. Roose Bolton’s last line at the Red Wedding was different: “The Lannisters send their regards.” Not Jaime.
There’s also been no sign of the Kingslayer parallel. While Brienne occasionally hears that she supposedly killed Renly, it’s not from the Tyrells and not from Jaime. No one ever mentions that she shares the Kingslayer reputation with him. That particular theme has been boiled out of the show. (The show finds other ways to keep us interested in their romantic storyline.) Brienne and Podrick are no longer in the Riverlands. They spent most of Season 5 in the North, which is outside the Brotherhood’s reach.
The context around Lady Stoneheart’s presence has been greatly altered on the show. The writers have made such choices that the show works just as well without her. And that isn’t conclusive; I’ve remarked before that the show sometimes makes changes from the books that don’t entirely add up. I see no reason why Lady Stoneheart must appear on the show, however.
At the same time, though? If Lady Stoneheart does appear in Season 6, and if she does take Brienne and Podrick captive, and if she does command Brienne to bring her the head of Jaime Lannister: here’s your explanation. Lady Stoneheart is the new Mad King, and she’s obsessed with hanging people from trees the way Aerys was obsessed with wildfire.
*Unless, of course, I come up with something else to write about the series (books and/or show) before then. In which case I’ll change my mind and post some more.
Wait, who am I kidding? As long as WordPress keeps showing me search terms, I’ll have Game of Thrones posts to write. I may even write some posts in anticipation of search phrases. This is way too much fun to wait around for new canon material.