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It is not a question of wanting. The throne is mine, as Robert's heir. That is law. After me, it must pass to my daughter, unless Selyse should finally give me a son. I am king. Wants do not enter into it. I have a duty to my daughter. To the realm. Even to Robert. He loved me but little, I know, yet he was my brother. The Lannister woman gave him horns and made a motley fool of him. She may have murdered him as well, as she murdered Jon Arryn and Ned Stark. For such crimes there must be justice. Starting with Cersei and her abominations. But only starting. I mean to scour that court clean. As Robert should have done after the Trident.
~ Stannis to Davos

Lord Stannis Baratheon, later King Stannis I, is a major character in the novel series A Song of Ice and Fire and the HBO adaption Game of Thrones.

Stannis is the head of House Baratheon of Dragonstone and the Lord of Dragonstone. He is the elder of King Robert I Baratheon's two younger brothers, the youngest being Lord Renly Baratheon. Stannis also serves on Robert's small council as master of ships. His parents were Lord Steffon Baratheon and Cassana Estermont. In the TV series, Stannis is played by Stephen Dillane.

Stannis is married to Lady Selyse Florent and has one daughter, Shireen. Although most 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 onward, 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. Starting from the second novel, he wields a magic red sword called Lightbringer.

He is one of the main antagonists in the conflict known as the War of the Five Kings, as he is the first main trigger who causes the chain of events leading to the war, being the very first person to suspect about the true parentage of Cersei Lannister's children. Stannis never meant to cause harm and death (besides those who wronged him, though it also includes killing Cersei's children and harsh punishments) and fights for justice, yet he always tragically ends up being a villain and one of the main causes of events such as the death of Jon Arryn and the Lannister-Tyrell alliance, and deaths of his potential allies. As things get worse, Stannis finds himself resorting to more drastic, desperate, ruthless, and villainous methods.

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 book and season, from season 2 up until his anticlimactic death in season 5. He's currently still alive in the novels.

Personality

This is Stannis Baratheon. The man will fight to the bitter end and then some.
~ Tywin Lannister to Pycelle
I hate a good many things, but I suffer them all the same.
~ Stannis to Selyse Florent

Stannis is unlike his two brothers: he’s a blunt, dutiful and straightforward man who is not considered as handsome and charismatic as Renly or as a younger Robert. He is 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 appearing more like an old man than a man of his age. He’s a stern, grim man, committed to duty and principles. He rarely smiles and does not enjoy parties. He possesses few of his brothers’ social skills. Unlike Robert, Stannis is not impulsive, but acts after a long time of reflection and is a strategical and calculative man. A stubborn, unforgiving, serious but dutiful man, Stannis never speaks with gentleness, neither dissembles nor flatters, as he is blunt and says what he thinks. He is obsessed with slights both real and imagined, resulting in him grinding 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, Stannis has never had the love or affection of nobles or smallfolk of Westeros 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 says that he dislikes what he forces himself to do. Stannis believes that one “good act” does not wash out the bad, nor the bad the good, and that each one should have its own result. Stannis also can’t stand lies and courtesies and wants to hear the hard truths, preferring to tell and hear things as they are. He dislikes his own lords, smiling people with colorful dresses, and whores. Stannis does not allow the presence of whores at Dragonstone, not even in the island's fishing villages. During his feasts, Stannis forbids loud laughter and raucous shouting.

Stannis has a cold relationship with his wife, Selyse. They have a loveless marriage, and the two have little patience for each other. Stannis was always uncomfortable around women, even his wife. He barely visits her, doing his duty in the marriage bed once or twice a year, but takes no joy in it. Selyse is an unfriendly, frigid woman who looks down on everyone. She 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, homely, but sweet and good-hearted little girl who is disfigured as a consequence of contracting greyscale in her infancy. Davos Seaworth is one of Stannis' most loyal servants.

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 generally 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 is 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.
  • Many book readers shocked by Stannis's death in the television series, and this development has been met with some criticism. Though the pink letter reports Stannis has been defeated, Stannis may be alive. George R. R. Martin said he means to end the battle against the Boltons soon at the very begin of the sixth book, which may mean that 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 beginning of the sixth season while Sansa Stark kills Ramsay near the end of this season. A second battle to liberate Winterfell from the Boltons takes place in the sixth season between the Boltons and an army of smaller Northern houses (Mormont, Hornwood, and Maxin) of wildlings rallied by Jon Snow, Sansa Stark, and Davos Seaworth. This battle is headed by Jon and fought in the ninth episode of season 6, in which House Bolton has been finally defeated. In the books, as the show has advanced past the point of the books as the sixth book has not yet been released, Jon's future storyline is not entirely certain and Stannis's success in his battle against the Boltons is unconfirmed.
  • George R. R. Martin confirmed that Stannis is still alive in his novels. The TV series version confirmed that he is dead. Martin has particularly stressed this status difference with Stannis more than once.
  • Stannis's storyline in the novels ends with a cliffhanger and it is only known that he is waiting for Roose Bolton's vanguard and made major progress in terms of alliances and strategy. According to George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons covered less story than intended. The Battle of Ice (the fight between Stannis and the Boltons), and the Battle of Fire (the fight against Daenerys Targaryen and the Slaver Alliance) had been removed from the 5th installment when George wanted to include at least one of the battles. Instead, the book ended with cliffhangers, Kevan Lannister's death, and the beginning of winter. Martin intends to resolve these two battle storylines "very early", as he said The Winds of Winter will begin with these two big battles. What will happen with Stannis's character is currently unknown with theories and speculation about his fate. Martin explained how he warned the readers for 20 years that "winter was coming" and that winter means dark things, sadness, and a lot of cruel deaths. Martin states, "There are a lot of dark chapters right now ... I’ve been telling you for 20 years that winter was coming. Winter is the time when things die, and cold and ice and darkness fill the world, so this is not going to be the happy feel-good that people may be hoping for. Some of the characters [are] in very dark places." The book is reported to be darker than the previous installments and it will take readers into the northmost coldest parts of the world, where the Others live.
  • On 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: 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. Fans who think it will be Stannis believe so due to many theories of the story and visions from Daenerys Targaryen. However, Martin states 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 in 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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