George R.R. Martin originally had different plans for Brienne of Tarth


In A Feast for Crows, the fourth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, Brienne of Tarth spends her time wandering the Riverlands with Podrick Payne, looking for Sansa Stark at the behest of Jaime Lannister. Eventually, she is captured by the Brotherhood Without Banners, which is then under the command of Lady Stoneheart, the resurrected shade of Lady Catelyn Stark. Stoneheart, who is far more brutal than she was before, offers to spare Brienne’s life only if she agrees to kill Jaime Lannister. We’re left wondering what Brienne does, although her brief appearance in A Dance with Dragons suggests that she chose to carry out Stoneheart’s bidding.

However, George R.R. Martin initially had some very different ideas for Brienne’s story in mind, and we know what some of them are.

Our information comes from a version of Feast for Crows published in Russia in February of 2007, posted on Reddit by Zionius. The Russian translation accidentally used an earlier draft of the final two Brienne chapters, “Brienne VII” and “Brienne VIII,” which in this draft were just one chapter. The scene where Brienne fights Rorge and Biter is not present, nor is her talk with Thoros of Myr; however, we get more information about the plans of the Brotherhood Without Banners and a monologue from a survivor of the Red Wedding. The conclusion to Brienne’s journey in the novel is also very different.

It wouldn’t be the first time that George R.R. Martin had extensively changed his plans. The original teaser chapter for A Feast for Crows included in A Storm of Swords had a different scene between Jaime and Tommen. Let’s look at some of the things in this lost Brienne chapter that didn’t make it into the final book.

A different fate for Brienne of Tarth?

We already mentioned that in this earlier version, Brienne doesn’t fight Rorge and Biter, a battle that leaves her unconscious and delirious. Instead, Gendry — who at this point is working with the Brotherhood — knocks her down, and her face and body are unhurt. She doesn’t dream about Jamie during her delirium, but rather an incident with Ser Ronnet Connington, a man to which she was once engaged but who spurned her (later she beat him up during a melee).

In both versions, she thinks of Renly in her dream. But the memories are different. Here’s the original, unused draft:

"She was in Renly’s tent again, seeing how the candles are guttering out, feeling the wind from nowhere, shivering at the sudden cold.‘Cold,’ Renly said, and a shadow moved without a man to cast it, and the king’s blood came washing through the green steel of his gorget."

In the final version, this passage reads:

"Lord Renly was ahead of her, her sweet smiling king. He was leading her horse through the trees. Brienne called out to tell him how much she loved him, but when he turned to scowl at her, she saw that he was not Renly after all. Renly never scowled. He always had a smile for me, she thought . . . except . . .‘Cold,’ her king said, puzzled, and a shadow moved without a man to cast it, and her sweet lord’s blood came washing through the green steel of his gorget to drench her hands. He had been a warm man, but his blood was cold as ice. This is not real, she told herself. This is another bad dream, and soon I’ll wake."

When Brienne wakes up, she is brought before Lady Stoneheart, who is reaving through the Riverlands killing members of the Frey family in revenge for the Red Wedding. In fact, in the earlier draft, there’s a survivor from the Red Wedding present who talks about those infamous events:

"I clambered up the bank, and what did I see – the tents were all brought down and burning. All three, and there were hundreds of people inside. I saw, and it was the Freys who’d set fire to them and now were shooting at every bulge on the canvas. A few escaped and took the fight, and it was Bolton’s men who came slashing at them, along with the Freys."

In this version, Lady Stoneheart does not have Robb Stark’s crown, and she is more decayed. “One cheek was rotten through, revealing the teeth inside the hole, but that was not the worst part,” the draft chapter reads. “Her whole face, from eyes to jaw, was torn sharply by the claws of some beast. Black oil oozed from the unhealed wounds. She took up her throat again, with her fingers pinched a monstrous scar on it, and squeezed out some more sounds.”

Did Brienne originally die in A Feast for Crows?

Interestingly, in the earlier version of the story, the Brotherhood heard that Brienne was searching for Sansa and captures her intentionally, whereas in the final version it feels more like happenstance. Most importantly, while the final chapter ends with the suggestion that Brienne agrees to work with Stoneheart and will therefore live, in this earlier version there’s no offer to spare her life on the promise to kill Jamie Lannister, and it ends by giving the impression that Brienne dies:

"‘Enough, Harwin. Do we mean to hang the ugly bitch or talk her to death?’ The one-eyed man snatched the end of the rope from the other outlaw and gave a yank. The rope dug into the skin, lifting Brienne upward. If this is another dream, it is time for me to awaken. If this is real, it is time for me to die. From somewhere afar, she heard the clapping of wings. The carrion crows are coming to feast on her corpse. About a dozen already are circling over her head, but for carrion crows, these birds are too large. Ravens, smiled Brienne. How odd. No, it is a dream, and now she will awake."

The original chapter makes for fascinating reading, and it’s hard to divine what the original intention may have been. Brienne doesn’t think of Jaime Lannister at all, which is curious considering that he’s the reason her life is spared in the finished version.

Did Martin actually plan to kill Brienne here? It seems doubtful, but if he did, and if this chapter was published as originally written, it could have had ripple effects on the rest of the story.

Next. Why is The Winds of Winter taking so long to write?. dark

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h/t Los Siete Reinos