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George R.R. Martin answers a fan’s question about Stannis Baratheon

The books and the show aren't always the same.


Michelle Jaworski


Posted on Aug 28, 2015   Updated on May 28, 2021, 2:00 am CDT

Just because we’re going to get spoiled about future book plot points in Game of Thrones doesn’t mean we’ll also see the same death and destruction play out in A Song of Ice and Fire.

Although George R.R. Martin generally doesn’t allow discussion of the show or his books in the comments of his LiveJournal, he’ll sometimes indulge the occasional fan inquiry. He did this yet again in a post on Aug. 18 announcing his departure for Worldcon, responding to a fan question asking him about Stannis Baratheon’s fate—or rather, was he dead or alive.

Martin’s response was rather specific and to the point.

While Stannis is “alive, beyond a doubt” in the books according to Martin, it’s a vast contrast to his fate on the show. The last time we saw him in “Mother’s Mercy,” he was at his lowest point. He pretty much killed his daughter, his wife took her own life, his army abandoned him, his priestess left him, and he led a fool’s errand to Winterfell because, well, what else could he do? And then, broken and defeated, Brienne of Tarth found him and sentenced him to death for killing his brother Renly.


While some fans have held out for Brienne to show a hint of mercy and let the Mannis live, David Nutter, who directed the episode, confirmed that although we didn’t see the kill on-screen, Stannis was indeed dead. (For what it’s worth, he said the same thing about Jon Snow and far fewer people believe him, but Stannis also doesn’t have a red priestess conveniently nearby.)

Book fans who’ve read the published chapters of The Winds of Winter already know this. Stannis appears in a Theon chapter, having captured both him and his sister Asha (known as Yara in the show), prior to the Battle of Winterfell. He even explicitly tells his men to put Shireen on the throne in case he dies in the upcoming battle. For some more casual fans, it might be a reassurance that he might not die as he did in the show.

Stannis has been portrayed quite differently from his book counterpart from the get-go, and he’s one of the bigger examples of Game of Thrones killing characters in the show who are still alive in the books. After all, Martin has often stated the show is the show and the books are the books, and just because something happens in his novels doesn’t mean it’ll happen in the show and vice versa. So, it’s not out of the ordinary that Stannis is still alive. But what does it mean from what we already know?

In A Dance With Dragons, we see Jon and Tormund Giantsbane receive a letter from Ramsay Bolton that’s known as the Pink Letter. In it, Ramsay claims that the Boltons won the Battle of Winterfell, destroyed Stannis’s army, and killed Stannis himself. While constantly demeaning Jon by calling him “bastard,” he also claims he’s holding Mance Rayder hostage and wants Jon to return Theon and “Arya” (who’s actually Jeyne Poole) and threatens to come for him at the Wall.

It’s especially important in the books because it’s the event that leads to the Night’s Watch mutiny against Jon, but with the new piece of info from Martin, it puts that scene into another perspective.

The events of A Feast for Crows and A Dance With Dragons take place at around the same time, so the timeline is somewhat uncertain. (Although fans have combined the two books for a more chronological read.) And because we already know Stannis appears in The Winds of Winter, we’re now left with a couple of possibilities.

  • Theon’s The Winds of Winter chapter takes place before Jon’s final Dance With Dragons chapter, so we may end up seeing Stannis’s downfall—which may or may not play out like it did on the show.

  • Somebody pretended to be Ramsay in order to goad Jon (maybe someone like Mance Rayder, who’s still alive in the books, or Stannis himself). The battle might not have even taken place yet.

It doesn’t guarantee that he’ll survive the books, but we’ll at least get to see him for a little while longer before he meets his fate.

H/T BuzzFeed | Screengrab via HBO Go

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*First Published: Aug 28, 2015, 10:46 am CDT