The Book That Was Promised

Winds of Winter theory reveals one epic battle Game of Thrones cut

Stannis’ demise may not play out the way you expect.

It’s no secret that Game of Thrones went in some very different directions than author George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire books. From bumping off certain characters early to cutting other ones entirely, the HBO series made some huge changes.

While fans still have to wait for the last two books in the Song of Ice and Fire series to find out just how much Game of Thrones ultimately deviated from Martin’s plan, they’re confident that several characters from the show will meet different fates. That includes Stannis Baratheon, the divisive figure whose demise may play out very differently on the page than it did on television.

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The Theory — One of the most intriguing fan theories about The Winds of Winter, Martin’s long-awaited sixth installment, is that Stannis Baratheon will survive the Northern conflict that doomed him in Game of Thrones. If true, Stannis will ultimately be slain not by Brienne of Tarth, but none other than Daenerys Targaryen.

The theory argues that Stannis will survive his battles with the Boltons, help the Northerners prepare for the inevitable arrival of the White Walkers, and begin marching South, only to meet his end in a battle with Daenerys and her dragons. It’s an interesting idea that, in typical Martin fashion, would be a poetic twist on a defining moment in Westerosi history.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones Season 8.HBO

A Fateful Meeting — In A Storm of Swords, Daenerys dreams that she’s her brother Rhaegar Targaryen on the day he fell fighting Robert Baratheon. However, Daenerys doesn’t ride into battle on a horse like Rhaegar did, but on a dragon, and she sees herself burning the entire Baratheon army.

At first, the dream seems like nothing more than what Dany wished had happened the day Rhaegar met Robert in battle. However, some fans believe the dream is a vision of the future. That would mean the Baratheon army she encounters in the dream isn’t led by Robert, but his brother Stannis.

Liam Cunningham as Davos and Stephen Dillane as Stannis in HBO’s Game of Thrones.HBO

So the dream may foreshadow a moment where a Targaryen royal and a Baratheon “usurper” meet in the exact place their brothers fought decades prior. If that’s the case, then the dream also suggests that it’ll be a Targaryen who comes out on top this time.

In the same book, Davos recounts a vision he had about a king being burned to ash by the crown he wears. This could be Martin foreshadowing Stannis’ eventual fate. Plus, Stannis being burned alive has a certain tragic irony to it considering how heavily he’s aligned himself with Melisandre and the fire-happy Lord of Light throughout his quest for the Iron Throne.

Stannis Baratheon facing utter defeat in Game of Thrones.HBO

The Inverse Analysis — Until George R. R. Martin finally releases The Winds of Winter, there’s no way of knowing how (or even if) Stannis dies in the Song of Ice and Fire series. But this possibility certainly seems poetic enough to be what Martin could choose when the time comes. It would be hard not to see it as an improvement over Stannis’ demise in Game of Thrones, which divided many book readers.

The Winds of Winter will be released whenever George R. R. Martin finishes writing it.