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What Will "The Winds of Winter" Bring For Stannis Baratheon?
Warning: Spoilers Lie Ahead
The Winds of Winter is the sixth book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. This article will take a look back at the previous five installments as well as make predictions on the next chapter in the series. Spoilers lie ahead.
Stannis Baratheon: Rightful Heir to the Iron Throne
Synopsis of the Books up through the End of Book Five
As far as who I believe is the rightful king to sit the Iron Throne, I will admit I am Team Stannis all the way. This is not to say that if I could pick who sits the chair that Stannis would be my first choice, but of the contenders, I believe him to be the rightful heir.
Perhaps it is his portrayal on HBO's Game of Thrones that sealed the deal for me. Stannis has always been one of my favorite characters in the entire series, so Stephen Dillane's performance was just the icing on top. King Robert and Lord Renly, Stannis's brothers, were high up on my list of favorite characters from the novels as well; the Baratheons as a group are written well.
Of the group, while I find Robert's drunken lust for killing men and loving women great and Renly's subtle homosexual undertones entertaining, Stannis is the most interesting Baratheon.
We aren't introduced to this brooding individual until the second book, A Clash of Kings, although that is not to say his presence is absent before then. Stannis is referenced constantly throughout the first novel in reference to the murdered Jon Arryn, whose death the first book centers around. Stannis, the middle Baratheon brother, had been King Robert's Master of Ships and given the broken isle of Dragonstone as the seat of his family's house. As the book shifts to the kingdom's capital, King's Landing, Stannis has already fled and secured himself on his island fortress. The main protagonist, Eddard Stark, constantly messages Stannis for any information concerning Arryn's death. It comes to light that Stannis and Jon Arryn had stumbled across the truth of King Robert's wife Cersei and her incestuous acts with her twin brother Jaime. This is an important plot point because when Robert dies, his "son" Joffrey takes the throne. Because Joffrey is not Robert's blood relation, rights to the throne passes to Stannis, which is where book two starts.
We finally get our first glimpse into this man through the eyes of his trusted smuggler turned lord, Davos. Stannis is portrayed as a hard—but not cruel—stoic man who fits the mold of the middle child perfectly. He doesn't have the raw enthusiasm of his two brothers and complains about what the world has given him.
Early on, we see Stannis allow his followers to forsake their own gods for his advisor's Red God. Melisandre, a red-headed priestess from across the Narrow Sea, informs him that she has foreseen his destiny in the fires she creates and he is to be the one that banishes the shadows from the world. As she bestows on him a flaming blade that "proves" his predestined path, he gives into this mysterious woman wholeheartedly.
As this is happening, Renly has been proclaiming his merits for King as well and his efforts seem to be working more than Stannis's. Renly is charismatic and has gotten the majority of the Baratheon bannermen and Highgarden to back him. Renly's popular support deepen's Stannis' discontent; he doesn't understand why he isn't loved more.
I believe this why I like Stannis's character—he is considered a masterful war tactician, giving him a huge advantage, but his lack of people skills are his serious downfall. He is cold but very just. A perfect example of this is when he promotes Davos to a Lord for his devotion but cuts off his fingers for being a smuggler. He gives gifts for good deeds but holds everyone accountable for the actions of their past.
Stannis is outnumbered on all sides and unwilling to make alliances with anyone because he considers them false kings and unworthy of such deals. With Melisandre in his side pocket, he meets with Renly, giving him one last chance to step down from his claim. This offer is scorned and mocked by Renly and his supporters. How does Stannis handle this? It's about to get weird, people. He has sex with Melisandre, which leads to her birthing a shadow baby with the magical properties required to sneak into Renly's camp and slit his throat, eliminating him from the Rightful King equation. What did I say?
Renly's bannermen flock to Stannis, and he stages an assault by sea on King's Landing. He loses this wager and eventually retreats to Dragonstone, colder and angrier than ever. Though he loses, the screen portrayal of the Battle of the Blackwater is epic. Stannis's awesomeness cannot be overlooked in that scene; see it if you haven't already.
By book three, Stannis is broken and willing to do just about anything for Melisandre to fix his current problems. He is starving and his men are deserting his rocky island daily. She offers a plan to sacrifice king's blood, i.e. one of Robert's bastards, to her Red God to sway their luck. Melisandre and Davos' differences are like scenes from movies where an angel pops up on one shoulder offering advice while the devil argues his ideas are better for the host. They go to war over the soul of Stannis Baratheon, and this time, Davos wins out. Robert's bastard remains unharmed and Stannis' movements are shrouded for a time from the reader only to reappear in the last place you'd expect.
In the far north, the Wall that protects the Kingdom from a wildling army is under attack and about to fall. Who is the savior that can ride in and vanish this frozen army? Stannis shows up with Melisandre and Davos and completely eviscerates Mance Rayder's army.
The Lord Commander of the Wall, Jon Snow, gives Stannis all the welcome he can. The Wall is forbidden from taking sides in any war of the Seven Kingdoms but he houses Stannis and allows him to contact all of the northern lords to gain their support. But, just as before, he doesn't receive much support. He decides he must prove to the northerners why he deserves to be their king. He rides into the mountains and unexpectedly gains the trust of the mountain clans who, in turn, help him take Deepwood Motte as well as a few other castles. He sends his trusted Davos to White Harbor to promote his cause and leaves Melisandre at the Wall, leaving him without either advisor.
Stannis is heading toward the northern capital of Winterfell, which has been overtaken by the Boltons after they backstabbed the Starks of the North. The Boltons serve as principal villains in a series that is full of good guys with bad qualities and bad guys with redeeming actions. Stannis believes if he can rid the North of the Boltons, the North will rally around him.
Alas, this guy can never catch a break. A terrible snowstorm encases him in the wilderness, forcing him to watch his host army die from cold and starvation. The fifth book ends with a letter from the Boltons to the Wall telling them that they have killed Stannis and defeated his army. But in this world, not everything you read can be trusted.
What Will the Winds Bring?
Predictions for the Upcoming Books
Stannis has positioned himself well for this battle. The tension leading up to the end of the fifth book was unbearable, and when it ended with no battle, I threw the novel across the room. Near the end, a Braavosi banker arrived, and Stannis sent one of his generals back with him to acquire a sellsword army.
I believe that Stannis will conquer the Boltons, killing Roose with perhaps Ramsay escaping for a later execution, hopefully by Theon Greyjoy. I think he will again be heartbroken in his quest for the throne once he returns to the Wall to find that Melisandre has decided that Jon Snow is the one she has foreseen in her flames.
My hope is that his desire to add sellswords to his army will lead to him hiring the mercenary group that Tyrion Lannister is currently a part of. In that, admittedly far-fetched, scenario, an epic battle between Stannis and the Lannisters will have Tyrion attacking his own family with the hope of putting Stannis on the throne.
If Melisandre does back Jon Snow, I would love to see Stannis finally humbled enough to end his quest and take a position as Hand of the King. However, in the end, I foresee in my flames Stannis's eventual death. Someone this epically stubborn and hard-nosed doesn't seem like a person who will survive through the end of these books.
However it ends, Stannis is the best and most complicated Baratheon, and his storyline throughout the novels is one of the greatest. Without Stannis, these books simply wouldn't be as good.
Please discuss your thoughts on what comes next for Stannis Baratheon below. Will he survive? To what end will this man come? Also, post which other characters you'd like to see predictions made for leading up to The Winds of Winter.