What A Dance With Dragons Tells Us About the Future of Tormund and Brienne
This past week we were all introduced to the most perfect romantic pairing of characters that has ever existed. It was everything we never knew we always wanted. It gives us something to look forward to, which almost never happens on Game of Thrones. And it’s nowhere in the books, so one might say that we have no idea how this romance between Brienne the Beauty and Tormund Giantsbane will develop. But, it’s not too far off a pairing that does appear in the books, and which may give us some hint to the future of this romance.
In A Dance with Dragons Jon oversees a marriage before he’s stabbed to death. Specifically he oversees a marriage between a Northern lady who is the presumptive heir of her holdfast, to a Wildling. In the book, that lady is Alys Karstark. Her oldest brother is a captive of the Iron Throne. The two younger brothers were killed by Jaime Lannister in the Whispering Wood. Her father, Lord Karstark, was beheaded by Robb Stark for killing Lannister squires to avenge his sons. Her great uncle had been left castellan of Karhold, and was pressuring her to marry her uncle Cregan Karstark to give them control of the castle. You can see the family tree over here but the point is that a northern woman set to inherit a stronghold she could not defend herself fled to the Wall for Jon’s protection.
Jon’s reaction when she arrived was to use her predicament to help integrate the Wildlings into Northern society in a political arrangement as old as time; marriage. He gave away Alys Karstark at her wedding to Sigorn, the Magnar of Thenn. Melisandre officiated. The Thenns of the books are not people eaters, and Jon notes at the wedding that Sigorn appears more nervous than Alys.
The entire structure of the Karstark family tree has been altered in the show, the Harald Karstark who appears to swear fealty to the Boltons is a complete unknown. Alys never arrived at Castle Black, and the Thenns have been rewritten as brutal savages who eat people. But instead we have Brienne, a woman who is the sole heir of Selwyn of Tarth, and Tormund, who commands the Wildling army. Their marriage would further integrate the Wildling factions into greater Westeros, and give Brienne a force that could help her hold Tarth. Jon’s instinct to build political alliances through marriage was a good one. Perhaps this time, the prospective spouses will stumble onto the idea themselves. And they probably won’t have Melisandre preside. The bride might have something to say about that.