There’s nothing I love more than a strong female character in a book, movie, or show—one who triumphs on her own merit and in spite of the odds. And there’s no better example than Brienne of Tarth from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the first book of which is A Game of Thrones. Brienne is a fierce warrior and expert swordswoman, living as a knight in armor at a time (modeled after the Middle Ages) when a high-born woman’s sole purpose was to have sons.
In the HBO series Game of Thrones she’s a new character; she was introduced in Season 2, Episode 3, played by the statuesque, 6’ 3” Gwendolyn Christie. But those of us who’ve read the books know her well and are looking forward to her continued adventures with the haughty hottie Jaime Lannister.
Though kick-ass in many respects, Brienne is also a tortured and insecure character. The first thing out of people’s mouths when they meet her is, “You can trick out a milk cow in [armor] and silk, but that doesn’t mean you can ride her into battle” and, “Is there any creature on earth as unfortunate as an ugly woman?” That last was from Catelyn Stark!
Everyone she encounters mocks her for her height, male dress, and “beautiful” face. Other knights will never accept her as their fellow, though ironically, Brienne is always the better man. She slays misogynistic foes left and right, keeps Jaime in check, and takes her vows of honor to heart.
In an interview with Access Hollywood Christie said, “All of the bullying and insults that I have received, very painfully over the years — about being tall and about, you know, my androgyny — I was stepping into that. And I found it incredibly difficult, sometimes, to look at myself. But it was in service of something that was so much greater than that, that you’ve just got to make the best out of it, really. It’s my dream job.”
Brienne’s (and Gwendolyn’s) ability to take abuse and give hell—without loosing faith in humanity—is what makes her a heroine and role model.
Blogger LeAnne Rudy gets Brienne right: “She’s strong and ugly in a society that wants her to be weak, demurring, and, most importantly, beautiful. Just her quiet defiance is inspiring to me. She doesn’t go looking for trouble, but when it finds her, she doesn’t back down.”