The final season of Game of Thrones is almost upon us, and one of the many stories that will come to a conclusion is that of Brienne of Tarth. While many major characters have changed allegiances out of convenience or for personal gain, The Lady of the Sapphire Isle is one of the few key players in Westeros to take her oaths to heart.
Unfortunately, Brienne's companions have consistently been the target of ne'er-do-wells throughout Game of Thrones. Though it seems like she's finally reached the point where her lieges aren't in danger of imminent assassination, the road getting there has been full of twists and turns.
A Knight's Tale
Unlike most noblewomen of Westeros, Brienne chose a life of fealty and chivalry over that of pampered privilege and ballrooms. Brienne of Tarth is the only surviving daughter of Lord Selwyn Tarth of Evenfall Hall, and from a young age was teased because of her height and muscular build. Her stern personality and lack of desire to play the role of a typical noblewoman have led her to be resigned to a life bereft of romance, and one of her insecurities is that men don't take her seriously.
Brienne's father eventually gave up on attempting to bend her to fit into Westerosi society, and allowed her to receive training in arms and armor. Unfortunately, this has proved to be something that further distanced her from societal norms. As a result of her ambition to be a knight she's caught between two worlds. Society doesn't take her seriously as a noblewoman or a warrior.
Despite her wish to pledge herself in service as a true knight, it's not until the War of the Five Kings breaks out after the death of Robert Baratheon that she gets her chance to do so. After winning a tournament held by King Renly Baratheon, she asks to be named to his Kingsguard and serve as a member of his personal bodyguard. Unfortunately, Brienne's position as part of Renly's Kingsguard is short lived. Shortly after she swears fealty to him, he is killed by the shadow Melisandre summoned at Stannis Baratheon's command.
Afterwards, her king dead, Brienne swears an oath to Lady Catelyn Stark and accompanies her as she returns to King Robb Stark's camp. There Catelyn learns that Winterfell has been captured by Theon Greyjoy, and that her sons are now his prisoners.
A Stark Future
As her daughters are being held in King's Landing, Catelyn tasks Brienne with taking the recently captured Jaime Lannister there to exchange for Sansa and Arya. This simple task takes Brienne across Westeros and spans six seasons of the TV show.
During her journey with Jaime she faces ridicule, sexual harassment, and worse. However, over time, she earns Jaime's respect, and after he even comes to her rescue when she's captured by Roose Bolton's troops.
After she accompanies Jaime to King's Landing she soon tires of court intrigue. Even after Catelyn's death at the Red Wedding, Brienne continues to honor her pledge to Catelyn Stark to find her daughters. After rumors that Arya is alive reach her and Sansa escapes with Littlefinger, Brienne sets out on a journey to find them both. Before she leaves King's Landing, Jaime presents her with a Valyrian steel sword, which Brienne fittingly names Oathkeeper. Oathkeeper is one of two swords forged from the Valyrian steel of Ned Stark's former great sword, Ice, so it's only appropriate that it protect his daughters. Its sister blade, Widow's Wail, was originally given to Joffrey, but has since migrated to Jaime Lannister.
During her travels, Brienne tracks Arya and Sansa from King's Landing, all the way to The Vale, and as far north as Winterfell. Along the way she defeats Sandor Clegane in combat, one of the most vicious men on the continent, and tracks down Sansa, who continually eludes Brienne due to Littlefinger's constant lies and manipulation.
She eventually avenges her beloved Renly's death by executing Stannis Baratheon before finally finding Sansa being hunted by the Boltons. Afterward, she's able to fulfill the oath she made to Catelyn Stark so long ago by taking Sansa north to Castle Black.
There Sansa is reunited with her brother Jon Snow and the Starks strategize on how to take back the north from the Boltons. Brienne is sent on an ill-fated mission to recruit Brynden Tully ("The Blackfish"), Catelyn Stark's uncle to their cause. When she arrives at Riverrun she finds the town is under siege by Lannister forces. Unfortunately, Brynden is killed and the Lannisters take the castle.
When Brienne arrives back at Winterfell, she finds it has been recaptured by Jon Snow and his forces. It's revealed that the real enemy isn't the Lannisters, but the White Walkers and the Night King. However, despite the grave threat, Littlefinger continues to try and manipulate Sansa. Though the Starks owe Baelish for reinforcements that helped them retake Winterfell, it's obvious that he's still trying to manipulate things to his advantage.
The second part of Brienne's oath is fulfilled through no input of her own. Arya makes her way back to Winterfell from Essos. Almost immediately, tensions begin to rise between Sansa and Arya, and Littlefinger continues to manipulate the two to turn against each other. When Game of Thrones Season 7 closes, Brienne finds herself in the ironic situation that to fulfill her oath she may be forced to protect the Stark sisters from each other.
A Lady's Appeal
Brienne's journey has been a decidedly stark one (pun not intended). She's spent the better part of her life rejected, mocked, and even pitied by those around her. But through the regal and unaffected way she's dealt with these problems throughout all seven current seasons of the television series, she's remained a capable and renowned warrior through it all.
That doesn't mean she's without fault. She's extremely blunt and has no issue speaking her mind even when it comes to more delicate situations, which has resulted in more than a few confrontations in the past that could have been avoided. But she’s always fighting on the side of honor, or at least how she perceives it. This had led fans to proclaim her a heroic, knight-like character who can go toe to toe with any male swordsman in the series.
She's not without her soft side. She's earnest, loyal, and determined. She truly believes in the concept of knighthood as it is to be understood by society, and can be viewed as a bit naive because of this. But these traits are what make her so easy to love, as far as her hardcore fans are concerned.
Followers of our lady of Tarth can always appreciate her humble attitude, noble demeanor, and the way she handles herself, even when she's about to put the smackdown on someone who's crossed her. It’s hard not to fall in love with a character who’s chivalrous to a fault like this, especially when she’s lived a life that should by all accounts make her bitter and uncaring.
Brienne is a complicated, exciting character who deserves more than she is often given, in terms of respect, success, and happiness. When Season 8 of Game of Thrones rolls around, we hope to see her given the conclusion she so well deserves, and the respect of the people of the Seven Kingdoms who should see past her gender and into her heart. She’s more than her outward appearance or even the people’s opinion of her: she is a person, with the soul of a knight.