… a life devoted to the protection of kings. Today I will share some thoughts about Ser Barristan Selmy.
The greatest living knight was Ser Barristan Selmy, Barristan the Bold, the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.
Barristan Selmy before and in the books
Barristan Selmy was born as the heir to a smaller house in the Stormlands. At the age of 10 he entered a tourney as mystery knight and was therefore called “The Bold” by crownprince Duncan himself. With 16 he was knighted by King Aegon after unhorsing the same prince Duncan and the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Ser Duncan the Tall. In the following years he won a few tourneys and also proved to be a real fighter during the Wars of the Ninepenny Kings. Ser Barristan himself ended the line of the Blackfyres when he “cut his way through the Golden Company” and killing Maelys in single combat. He was invited to wear the white cloak and swore his oath to King Jaeherys and Lord Commander Hightower. Afterwards he served faithfully for his kings and became even more famous when he rescued King Aerys from his arrest at the besieged castle of Duskendale in a one-man-commando mission. Barristan is responsible that Ser Dontos was not killed after Duskendale as he convinced King Aery that a babe could not be blamed for his fathers faults. He fought several tourneys as a white cloak and won even against Rhaegar. The one time he lost against him (in the last fight) was at the tourney of Harrenhal when Rhaegar named Lyanna Stark his queen of love and beauty. He himself had planned to crown Ashara Dayne. Barristan still wonders if that would have changed the history.
During the upcoming War of the Usurper he fought for his King. After Jon Connington’s defeat at the Battle of the Bells Barristan was commanded to collect the remains of the army and led them with Prince Rhaegar to face Robert at the Trident. He was severely wounded in the battle but later on pardoned by Robert himself who sent fo his own maester to take care of the Bold.
After Robert became king he accepted the offer to wear the white again and even become Lord Commander after 5 of his white brothers were killed during the rebellion. He wanted Jaime Lannister to be sent to the wall, but Robert decided otherwise. He later will remember that he would have killed Robert if he had seen his smile when Lord Tywin presented the abused bodies of Rhaegar’s children. Although having reservations to serve for the Usurper he served faithfully. But it seems that under his command the kingsguard lost its old image of “being the most noble, valiant and greatest swords” in the realm as the new brothers were often chosen out of political reasons.
Barristan often takes part in the small council and sides with Eddard Stark when the question of killing Daenarys comes up. After King Robert’s death King Joffrey Baratheon expells him from the kingsguard on his mother Cersei’s and Varys’ council. This move seems to be orchestrated by the spider as he wanted to send Barristan to Daenerys Targaryen. Later on Sandor Clegane is named the seventh white cloak although he refuses of being knighted. He becomes the (officialy) first white cloak not being a knight. In ADWD it is revealed that when Lord Eddard was executed Barristan was hiding amongst he people. In the books the people wonder about his whereabouts and specifically Tyrion and Tywin Lannister blame Cersei for the move as they fear one of the other contenders could win Barristan’s support which is considered a still very powerful token (besides his abilities as a fighter/commander).
Meanwhile he is sent to Braavos and further on and joins Daenerys camp. He is posing as Arstan Whitebeard, an old squire of a former pitfighter. He earns her respect (and Jorah Mormont’s distrust) when revealing some of his knowledge about her father and brother. In the coming events he gains more of her respect and she often asks him about Westeros. When his identity is revealed later on he tells Dany that Ser Jorah was spying on her and reporting back to Westeros. In her first rage she sends both of them on a suicide mission to infiltrate Meereen.
After the city has fallen Barristan is pardoned in contrast to Mormont whom she sends away in disgrace. Barristan becomes part of her inner circle, starts to train knights and is later on responsible for her personal safety as well as the cities protection in the coming siege. His mistrust of the Meereenes grows and he finds himself not very happy with Dany’s affair with Daario and speaks also against her marriage with Hizdar zu Loraq because he thinks that her true place should be Westeros. He is the one that speaks in favor of Quentin Martell and his party but she constantly ignores his well-known advice. After the Queen has vanished from the fighting pit he teams up with Skahaz mo Kandaq (the Shavepate) who still has influence in the city watch (the Brazen Beasts) despite the fact that he was sent away by king Hizdar. He decides not to kill the children hostages Dany had demanded from the noble families because he fears for the last hostages they had to send to the slavers. Although he does not like the Daario he knows that he is a valuable fighter and that the Queen is fond of him – he even asks the Tattered Prince for his help. Together with the Shavepate he plans and executes a coup d’etat that in the end leads to the arrest of King Hizdar. It can be assumed that the two of them take over an important part in the interim government although he constantly thinks that he is not suited for court intrigue and the game of thrones.
Some open questions from the past
Where was Barristan at the beginning of the books? Why not at the side of his king, during a journey that may take months?? That is somehow puzzling for me. He comes form Kingslanding with Renly and meets the whole party at the Inn at the Crossroads right before the Lady-affair, but what had he done in the meantime?
After Robert’s rebellion it would have been better when he had gone to exile and taking over the education of Dany and Viserys. I have the feeling that if he had done so the Targaryen-support base would be stronger at the beginning of the books. He himself thinks that he should have done that when Jaime was rewarded – but I think he feared that in this case the Kingslayer would have been named Lord Commander. A nice possibility for a “what if”.
Another nice “what if” includes (as so often) the tourney of Harrenhal. What if Barristan had unhorsed Rhagar in that last joust? Ashara Dayne would have been named the queen of love and beauty by a knight that has sworn chastity. Rhaegar would have (maybe) also fallen in love with Lyanna, but he could not have shown in front of the whole realm and some scandal may have been prevented. Nice how this tourney becomes a defining point in so many people’s lives.
Barristan the Bold in the coming books
I have the strong feeling that his role my be a relevant one in the coming books, but it could also be a short one. Something along the lines that he saves and holds the city but either is killed in battle OR his constant fear that he is not fit enough for all the court intrigue proves true and somebody (the Green Grace?) backstabbes him. It would be a shame to lose the Bold to an assassin, but not long in the future he will find a swordsman that bests him. Looking at the possibilities that (at the moment) are in or around Meereen my bet would be Daario. But why should Daario be fighting Barristan? It would be somehow ironic (and very Martin-like) if Barristan would come to the conclusion that Dany is NOT the best choice for the throne and in an attempt to stop her he is stopped by Daario, or Jorah who does not like him anyways.
After I wrote that it sounds cheesy almost instantly, but nevertheless, the Bold as badass and awesome as he is, he will not survive the coming books. The question is how he dies if in honor or disgrace. Knowing Martin especially Barristan has still the potential to fall very deep before leaving the story as he is one of the few characters that is (almost) admired and respected by all other characters.
Barristan in pictures
One knight wore an intricate suit of white enameled scales, brilliant as a field of new-fallen snow, with silver chasings and clasps that glittered in the sun. When he removed his helm, Sansa saw that he was an old man with hair as pale as his armor, yet he seemed strong and graceful for all that. From his shoulders hung the pure white cloak of the Kingsguard.
For me Barristan looks like Clint Eastwood (maybe the Clint 20 years ago) but I have to say that also Ian McElhinney from the series is a really good choice. True, both would be too old to perform any of the things Barristan accomplished at his age, but not everybody can be the bold.
Man, I thought that Barristan would be easier to write but the thing grew in the making. I hope you like it and tell me which swordsman will be Barristan’s doom, in terms of possible in the story. I still think it will be Daario – that will be the point when Martin shows us that he is not only golden teeth, blue ‘stache and naked-lady-swords.