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Stannis Baratheon

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Villain Overview
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My enemies have made my kingdom bleed. I will not forget that. I will not forgive that. I will punish them with any arms at my disposal.
~ Stannis to Davos Seaworth during "Mhysa".
If a man knows what he is and remains true to himself, the choice is no choice at all. He must fulfill his destiny and become who he is meant to be, however much he may hate it.
~ Stannis to his daughter Shireen, just before sacrificing her.

Stannis Baratheon is the head of House Baratheon of Dragonstone, Lord of Dragonstone, Master of Ships on Robert's Small Council, younger brother of King Robert I Baratheon, older brother to Lord Renly Baratheon, and a major character in A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as in Game of Thrones. His parents were Lord Steffon Baratheon and Lady Cassana Estermont. Stannis is married to Lady Selyse Florent and has one daughter, Shireen. Although all the other kings refer themselves only as "King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men, and Lord of the Seven Kingdoms", phrasing utilized by Targaryen kings since the reign of Aegon I Targaryen, Stannis, from the third novel, abandons these titles and styles himself as "King of Westeros", meaning he sees himself as king of all the continent, including all of the lands beyond the Wall, not just the realm.

He is the main antagonist of the Lannister POV storyline in book 2 and season 2, followed by Robb Stark and the overall secondary antagonist of the book/season. He serves as a main antagonist/supporting protagonist of every season from season 2 up until his climactic death in season 5. He's currently still alive in the novels.

Starting from the second novel, he wields a magic red sword called Lightbringer.

In the TV series he's played by Stephen Dillane.

Personality

I have felt from the beginning that Stannis was a greater danger than all the others combined.
~ Tywin Lannister, to Tyrion Lannister
In truth, the young lord commander and her king had more in common than either one would ever be willing to admit. Stannis had been a younger son living in the shadow of his elder brother, just as Jon Snow, bastard-born, had always been eclipsed by his trueborn sibling, the fallen hero men had called the Young Wolf. Both men were unbelievers by nature, mistrustful, suspicious. The only gods they truly worshipped were honor and duty.
~ Stannis' personal thoughts of Melisandre.

Stannis is utterly unlike his two brothers: he’s not considered as handsome and charismatic as Renly or as a younger Robert. He’s in his thirties at the beginning of the main story, but he’s described as looking older than Robert, suffering from premature hair loss and looking like an old man. He’s a stern grim man obsessed with duty and principles, he never smiles and does not enjoy parties. He’s got none of his brothers’ social skills and, unlike Robert, he never acts out of impulse, but only after a long time of reflection, as he’s a strategical and calculative man. A stubborn, unforgiving, serious man, Stannis never speaks with gentleness, neither dissembles nor flatters, as he always want to say what he thinks. He is obsessed with slights both real and imagined causing him to grind his teeth regularly. Stannis is an accomplished commander, sailor, and warrior, although his personality hinders his ascension to being a truly great leader. He's said to know the military strength of every house in Westeros. Even Lord Tywin Lannister respects him and considers him an enemy not to be taken lightly.

While he is respected and feared, he has never been loved, or had the affection of nobles or smallfolk, due to him being utterly without mercy most of the time. He is the least popular of the Baratheon brothers. People in Westeros dread having him at command because of this merciless sense of justice, and even his brothers can barely stomach him. Stannis dislikes Robert and Renly and never got along with them since they were kids. He was considered a difficult child even by his parents, who never managed to make him laugh, and always preferred to stay alone and reserved. He’s a proud man, often obsessing about himself and complaining about his rights to everyone, lacking passion, easy to annoy, and rarely forgives others, preferring to kill his enemies. Despite being rather unlikable as a person he proves to be a very complex man who dislikes what he forces himself to do. He believes that a “good act” does not wash out the bad, nor the bad the good, and that each one should have it’s own reward. Unlike most highborns of the westerosi society, he does not look down upon the smallfolk and treats people as equals, rewarding others when he feels they actually truly deserve it. He also can’t stand lies and courtesies, and wants to hear the hard truths, preferring to tell and hear things like they really are. He can't stand his own lords and dislikes smiling people with colorfoul dresses and whores. In fact he doesn't allow the presence of whores at Dragonstone, not even in the island's fishing villages. During his feasts he forbids loud laughter and racous shouting.

Stannis has a cold relationship with his wife, Selyse. Theirs is a loveless marriage, and the two have little patience for each other. Stannis was always uncomfortable around women, even his wife. He barely visited her, doing his duty in the marriage bed once or twice a year, taking no joy in it. Selyse is an unfriendly frigid woman who looks down at everyone and is completely obedient to her husband and always tries to please him, but she barely gets any recognition for it. She lives to serve him and her god. Stannis and Selyse have only one surviving daughter, Shireen, a sad and homely little girl who is disfigured as a consequence of contracting greyscale in her infancy. Davos Seaworth is one of Stannis's most loyal servants.

Villainous Actions

  • Had his brother Renly assassinated (though as Renly clearly intended to kill Stannis it is debatable how villainous this was).
  • Had Cortnay Penrose assassinated (though he refused to surrender Storm's End to Stannis).
  • Allowed the destruction and burning of sacred religious places, like the sept of Dragonstone and the godswood of Storm's End. Also wanted to burn the godswood of Winterfell.
  • Did not punish Selyse and Melisandre for burning non believers alive, like Guncer Sunglass.
  • Allowed Melisandre to burn many non believers alive including his own brother-in-law Axell Florent in the TV series. In the books he burns his uncle-in-law Alester Florent, although that was due to treason rather than religious belief. Other people burned by Stannis in the books were Rattleshirt and 4 starving cannibal soldiers of House Peasebury, though Rattleshirt is a notoriously vile Wildling raider.
  • Tried to sacrifice his illegitimate nephew Gendry/Edric Storm in an attempt to gain more power with the Stone Dragons of Dragonstone (though he is very conflicted over this in the books).
  • Had Mance Rayder burned alive after he refused to kneel. In the novels Mance was executed for being a deserter of the Night's Watch, however he is still alive in the books, because the Lord of Bones "Rattleshirt" was glamoured by Melisandre to appear as Mance.
  • Burned his beloved daughter Shireen alive to improve the weather and ensure his victory against the Boltons. (Show only.)

Trivia

  • In the TV series Stannis's more negative character traits from the novels were made more prominent than his positive traits, causing the character to be viewed in a more negative light by the Game of Thrones fandom than the A Song of Ice and Fire readers.
  • In the novels Stannis is the last surviving king out of the original five and he's one of the actual four living kings, the others being Tommen Baratheon, Euron Greyjoy, and Aegon Targaryen. In the TV series Stannis dies before Balon Greyjoy, who was alive until Season 6 despite his book counterpart died before the Red Wedding.
  • Many show fans who supported Stannis throughout the seasons immediately turned against him after he murdered Shireen. However, many fans were more angry with the writers for changing so much about the character.
  • Book readers were more shocked about Stannis's death, rather than Jon's. Stannis is still alive in the novels, while Jon's death had already been written years ago, and it was also implied he would return to life. George R. R. Martin said he means to end the battle against the Boltons soon at the very begin of the sixth book, thus meaning the Battle of Ice will be with Stannis against the Boltons, and Roose and Ramsay might die at his hands. In the TV series, Roose is killed by Ramsay at the begin of the sixth season while the TV show writers are kept Ramsay alive and gave Stannis's battle plot to Jon Snow. The battle has been kept for the 9th episode of season 6, where House Bolton has been finally defeated. In the book version, Jon might remain at Castle Black since he has no reason to head south if Stannis is fighting the Boltons with the northerners on his side.
  • George R. R. Martin confirmed that Stannis is still alive in his novels. The TV series version confirmed that he's dead.
  • On the day April 25, 2016, George R.R. Martin revealed in an interview that his upcoming book The Winds of Winter contains a critical development that Game of Thrones can't use: in fact a plot twist will involve a character who's already dead in the TV series. Fans believe it to be Stannis Baratheon, Mance Rayder, Selyse Florent, Jeyne Westerling, or Barristan Selmy. Most fans think it will be Stannis, due to many theories of the story and visions from Daenerys Targaryen, and also because Martin seems to like his character better than the show directors (though he said he likes all of his characters even Joffrey). However GRRM said it will be a character who didn't get much attention in the books and show, thus making unlikely it will be Stannis, who's a major character of the series.
  • In an interview with Amazon UK, George R.R. Martin states that Stannis, in spite of his many sins, is ultimately "a righteous man".

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