- "The Iron Throne is mine by right. All those that deny that are my foes."
- ―Stannis Baratheon to his brother Renly
On account of the revelation of Robert's supposed children's true parentage, Stannis declares himself the rightful King after Robert's death as his rightful heir, and begins a campaign to take the Iron Throne.
After assassinating his younger brother Renly using blood magic, due to Renly also having claimed the throne despite being the youngest brother, Stannis almost succeeds in taking King's Landing at the Battle of the Blackwater, but is ultimately repulsed by the armies of Tywin Lannister and House Tyrell. As his wars drag on, Stannis falls further and further under the sway of the red priestess Melisandre. After saving the Night's Watch from Mance Rayder's wildling army in the Battle of Castle Black, Stannis marches on Winterfell. With conditions growing desperate, Stannis ultimately chooses to burn his daughter, Shireen Baratheon, to melt the snows away and clear his path to Winterfell.
He is defeated in battle outside Winterfell by an army led by Ramsay Bolton, much of his army having deserted following the burning of Shireen. The dying Stannis is shortly thereafter located by Brienne of Tarth, once kingsguard to Renly, who kills him for the murder of his younger brother.
Stannis is the second-born son of Lord Steffon Baratheon and Lady Cassana Estermont, the younger brother of the late King Robert Baratheon and older brother of Renly Baratheon. Steffon was the head of House Baratheon and Lord Paramount of the Stormlands. The Stormlands are one of the constituent regions of the Seven Kingdoms and House Baratheon is one of the Great Houses of the realm. Steffon died when the boys were young and Robert inherited his titles. Stannis is a serious and severe man.
Robert led a rebellion against King Aerys II Targaryen, deposing and replacing him as the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms. Stannis fought for Robert during the war. He was besieged at Storm's End for much of the conflict. He was rescued from starvation by the smuggler Davos, who brought a ship full of onions into the castle. Stannis knighted Davos as a reward but also punished him for his smuggling by cutting off four fingertips from his right hand. Davos is fiercely loyal to Stannis and saw his punishment as just. Davos's son Matthos served Stannis as a scribe.
A proven warrior, Stannis went on to conquer Dragonstone, the historical seat of House Targaryen, but failed to capture the remaining Targaryen heirs, Viserys and Daenerys, who had fled to the Free Cities with the assistance of loyalists. During a rebellion led by Balon Greyjoy, Stannis destroyed the Iron Fleet, and commanded a siege at Great Wyk.
Stannis and Robert never loved one another. Despite Stannis's service during the war, Robert made their infant brother Renly (who was too young to have fought in the war) Lord of Storm's End following his victory, which Stannis took as an affront. Stannis was made Lord of Dragonstone and served on his brother's small council as Master of Ships. Though not outright cruel or malicious, he is a stern and humorless man, making him the least popular of the Baratheon brothers.
He married Selyse Florent of Brightwater Keep. They have a loveless marriage and only a single child; the daughter Shireen Baratheon. Despite his animosity towards Robert, Stannis is also highly antisocial, and prefers the solitude of Dragonstone in comparison to the company of his brothers.
He later converted to the Lord of Light under the influence of the priestess Melisandre. His household have largely followed his conversion. He has adopted the flaming red heart of the Lord of Light with the stag of Baratheon in the middle as his sigil.
Stannis is first mentioned during a conversation between his younger brother Renly and Ser Loras Tyrell, in which Loras suggests that Renly could take the Iron Throne himself. Renly points out that he is fourth in the line of succession, behind his nephews and Stannis. Loras claims that no one would support Stannis for the crown because he "has the personality of a lobster."
After King Robert's death, and realizing the truth of Joffrey's parentage, Eddard decides to back Stannis as the rightful King. Renly offers to help Eddard take Joffrey into custody, but only if Eddard backs Renly's own claim to the throne. Eddard angrily rejects the suggestion, pointing out that Stannis has the better claim and is a skilled battle commander and leader. Renly counters that Stannis is a good soldier like Robert, but like Robert may not make the best king. Eddard later sends a letter to Stannis at his fortress stronghold of Dragonstone, informing him of the situation. Littlefinger also advocates backing someone else - Joffrey or Renly - and manipulating them from behind the scenes, since Stannis claiming the throne will plunge the Seven Kingdoms into war. Eddard is adamant that Stannis is the rightful heir.
Varys tells Eddard that Queen Cersei is more concerned about Stannis than anyone else, including the army that Robb Stark has raised. Stannis is a proven and experienced battle commander and is known to be utterly without mercy to his enemies. Eddard replies that Stannis is the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne, to Varys' disappointment.
With civil war erupting in the Seven Kingdoms, news reaches both the Lannister and Stark camps that Stannis and Renly have made claims on the Iron Throne. Robb Stark considers declaring for Stannis, but his bannermen, having grown weary of the constant squabbling of the southern kingdoms, proclaim Robb King in the North.
Stannis is known as "The King in the Narrow Sea" because his power is centered on Dragonstone. Though he commands a sizeable fleet at sea, Stannis's army is small due to the fact that most of the Stormlords have pledged their allegiance to Renly, who also commands the forces of the Reach. Stannis converts to the Lord of Light during his preparations and allows his priestess Melisandre to burn the statues of the seven outside Dragonstone. Maester Cressen attempts to interrupt the ceremony but is casually dismissed by Melisandre. She proclaims Stannis as a prophesied hero when he draws a flaming sword from one of the statues.
Stannis hosts a council and prepares a letter to be distributed throughout the Seven Kingdoms. He has learned from Eddard Stark that Joffrey Baratheon is a bastard born of incest between Cersei Lannister and her brother Jaime rather than Robert Baratheon's true heir. Stannis is, therefore, the rightful heir and plans to pursue his claims to the throne, despite being outnumbered by 1:20 by Renly, to Stannis's frustration. Davos Seaworth urges Stannis to make peace with Renly or even Robb Stark to fight against Joffrey but Stannis stubbornly refuses, arguing that Robb has been made King in the North and thus "stolen" the Northern half of Stannis's kingdom. Cressen attempts to poison Melisandre, framing it as an apology. Cressen drinks the poison first to make Melisandre feel safer. She realizes his plan but drinks the rest of the liquid regardless. Cressen quickly bleeds to death while Melisandre stands over his corpse unharmed.
After Davos recruits the pirate admiral Salladhor Saan to Stannis's cause (bringing his 30 ships to Dragonstone), Melisandre claims to have seen the path to victory in the flames. He reminds her that he has said her words and burnt the idols of the Seven already. She circles behind him and undoes her robe. She tells him that he must give all of himself. He reminds her of his marriage vow. She says that Selyse is sickly, weak and shut away in a tower and that she disgusts Stannis. She says that Selyse has given Stannis no sons, only stillborns and death. She promises him a son. He repeats the promise as she kisses his ear. He returns her kisses and lifts her onto the table, scattering the models onto the floor as he begins to have sex with her.
Stannis later parleys with Renly on the coast of the Stormlands, and in an uncharacteristic display of leniency, tells him that if he relinquishes his claim, Stannis will grant him his old seat on the small council, and even name him as Stannis's heir, unless Stannis ever has a son in the future. However Renly refuses, believing his numerical supremacy and popularity give him the edge; Stannis gives Renly the night to reconsider. Stannis then tasks Davos with smuggling Melisandre into the caves beneath Renly's camp, refusing to say why and ordering Davos not to discuss the mission in the future.
Once ashore, she births a horrific shadow as Davos cowers in fear. The Shadow then murders Renly, reducing his camp to chaos and tipping the balance of power decisively. Upon Renly's death, Stannis assumes full control of the forces of the Stormlands as Renly's remaining Stormlords swear fealty to Stannis as the last remaining legal head of House Baratheon. However, Renly's allies in House Tyrell return to Highgarden along with with their numerous vassals from the Reach but Stannis is undaunted. With the reinforced Dragonstone fleet at sea and a large army of battle-hardened Stormlanders at his back, Stannis plans to move on the capital of King's Landing, but Davos urges him to leave Melisandre out of the battle because of rumors that she is controlling Stannis. Stannis is angry with Davos for breaking his orders, but accepts his counsel. He names Davos as commander of his fleet for the assault on Blackwater Bay.
The fleet travels north along the coast, where Davos predicts that they are just one day's sail from their destination. Stannis admires Davos's loyalty and the way he copes with the snobbery of the Highborn. He recalls Davos's timely intervention saving many lives in the siege of Storm's End. Stannis asserts his trust for Davos by promising him that he will serve as his Hand of the King when he takes the Iron Throne.
Stannis arrives with a force superior to the defenders of King's Landing in both ships and soldiers, and attempts to take the city in the massive Battle of the Blackwater. He is sailing into the harbor when Tyrion springs a surprise attack, using an unmanned ship filled with wildfire. Bronn shoots a flaming arrow at the wildfire, which has spread over the water in between Stannis's ships, and a massive explosion destroys many of them, including Davos's command ship. Stannis orders the survivors to prepare for landing. When Ser Imry Florent tells him that hundreds will die, he coldly replies, "Thousands."
Stannis is at the front of the vanguard for the whole battle, being the first to land, the first to make it to the wall, and the first to climb the ladders onto the battlements. He kills many soldiers, fighting several at a time, without a helmet or shield. He has a force breaking through the Mud Gate with a battering ram while he establishes a foothold on the city walls. A surprise attack led by Tyrion Lannister through tunnels under the city destroys the ram, though Tyrion is trapped outside the walls by the arrival of more of Stannis's men.
Stannis seems to be on the verge of victory, until the arrival of the armies of House Lannister (led by Tywin Lannister) and House Tyrell (led by Loras Tyrell), who have united in the agreement that Margaery Tyrell will marry Joffrey (as orchestrated by Petyr Baelish), turns the tide of the battle. His soldiers break and run for what remains of their ships in the face of the cavalry charge. Stannis screams for his routed men to "Stand and fight!" in desperation, but is dragged shouting from the lost battle by his guards. The battle is hence a decisive Lannister victory, and Tywin is proclaimed Savior of the City.
Stannis returns to Dragonstone with but a fraction of the forces he once had at his command and confronts Melisandre about the validity of her predictions. He begins to strangle her in fury but relents when she reminds him of the spell they used to kill Renly. He experiences remorse for murdering his brother. Melisandre warns him that he will commit worse betrayals before their long war is over but insists that he must fight on and assures him that it will be worth it in the end, because he will be king. She shows him a vision in the flames that awes him and restores his faith in her.
Following his defeat at the Battle of the Blackwater, Stannis falls into a deep depression, shunning the company of his bannermen and wife, and allowing no one but Melisandre to see him. When Davos Seaworth returns to Dragonstone, Stannis is indifferent to the survival of his oldest and closest supporter, and orders him thrown into a cell when he attempts to assassinate Melisandre.
Later, as Melisandre prepares to depart Dragonstone by boat, Stannis speaks with her. He is worried that his enemies think he is defeated and laughing at him, as Renly laughed at him, and that now even she is abandoning him. She assures him that she still thinks he is the Lord's Chosen, but she must travel to the Riverlands to obtain something vital for his cause. Stannis says that he wants her, and that he wants Joffrey and Robb dead, and asks her to make "a son" again with him (like the shadow-creature she conjured to assassinate Renly). Melisandre says that she cannot: creating a shadow-creature drains some of the fire of a man's life-force, and she fears that creating another would kill Stannis. Over his protests, she explains that what she is seeking is even more powerful than a shadow-creature, and will change his fortunes in this war, but she needs a king's blood to do it. Stannis doesn't understand, but then Melisandre implies that she needs to burn a human sacrifice who possesses a king's blood as an offering to the Lord of Light. She can't kill Stannis himself to achieve this, but as she points out, "There are others with your blood in their veins" - any of his brother King Robert's bastard children who managed to survive the purge.
Following Melisandre's departure, Stannis pays a visit to his wife and daughter who are locked away in a nearby tower. He admits his affair to Selyse, who brushes it off as being best for him and his cause (as she had only been able to give him stillborn males and a sickly daughter). She tries to dissuade him from seeing Shireen, which he ignores. Upon reuniting with Shireen, he is troubled by her idolization of Davos and tells her that the man is a traitor and locked in a dungeon.
Melisandre finally arrives back at Dragonstone with Gendry, King Robert's bastard. Stannis is less than impressed by the sight of the bastard boy, who is technically his nephew, and is bemused when Melisandre orders him fed, bathed, and clothed, believing it pointless as they intend to sacrifice him. However, Melisandre reveals it is merely a sham to keep Gendry feeling secure, in much the same way as keeping a sacrificial lamb from seeing the blade of the knife.
Later, Stannis visits Davos in his cell. Davos protests that Gendry is an innocent who has never done him any wrong, but Stannis argues that the sacrifice of one bastard boy will usher in his victory, which Stannis believes is the only way to save every man, woman, and child in Westeros from the coming darkness that will devour everything in its path. He asks how Davos can doubt the power of Melisandre's god when Stannis has seen visions of "a great battle in the snow" and Davos saw the creature Melisandre gave birth to.
Davos speculates that the real reason Stannis came is because deep down, a part of him knows what he's about to do is wrong, and he knew Davos would tell him the truth he needs to hear, regardless of how it would be taken. After extracting a promise from Davos that he won't act against Melisandre again, Stannis has Davos released.
As Stannis and Davos enter Gendry's quarters, they find that Melisandre had tied Gendry to the bed and placed leeches on his body. She explains that Davos wanted a demonstration of the power in king's blood, then removes the leeches and lights a fire in a nearby brazier. At Melisandre's direction, Stannis throws the leeches into the flames and as they burn, recites the names of three people he wants dead: "The usurper Robb Stark, the usurper Balon Greyjoy, the usurper Joffrey Baratheon."
Later, after hearing news of Robb Stark being betrayed and killed at the Twins, Melisandre is able to twist this to her advantage, making it seem that the spell with the leeches that Stannis performed was responsible. It cements, in Stannis's mind, that the red priestesses' black magic is what will win him the Iron Throne. They intend to sacrifice Gendry in order to increase the Lord of Light's influence on Stannis's enemies and, despite Davos's very vocal protests, Stannis decides to have Gendry killed. Before that can happen, Davos frees Gendry, which upsets Stannis greatly, seeing it as an act of betrayal from his friend.
Grudgingly, he sentences Davos to death, but Davos hands him a letter from the Night's Watch that is requesting assistance, now that the threat of the White Walkers has become very real. Stannis, despite seeming interested, doesn't change his mind until Melisandre agrees with Davos that the real threat to the realm lies north and has nothing to do with the War of the Five Kings. Stannis brings Davos back into the fold, needing someone to rally more troops to his side, and decides that they should march to the Wall and help the Night's Watch against the threat of the White Walkers.
Stannis witnesses the burning of one of his bannermen, Ser Axell Florent, with his wife, Selyse, and Davos, as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. His resentment towards his wife continues, as she happily insists that his soul was transferred to the god. At dinner, he is displeased with the way Selyse talks about Shireen. He agrees, however, that Melisandre should speak to the child.
Since Davos is now literate, Stannis asks for his thoughts on a letter he received. Davos reads the letter and is shocked to learn Joffrey Baratheon is dead. Stannis gives credit to Melisandre and the leeches, but Davos is still skeptical. Davos recommends hiring mercenaries such as the Golden Company, but Stannis is disgusted at the thought of paying men to fight. Stannis then tells Davos that he refuses to become a page in someone else's history book, and that time is running out for both himself and Davos.
After being granted an audience with the Iron Bank of Braavos, Stannis and Davos travel to Braavos, where they meet with Tycho Nestoris. Although at first dismissive of Stannis's claim due to his inferior army and his lack of resources to repay any debts to the Bank, Davos defends Stannis as the only one able to repay the debts, both that he takes and those of the Iron Throne. Davos's plea insists that Stannis always pays up and that the Lannisters will be faced with a power vacuum when Tywin Lannister (who is 67 years old) dies and that, if such a moment occurred, the Bank wasn't likely to see a return on its investment in Westeros. The bankers decide to grant Stannis his loan and their support, allowing Davos to once again hire Salladhor Saan into their service.
On the day after the Battle of Castle Black, Stannis arrives with his army to fight the wildlings. His attack interrupts Jon's meeting with Mance Rayder and actually saves his life. Mance's forces surrender to the Baratheon army, and Stannis is introduced as the true King of the Seven Kingdoms. Mance points out that they are outside the Seven Kingdoms. Stannis also demands that Mance and his forces kneel, as it is customary to kneel when surrendering to a King. Mance refuses, saying that Free Folk do not kneel, knowing that Stannis will kill him if he does not.
Davos asks Jon what a member of the Night's Watch is doing in the camp, away from the wall, and Jon explains that he came to treat with the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Jon introduces himself as Ned Stark's bastard son and that his own father died supporting the claim. Out of respect for Ned, Stannis takes Jon seriously, asking him what his father would do with Mance. Jon responds that he was once a prisoner of Mance's, and that he could have killed him or tortured him but instead spared his life; in turn, his father would spare Mance in the situation. However, he urges to Stannis that they should burn the dead, to avoid them returning as wights.
Stannis has moved his remaining forces to the Wall, where he is attempting to rebuild his power base. Using Jon as an intermediary, he demands that Mance Rayder bend the knee and swear fealty to him so that he can recruit the wildlings into his army in order to crush Lord Roose Bolton and take back the North in his new campaign for the Iron Throne, while also trying to sway Jon to his side by claiming he will be avenging his half-brother's killer. When Mance ultimately refuses, Stannis orders him burned alive. Not willing to let Mance suffer, Jon mercy-kills him with an arrow to the heart as he's burned at the stake.
Although Stannis was not pleased that Jon interfered with Mance's execution, he presents Jon an enticing offer. If Jon bends the knee and swears his loyalty to Stannis, the king will legitimize him as Jon Stark, making him the Lord of Winterfell. Stannis, after receiving a message from Lyanna Mormont, knows that having a Stark on his side is the best chance of rallying the Northerners to his cause. Jon is tempted by the offer, since he wanted to be a true Stark since he was a boy, but he tells Samwell Tarly that he intends to refuse the offer.
After Jon is chosen as the new Lord Commander, Stannis approaches him again about his offer of legitimization. However, Jon declines Stannis's offer and reiterates that his place is with the Night's Watch. He also reiterates the Night's Watch's neutrality in the affairs of the Seven Kingdoms. Although having a Stark pledged to his cause would have been a great asset, Stannis respects Jon's decision and intends to leave Castle Black and march on Winterfell within a fortnight. He also recommends appointing Alliser Thorne as commander of Eastwatch-by-the-Sea. Later, Stannis witnesses Jon behead Janos Slynt for refusing to obey an official command. He gives Jon a nod of approval from across the courtyard.
Later, Stannis observes Jon training the new recruits with Selyse, who comments that he admires Jon. When she states that she believes that Jon was fathered on a tavern girl, Stannis tells her that it wasn't Ned Stark's way, implying he thinks there is more to the story of Jon's parentage than what is believed. Seeing Stannis look at Jon like a proud father would look at his son, Selyse laments that she was unable to bear him a son. Melisandre approaches Stannis and asks him if they will march on Winterfell soon. Stannis confirms they will since they must leave before the snows trap them. Stannis is later visited in his office by Shireen, who asks him if he is ashamed of her. Stannis tells her that when he was told that she had greyscale and was advised to send her to the ruins of Valyria to live out her short life before her death, he took no notice and sent for every maester, apothecary, and healer to treat her, which led to them saving Shireen's life, because she is his daughter. Stannis and Shireen share a tender embrace.
Jon tells Tormund he will talk to King Stannis about lending him his fleet to rescue the wildlings at Hardhome. Stannis is present in the common room of Castle Black when Jon Snow informs them of his plan to rescue the wildlings at Hardhome, correcting Othell Yarwyck's grammar. Later, Stannis finds Samwell Tarly and Gilly in the library. Stannis voices his surprise at Samwell‘s appearance, having known his father to be a fine soldier as he defeated Robert at the Battle of Ashford. He asks him how he killed a White Walker and Samwell tells him he killed it with a Dragonglass dagger. Stannis is aware of this material, stating he has Obsidian on Dragonstone. Stannis recognizes the threat of the White Walkers and commands Samwell to keep reading, before departing the room. Stannis informs Davos that it is time to march, but Davos objects and asks him if it is not better to wait for Jon Snow to return from his mission with the wildlings, as they could have thousands more men in their army. Stannis states that they have to move now, before winter arrives in earnest. Selyse and Shireen will join them, as Stannis does not think they will be safe at Castle Black.
The following morning, his soldiers have gathered in the courtyard, getting ready to depart. Stannis tells Jon he hopes he knows what he is doing with the wildlings, as he needs his ships. Jon assures him that he will get his ships back, before thanking him and wishing him a safe journey south. Stannis mounts up beside Melisandre, and marches from the Wall towards Winterfell with his army.
However, the weather turns for the worse and a snowstorm delays his army. Davos reports to him that forty horses have died and the Stormcrows, a sellsword company of five hundred men, have abandoned them. Disgruntled by this news, Stannis picks up the piece off the war map, asserting that sellswords are loyal to nothing but gold, before tossing the piece away. They are also running out of food, as they cannot open the supply lines until the snow clears. Stannis remains stubborn and refuses Davos's suggestion to return to Castle Black and wait out the winter there, on the basis that the winter may last several years and the Boltons will have strengthened their forces (especially since he was previously forced to flee from the Battle of the Blackwater).
He maintains that be it to victory or defeat, they will march forward. Later, Melisandre speaks alone with Stannis and reminds him that they may need to sacrifice more King's blood in order to better their chances of winning the upcoming battle in the snow which they both saw in the flames, citing the deaths of Robb Stark and Joffrey as examples. When Stannis says that they have no chance of locating Gendry, Melisandre suggests that they sacrifice Shireen. Stannis is visibly shocked and disgusted by the suggestion, asking her if she has lost her mind. She tries to convince him by saying that Stannis must be the undisputed king when the Long Night comes, but he rebuffs her and orders her to leave his presence.
Later, Ramsay Bolton and 20 men set fire to several spots in Stannis's camp. The result is the loss of men, horses, and nearly the entire food supply. Desperate, Stannis turns to Melisandre and he finally accepts her suggestion of sacrificing his own daughter by burning her at the stake. Before visiting his daughter a final time, in which they discuss the Dance of the Dragons, he sends Ser Davos back to the Wall to retrieve food from the Night's Watch, a deliberate order to prevent Davos from interfering in the death of Shireen, which Stannis seemingly understood would happen. Stannis hence carries out Melisandre's wishes, but not without reluctance.
Shireen is tied to the stake, and begins to squirm and plead with her father for her life as she realizes what is happening. As she continues her pleas, the pyre is lit, and Shireen begins pleading for her mother to save her. At first, Selyse is convinced that this is the right thing, but she begins to have a change of heart as Shireen continues pleading. Distraught, Selyse's feelings change drastically, and she runs toward the stake in an attempt to stop the ceremony before she is herself restrained by Baratheon soldiers. Stannis remains unresponsive, but looks on in discomfort. As Shireen's screams die away, Selyse lets out a scream, as Stannis turns away with tears in his eyes.
By the following morning, the snows are rapidly melting and Melisandre is elated. Stannis, however, is gruff, clearly still shaken by what he did. One of his generals reports that although they can now proceed to Winterfell, about half of their standing forces, including all of the sellswords, have deserted, taking nearly all the horses with them. Another soldier reports that Selyse's body has been discovered hanging in a nearby copse of trees: she'd hanged herself in the night, unable to live with what she allowed to happen. Later, Stannis is hardly surprised when his general informs him that Melisandre has fled. Stannis is still determined, however, and orders the general to get the men into marching formation.
Stannis leads his meager force to Winterfell and orders them to prepare for a siege, but his general says there's no need: the Bolton army is meeting them on the open field. As the Bolton cavalry charges at his army, Stannis raises his sword as the armies clash. Stannis fights bravely, but the remnants of his host stand no chance. As the battle winds down, Stannis takes out two more Bolton soldiers, but his leg is severely wounded in the process.
As he rests against a tree, he is found by Brienne of Tarth, who identifies herself and asks him if he used blood magic to murder Renly, whom she served in his Kingsguard. Stannis admits that he did and Brienne sentences him to death (in the name of "Renly of the House Baratheon, the First of His Name, rightful King of the Andals and the First Men") and asks him if he has any final words. Acknowledging that his deeds have finally caught up with him, Stannis tells Brienne to do her duty, and she beheads him with her Valyrian steel sword, Oathkeeper, in a single stroke.
Despite his death, however, Stannis manages to obtain a small victory over the Boltons by buying Sansa enough time to escape from Winterfell with Theon, severely weakening Roose Bolton's hold on the North (and ultimately leads to the extinction of the Boltons and the Starks reclaiming Winterfell). Melisandre eventually reaches Castle Black, where Jon immediately asks her where Stannis is, and her bleak expression is all Jon and Davos need to know Stannis is dead.
Ramsay finds Stannis's body and reports to his father that Stannis is dead, but does not know who struck the killing blow, to Roose's disappointment, as his intention had been to reward the man who killed Stannis, unaware that it was Brienne.
After Brienne and Sansa reach Castle Black, Brienne later confronts Davos and Melisandre. She tells them how she witnessed Stannis's defeat at Winterfell. Brienne then tells them that she was the one who killed Stannis after his confession about Renly's death, leaving the two of Stannis's former allies stunned.
When preparing to march on Winterfell, the Stark army camps at the same location that Stannis had his forces camp out when planning his own invasion of Winterfell. Later, Jon and Sansa debate over Davos, and Sansa criticizes Stannis's defeat at the Battle of the Blackwater, his kinslaying of Renly, and his death, all while Davos was his advisor (though all Davos did was persuade Stannis not to take Melisandre to the Blackwater; he played no role in Renly's death, and was not present at the Battle of Winterfell).
Sam mentions that Stannis talked about an underground mountain of dragonglass underneath Dragonstone during his stay at Castle Black.
When Melisandre returns to Dragonstone to serve Daenerys, Varys notes her loyalty to Stannis and how he met his end. However, she is forgiven for this, as Varys had recently also been done so for his previous association with Robert.
Stannis was a cold, hard, serious, stubborn, firm and rarely-forgiving man but also brave and in possession of an immense sense of duty. As is expected of Baratheons, Stannis was proven on the battlefield as both a commander and warrior. He had a keen mind for strategy and warfare that led him to be respected by many high-lords and was also fearless in combat, where he could battle and defeat other soldiers, even when injured or unarmored. While he may not be popular, he is certainly respected as a warrior and commander.
Stannis's status, in comparison to his brothers, fits the Middle child syndrome: Robert the elder has the privileges and responsibilities; Renly the youngest receives indulgences; they are both loved and respected, while Stannis is neither, and he feels (and complains nonstop) he is underprivileged and unappreciated.
Stannis led at the front lines alongside his troops to inspire them on many occasions. His military record prior to the War of the Five Kings was exemplary; he held Storm's End against an overwhelming siege for much of Robert's Rebellion and captured Dragonstone at its conclusion, and he achieved two crucial victories during the Greyjoy Rebellion. His ambush against Mance Rayder's army was also a decisive victory, despite being overwhelmingly outnumbered. Stannis's only two major defeats were at the Battle of the Blackwater (where he was attacked on the flank by unexpected Lannister-Tyrell reinforcements) and the Battle of Winterfell (where Stannis's stubborn desire to give battle in spite of the odds doomed him and his army)
With regard to his brothers, Stannis was in better control of his emotions in comparison to the temperamental Robert and youthful Renly, whereas he always appeared calculating and stoic, repressing his emotions and desires for most of his life for the sole objections of the greater good. Even when fully prepared to vent his emotions, he is able to retain his composure and dignity, even when he is about to be assassinated. Stannis has very little patience for false politeness that is expected of a lord in court and generally states his opinions of others or what is on his mind aloud. Because of this, he does not surround himself with sycophants as Cersei does but with advisors whom he trusts to be blunt with the truth, whether he may object to it or not.
Stannis has an unbreakable code of honor and sense of duty and justice which governs his actions. He supported his brother in Robert's Rebellion and fought bravely to put down the Greyjoy Rebellion. When a newly-crowned Robert granted dominion of the much larger and wealthier Stormlands and Storm's End to young Renly and left Stannis with Dragonstone, Stannis accepted his brother's wishes. During the Siege of Storm's End, Stannis held out against the Tyrells despite the hunger, hopelessness and overwhelming numbers they faced. When Davos finally managed to smuggle food into the castle, Stannis made sure his men were fed first before feeding himself. He then rewarded (and punished) Davos fairly, which impressed the smuggler and earned his admiration.
After learning that Robert's children were all bred of incest and had no actual entitlement to the Iron Throne, he recognized his right to be king, but despite his ambitions, Stannis did not appear (or externally appear) megalomaniacal. He admits to Davos Seaworth that although he did not ask to be king, by every rightful law he is and had to accept his duty whether he liked it or not. Stannis, while fundamentally viewed as a good, or at the very least, decent man could easily be swayed due to his religious faith and obsession with fulfilling the prophecy of Azor Ahai which could turn him toward ruthless, regrettable actions, such as burning his daughter alive.
Stannis is also not as popular with the smallfolk as his two brothers are. Robert, although a poor ruler was at least respected as a warrior and Renly was the most well-liked of the Baratheons. Stannis, meanwhile, is lacking both the charisma and handsomeness that is found within his family. Due to his cold and blunt nature, he inspires little loyalty or love from his peers and he does not seem to care about his unpopularity nor does he seek the respect or admiration of the people. Loras Tyrell described him as having the personality of a lobster. He has faith that his men will follow him and die for him anyway because of his birthright. Stannis is also reliant on fear to keep his men in check and considers public displays of kindness a weakness leaders should not possess. On the other hand, Stannis's advisor, Davos Seaworth has complete loyalty, admiration and respect for Stannis and encourages his claim completely despite being drastically punished by him in the past, implying some degree of bravado on his part.
Ever since encountering Lady Melisandre and welcoming her into his inner council, he has accepted her religion in The Lord of Light completely and also her beliefs that he is the Prince That Was Promised, a messiah figure within the faith of R'hllor. Stannis, after converting to The Lord of Light has employed the use of blood magic to secure his claim to the throne such as human sacrifices and burning leeches. Stannis is also quite proud of his faith as he uses the symbol of R'hllor, a burning heart as the banner for his house, modified with the stag head of House Baratheon in the middle.
Stannis has a good side and will show that if he is impressed with someone, and he is not above making personal friends. He was fond of his daughter, Shireen, defending her from his wife, Selyse. Selyse resented their daughter since birth on account of her gender and because of her Greyscale. He also made a friend of Davos Seaworth, one of his most trusted advisors and this was reciprocated fully with Davos pledging his loyalty and life to Stannis. He planned to name Davos Hand of the King after he took the Iron Throne and comforted him over the death of his son despite imprisoning him as a traitor at the time. He was obviously impressed with Jon Snow, the illegitimate son of Eddard Stark, and treated him respectfully, presumably out of regard for Jon's father who made Stannis aware of Joffrey, Tommen and Myrcella's parentage. Before Jon turns down Stannis's offer of legitimization, Stannis was prepared to make him the official Lord of Winterfell as Jon Stark if he agreed to help his cause. Robert and Stannis were in a loveless brotherhood, which they admit to each other. This was also the same with Renly, however they appear on slightly better terms than with Robert. During negotiations he welcomed Renly to a place in his small council and (until he fathered a male heir) was prepared to allow him be heir to his throne if he lay down his forces. He also showed remorse over indirectly killing his little brother and he doesn't attempt to lie to Brienne of Tarth, Renly's Kingsguard, over his involvement. In the end, Stannis doesn't begrudge Brienne's intentions and simply tells her to do her duty, which was to kill him.
Despite his accomplishments and supreme tactics, Stannis was extremely stubborn. He refused to ask Robb Stark or his brother to assist his army, ignoring that Robb and his goals could help each other, claiming he stole the North from his kingdom. Stannis equates this with everything, viewing everyone who does not support his claim as foes and lords of different parts of the Seven Kingdoms without his say-so as usurpers. The prime example of Stannis's rigidity is what caused his demise. The first example of this was choosing to assassinate Renly instead of allying with him to defeat the Lannisters, a mistake that not only laid the seeds of his death, but led to the Tyrells joining forces with the Lannisters and defeating his army at the Battle of the Blackwater. Later on, ignoring the loss of half his forces and Melisandre abandoning him, he continues his siege on Winterfell anyway and is quickly destroyed by Ramsay Bolton's forces. With his faith broken, his ambition quashed and his family destroyed, Stannis does not attempt to avoid his fate and calmly accepts his death.
|Game of Thrones: Season 2 appearances|
|The North Remembers||The Night Lands||What Is Dead May Never Die||Garden of Bones||The Ghost of Harrenhal|
|The Old Gods and the New||A Man Without Honor||The Prince of Winterfell||Blackwater||Valar Morghulis|
|Game of Thrones: Season 3 appearances|
|Valar Dohaeris||Dark Wings, Dark Words||Walk of Punishment||And Now His Watch Is Ended||Kissed by Fire|
|The Climb||The Bear and the Maiden Fair||Second Sons||The Rains of Castamere||Mhysa|
|Game of Thrones: Season 4 appearances|
|Two Swords||The Lion and the Rose||Breaker of Chains||Oathkeeper||First of His Name|
|The Laws of Gods and Men||Mockingbird||The Mountain and the Viper||The Watchers on the Wall||The Children|
|Game of Thrones: Season 5 appearances|
|The Wars to Come||The House of Black and White||High Sparrow||Sons of the Harpy||Kill the Boy|
|Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken||The Gift||Hardhome||The Dance of Dragons||Mother's Mercy|
Died in infancy
Spoken by Stannis
- "When Eddard Stark learned the truth, he told only me. I'll not make the same mistake. Send copies of that letter to every corner to the realm, from the Arbor to the Wall. The time has come to choose. Let no man claim ignorance as an excuse."
- ―Stannis to his council.
- "A good act does not wash out the bad, nor a bad the good."
- ―Stannis Baratheon to Davos Seaworth
- "Hard truths cut both ways, Ser Davos."
- ―Stannis Baratheon to Davos Seaworth
- "Robert told me to hold Storm's End, so I held it. Then he told me he was giving it to Renly, so I gave it up. Insult or no, I gave it up, because Robert was my older brother and he was the king, and I've always done my duty. But now, I'm the rightful king by every law of Westeros, and when I sit on the Iron Throne, you'll be my Hand."
- ―Stannis to Davos Seaworth.
- "The darkness will devour them all, she says. The night that never ends. Unless I triumph. I never asked for this. No more than I asked to be king. We do not choose our destinies. But we must do our duty, no? Great or small we must do our duty. What's one bastard against a kingdom?"
- ―Stannis Baratheon to Davos Seaworth
- "My enemies have made my kingdom bleed. I will not forget that. I will not forgive that. I will punish them with any arms at my disposal."
- ―Stannis Baratheon to Davos Seaworth
- "I hate a good many things, but I suffer them all the same."
- ―Stannis Baratheon to Selyse Baratheon
- "I don't punish men for bravery. I reward them."
- ―Stannis Baratheon to Jon Snow.
- "We march to victory or we march to defeat, but we go forward."
- ―Stannis Baratheon to Davos Seaworth
- "Forgive me."
- ―Stannis Baratheon to Shireen Baratheon before ordering her to be sacrificed
- "Go on, do your duty."
- ―Stannis Baratheon's final words to Brienne of Tarth
Spoken of Stannis
- "Stannis has the personality of a lobster."
- ―Loras Tyrell's opinion of Stannis.
- "You Westerosi are funny people. A man chops off your fingers and you fall in love with him!"
- ―Salladhor Saan to Davos Seaworth
- "The dark arts have provided Lord Stannis with his armies and paved his path to our door. For a man in service to such powers to sit on the Iron Throne, I can think of nothing worse. And tonight, I believe you are the only man who can stop him."
- ―Varys to Tyrion Lannister before the Battle of the Blackwater
- "Your Grace, you are the rightful king. Not only by blood. You're an honorable man, a just man."
- ―Davos Seaworth to Stannis Baratheon
- "Where's Stannis?"
- ―Jon Snow to Melisandre after she returns to Castle Black alone.
- Roose Bolton: "Thanks to you, the false king Stannis Baratheon is dead. Do you know who struck the killing blow?"
- Ramsay Bolton: "No."
- Roose Bolton: "A shame. I'd reward the man. Still, a great victory."
- — Roose and Ramsay after defeating Stannis.[src]
- "A man named Stannis Baratheon was anointed as the Chosen One by one of your priestesses. He too had a glorious destiny. He attacked King's Landing and was soundly defeated by the man standing beside me. Last I'd heard, he'd been defeated again, this time at Winterfell, and this time for good."
- ―Varys to Kinvara.
- Jon Snow: "Ser Davos is the reason I'm standing here talking to you, and he served Stannis for years."
- Sansa Stark: "Stannis, who lost the Blackwater, who murdered his own brother and who doesn't have a head?"
- — Jon Snow and Sansa Stark.[src]
Behind the scenes
- On the Season 2 Blu-ray, Stannis narrates Histories & Lore videos on the "Greyjoy Rebellion", "Robert's Rebellion" and "Dragonstone."
- Although Stannis is Robert Baratheon's younger brother, Stephen Dillane is actually eight years older than Mark Addy, who played Robert. In the novels, creating the shadow-baby creature with Melisandre actually drained some of Stannis's life-force, making him look prematurely old - though only slightly, enough that his followers think he is simply haggard from stress from the Lannisters stealing his throne and destroying his army at the Blackwater.
- In the original script of "Mother's Mercy", Stannis was to have a brief exchange with Brienne before his assassination, in which he would express remorse for his role in Renly and Shireen's deaths and ask that Brienne apologize to them on his behalf in the afterlife, after which he would tell her, "Go on, do your duty."
- According to George R.R. Martin, Stannis is "at least in large part" based on Tiberius Caesar.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Stannis is very different from his two brothers. While they are handsome, jovial, hedonist, charismatic, and bold, Stannis is colder, more logical, and reserved. He acts only after much forethought and planning. Stannis lacks passion and, while not engaging in wanton cruelty, is merciless to those he considers his enemies.
Stannis is not a POV character in the novels; his actions are witnessed and interpreted through the POV of other characters, among them maester Cressen, Davos, Catelyn, Jon, Samwell, Asha (Yara's name in the novels) and Theon.
During the rebellion, Stannis held the ancestral Baratheon castle of Storm's End against a siege by House Tyrell for over a year, which included the whole power of the Reach and the Redwyne fleet. By the end of the siege, the castle defenders were living on rats and boot leathers and facing starvation, when they were saved by the smuggler Davos, who snuck in his cargo of onions and salted fish past the Redwyne blockade. It was meager food, but enough to sustain the defenders till Eddard Stark broke the siege. While the siege lacked a major battle to enshrine it in song and legend, it was essential to tie down the armies of House Tyrell and prevent them marching to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen's aid at the Trident.
To Stannis's fury, despite the deprivations he suffered in holding the castle, Robert appointed their child brother Renly as Lord of Storm's End while Stannis was given the ancient Targaryen holdfast of Dragonstone (which Stannis captured near the end of the rebellion) to rule instead. Dragonstone is storied and legendary, but also poor, often isolated by bad weather and cold. Robert also blamed Stannis for allowing Aerys's last heirs, Viserys and Daenerys to slip through his fingers when he took Dragonstone (unfairly, as the two children had been spirited to safety by Targaryen loyalists long before Stannis even set sail) and because of this, Stannis took being stripped of Storm's End as an intentional slight. Stannis was also appointed Master of Ships on Robert's small council at King's Landing. While he was busy at court, Ser Axell Florent ruled Dragonstone as its castellan. Every year Stannis paid a few visits to Dragonstone. He also led the royal fleet at sea to suppress smuggling and piracy.
On the night of Stannis's wedding, Robert violated his wedding bed by sleeping there with Delena Florent (Selyse's cousin). Although Robert swore that he had been drunk and had not realized to which bedchamber he entered and never meant to shame Stannis, Stannis never forgave him for that insult. For that reason, he resents Edric Storm, whom Delena gave birth to, since the youth's presence is a constant reminder of that offense (similarly to the way Catelyn feels about Jon Snow); yet, Stannis allows Edric to spend time with Shireen.
He is described as having broad shoulders and sinewy limbs, bald but for a thin fringe of black hair circling his ears like the shadow of a crown. He has a short and neatly trimmed black beard.
At the time the books begin, Stannis has taken an indefinite leave of absence to visit his wife and daughter on Dragonstone. He is married to Lady Selyse of House Florent and has a single daughter, Shireen (they have no sons, alive or stillborn). Davos, knighted by Stannis for his role in the siege, is arguably Stannis's most loyal and steadfast vassal.
Stannis respects Eddard Stark, but strongly resents him for being Robert's best friend and for his appointment to the King's Hand - an office Stannis believed that he should have been granted. Stannis's grudge did not decrease even after Eddard's death. Although Catelyn reminded Stannis that it was Eddard who broke the siege of Storm's End, and assured him that Eddard never wanted to be Robert's Hand, it did not appease Stannis at all. Stannis replied that Eddard did so on Robert's orders, and privately, Stannis was angry that Robert was more grateful to Eddard for breaking the siege than to him for actually holding Storm's End. Nevertheless, Stannis told Catelyn that he was sorry for Eddard's death, and promised her justice for his murder. Stannis respected Eddard as an honorable man, and privately understood that it was beyond Ned's control that Robert liked him more than his own brother.
Many characters fear that due to Stannis's rigid and legalistic personality, he would make a terrible king. One major source of criticism are Stannis's frequent statements that had the decision been his, he wouldn't have pardoned many former Targaryen loyalists as Robert did when he was crowned. Now that Stannis is trying to take the capital, he openly tells his advisors such as Davos that if he succeeds, he will clean house by purging all of the disloyal court officials, instead of pardoning them or outright letting them continue in their positions as Robert did. The irony is that while several characters feel this sentiment is shockingly brutal, it becomes increasingly apparent that there was some sense to it: most of Robert's small council members were either corrupt people or disloyal conspirators who actively aided the Lannisters in killing him, putting Joffrey on the throne, and the coup against Ned Stark. Varys has always been a Targaryen loyalist; Pycelle had already betrayed the previous king for the Lannisters; and Littlefinger was most loyal to himself - while keeping half the City Watch, including Commander Janos Slynt, bought and paid for. Stannis was actually not amiss for suspecting that they did not have Robert's best interests at heart.
One of Stannis's main flaws is the lack of charisma, which his brothers had plenty of. In the beginning of the second novel, a very few houses answer his summoning, while Renly gathers rather easily a very large host in a relatively short time. Stannis is decent enough to admit his flaw, "My brother made them love him, but it would seem that I inspire only betrayal." His tactless attitude is another serious flaw: it alienates people who potentially could have become his allies, as he did with Robb Stark: during the parley with Renly and Catelyn, Stannis bluntly told Catelyn, "I am the rightful king, and your son no less a traitor than my brother here. His day will come as well", thus ruining any chance of an alliance between himself and the Starks.
In a notable change, in the books, Stannis was the one who initiated the investigation that Jon Arryn conducted in discovering the truth of the parentage of Cersei's children, and fled back to Dragonstone shortly after Arryn's death. In the TV series, there is no indication that Stannis knows about the situation before Eddard sends him a letter about it.
In the second novel, Stannis explains to Catelyn and Renly that he couldn't simply go to Robert and make such an accusation, that conveniently made Stannis the next on Robert's line of heirs; he needed Jon Arryn, whom Robert greatly trusted, to back him up. Following Arryn's death, Stannis most logical step was to contact Ned Stark, tell him what he and Arryn discovered, and ask Ned to support his accusation about Cersei's children. Robert would have probably believed Ned, since they were close friends. The reason Stannis has not acted that way is probably the grudge he bears against Ned.
During his stay at King's Landing, Eddard sent Stannis two letters: the first contained a polite request to return to the council. Eddard did not receive any answer, and it is unknown whether Stannis received it. The second letter, which Eddard wrote after discovering the truth about Cersei's children, was given to Tomard with strict instructions to deliver it personally to Stannis. However, Tom was killed and the letter was taken from his body before it could be delivered.
Melisandre created two shadow-creatures with Stannis in the books - one to kill Renly, the other to kill Ser Cortnay Penrose (the castellan of Storm's End, who remained loyal to Renly even after his death and refused to yield to Stannis). She later explains that creating a shadow-creature drains some of a man's life-energy, thus she is unwilling to attempt to create any more for fear that it would kill Stannis. Afterwards, Stannis is said to noticeably look slightly older - not drastically so, but slightly enough that most people just attribute it to being haggard from the great stress of losing the Battle of the Blackwater.
Following the Battle of the Blackwater, there are many who believe Stannis has given up any hope for the Iron Throne. Tywin, who considers Stannis as the greatest danger of all the other contenders combined (he said that to Tyrion in the first novel), does not think so, stating at a meeting of the small council: "This is Stannis Baratheon. The man will fight to the bitter end and then some." He speculates that Stannis may try to rally the Stormlords or form an alliance with Dorne. Davos has a similar opinion about his king: "It is not in Stannis to yield, so long as he knows his claim is just."
Despite what it seems, Stannis is not dominated by Melisandre. He listens to her advice and prophecies, but keeps an open mind. For instance: in the third novel, she repeatedly urges him to sacrifice his nephew Edric Storm (in the show he is replaced by Gendry), promising that it will grant him the power to wake dragons out of stone. Stannis is fascinated by the idea of riding a dragon against his enemies, like Aegon the Conqueror; yet he takes Melisandre's words with a grain of salt, since he is familiar with the stories about the tragedy at Summerhall and the unsuccessful attempts of the nine mages from Essos, Baelor the Blessed and Aerion Targaryen. He also is not thrilled about killing his nephew. When he finally agrees - rather halfheartedly - to sacrifice Edric (unaware that Davos has sent the youth away), he demands that Melisandre swears first there is no other way, warning her that if she lies - it will cost her life.
Writer Bryan Cogman explained in a Season 3 interview the TV series' approach to adapting Stannis as a character. Some critics were upset that Stannis seemed like a fairly negative character in Season 2, but the writers were making a conscious choice to reveal the layers to his personality gradually. In part due to time constraints, Season 2 focused primarily upon showing how stern Stannis was. By Season 3, however, the writers would then surprise the audience by showing different facets of Stannis, how he feels bound by his duty, and his odd family relationships: his wife is a religious zealot who blames herself for her many stillbirths even though Stannis does not, that he has a sickly daughter who he actually tries to treat well (despite his limited interpersonal skills), etc. as Cogman explained at length:
- "It was an evolving thing. Season 2, as ever, we had to be judicious about how many characters to introduce. It was decided that, dramatically, it made sense for the S2 Stannis scenes to involve this triangle of characters, if you will—Davos on one side, Melisandre on the other, Stannis being pulled between the two. In the book, you have Selyse on the Mel side but we decided to pull her out of the political discussion, at least for now. But when the decision was made to dramatize the conception of the shadow monster...It was very important that Stannis be a married man, breaking a vow, so we made a point of showing he had a wife. We came up with the idea of her being shut away in a tower, frankly, at first, as an excuse to keep her offscreen. At that point, we honestly didn’t know if we would include Shireen or not — we never know how many characters this show can handle so we sometimes hedge one way or the other. So we made it clear that Selyse had given Stannis "no sons", leaving the door open for Shireen if we needed her. Anyway, we come to Season 3 — and this goes to how you adapt the Stannis stuff for TV — Stannis, thus far, is only seen through the eyes of other characters. Mainly Davos and, if you count up his chapters/page count/appearances, it's not a lot. So it was decided that we needed to create a specific emotional arc for him this season — again, using clues from the book, we didn’t come up with this stuff out of thin air, despite what some Stannis fans say..."
- ..".So the idea being that he was really thrown after Blackwater” and with Davos gone and him seeing what he's seen in the flames, he's clinging to Melisandre, almost like a drug, an addiction...Anyway, "his fires burn low" (again, a direct quote from the book) and that means he doesn't have the life force to create another demon."
- ..".We figured a great way to introduce his (previously unseen and rarely spoken of) family would be through his eyes. Melisandre has left Dragonstone, he feels abandoned, he's essentially an addict going through withdrawal and as part of that withdrawal and the guilt associated with his actions in Season 2, he decides to check in with his family."
- "In terms of Selyse — she's admittedly a bit different from the book, but what we did retain is fanaticism, her fierce devotion to Melisandre and, in show canon (though we didn't state this explicitly in the show) she was the one that brought Melisandre to Dragonstone...So we asked the question: what would bring someone to abandon their gods and seek answers elsewhere? Perhaps the stillborn deaths of three sons? And that’s how that scene was born."
- "Now, with Shireen — she's essentially the Shireen from the books. The main difference is Selyse's attitude towards her is a bit different. She has a more overt hatred and resentment of her — she wanted to give Stannis sons, not a deformed daughter."
In the books, Stannis does not travel to Braavos to get a loan from the Iron Bank before the Battle of Castle Black. Rather, long after the battle, while Stannis marches to Winterfell, Tycho Nestoris arrives at Castle Black to see Stannis; it happens at a much later point than in the show, and only after the Lannisters keep refusing to pay the Crown's debt.
At the end of A Storm of Swords, Stannis travels to the Wall and smashes Mance Rayder's army. Davos is not with him, because Stannis has sent him earlier to the White Harbor. After realizing who Jon Snow is, Stannis offers to legitimize him as Jon Stark and make him Lord of Winterfell in exchange for his support; Jon thinks it over and decides to decline Stannis's offer, and is elected the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch shortly after.
Stannis's victory over the wildlings does not impress the people of the North. Much to his frustration, his summoning letters are rejected by Lyanna Mormont and other houses (similarly to what happened in the beginning of the second novel). Only Arnolf Karstark, the castellan of Karhold, agrees to support Stannis, but he turns to be a traitor: he secretly collaborates with the Boltons.
In A Dance with Dragons, Stannis consults with Jon about his next steps. Jon knows that by serving as Stannis's (unofficial) advisor, he is walking on very thin ice, since the Watch is supposed to be neutral; yet he feels obligated to assist Stannis, for saving the defenders of Castle Black. Jon dissuades Stannis from ill-advised ideas that would have cost him dearly, among them granting the abandoned castles of the Watch to his knights and lords, and attacking the Dreadfort. Stannis does not like what Jon tells him, but follows his advices.
Stannis quarrels with Jon numerous times over his decision and even implies that he can have Jon executed and replaced, but Jon refuses to be intimidated and Stannis eventually backs down.
Stannis's campaign to liberate the North from its enemies, namely the ironborn and the Boltons, is also much longer. His initial idea (prompted by the treacherous Arnolf Karstark) is to attack the Dreadfort, but Jon convinces him that the castle is too heavily fortified; instead, he advises Stannis to seek the support of the Northern mountain clans, who are loyal to the Starks, and to liberate other parts of the North from the ironborn.
As time passes, Stannis's rigid personality has somewhat softened: he realizes that people will not accept him as the king just because he is Robert's legal heir. He also learns the lesson that Ned Stark failed to understand (until it was too late): in order to achieve his goals, he must sometimes compromise his principles. For example: Jon explains to Stannis that if he commands the Northern mountain clans to fight for him, they will look at one another and say "Who is this man? He is no king of mine"; instead, Stannis must adopt a friendly attitude, to feast with the clans and praise them. Stannis says grudgingly, "Why should I beg for what is owed me?", but does as Jon advised him, and that way he manages to rally the clans.
Thanks to Jon's beneficial advices, Stannis gains the support of the Northern mountain clans, liberates Deepwood Motte and takes Asha Greyjoy (Yara's name in the novels) prisoner. The victory grants Stannis credibility in the eyes of the Northern Houses, and many survivors of them join his host. Stannis then sets his sights on Winterfell, but is unaware that Roose is holding Ramsay Bolton's wedding to Jeyne Poole there so as to lure Stannis into a trap, since the Karstarks in Stannis's army are secretly working with the Boltons and planning to betray him. Heavy snowstorms also slow Stannis's progress. In contrast to the series, Stannis does not take Davos, Melisandre, Selyse, and Shireen with him; the latter two still being alive at the book's climax.
In the meantime, Alys Karstark arrives at Castle Black and tells Jon about her great-uncle's schemes. Jon immediately sends Tycho Nestoris to warn Stannis about the traitors in his host, which he does.
At the end of A Dance with Dragons, Ramsay (or someone posing as Ramsay) sends Jon a letter claiming to have killed Stannis and smashed his army, but the battle is not shown and Stannis's fate is left unrevealed. There are several anomalies about the letter, which imply that its contents are false and its writer is not Ramsay.
Before traveling to the North, Stannis leaves skeletal garrisons in Dragonstone and Storm's End. In the fourth novel, Cersei sends Lord Paxter Redwyne and Mace Tyrell to conquer the two castles. Eventually, Loras Tyrell conquers Dragonstone, and in "Arianne II" sample chapter of the sixth novel it is reported (but not confirmed yet) that Storm's End has been taken by the Golden Company, on behalf of the presumed-dead Aegon Targaryen (son of Elia Martell), the son of Rhaegar and Elia. It is unlikely that Stannis is aware of the fall of both his castles; in his current position, there is nothing he can do about that anyway.
Author George R.R. Martin has since stated that in the books, Stannis is currently alive and well. Thus, by the point the books reached, Stannis is the sole survivor of the five kings, after whom the War of the Five Kings is titled.
A released sample chapter from The Winds of Winter depicts Stannis holding Theon as his captive, preparing for the battle with the Boltons after having discovered the Karstarks' treachery and sentencing his prisoners Arnolf and Arthor Karstark to death, but it is currently unknown if this chapter takes place before or after Ramsay sends the letter to Jon. Stannis plans to execute Theon as a punishment for the atrocities he committed against the North, the actual (the savage harrying of the Stony Shore and the capture of Winterfell, which cost the lives of many innocent people) and the alleged (the murder of the Stark boys), to gain more support from the North. Stannis also makes a deal with Tycho Nestoris and sends Ser Justin Massey to escort Tycho back to Braavos, where he must hire at least 20,000 sellswords. Justin is instructed to do the same even if Stannis dies at Winterfell, and keep fighting to put Shireen on the Iron Throne.
Brienne has not seen Stannis ever since his hostile parley with Renly and Catelyn. She and Podrick search for Sansa in the Riverlands, and recently have been taken captive by the Brotherhood Without Banners and its vengeful new leader, the monstrous Lady Stoneheart (the reanimated Catelyn); thus they are not involved in the events at the North.
Apparently, as Melisandre has repeatedly warned Stannis, the deaths of the three "usurpers" did not get him even one step closer to the Iron Throne: his plan to pardon the Northmen and the ironborn and get them to his side was strongly opposed by Selyse and Melisandre, and even himself clenched his jaw at the idea of looking like a weak beggar in need of support. Also, Stannis knew that the Lannister still had a false heir, while the Greyjoys had too many heirs. The two kings, Euron and Tommen, simply filled the places left by Balon and Joffrey. However, since Stannis is still alive in the books and has obtained the support of the Mormonts, Glovers, Umbers, and other Northern houses, it can be argued that the three deaths have assisted him indirectly:
- As a result of Balon's death, the ironborn's manpower in the north was significantly reduced, what made it easier for Stannis to liberate Deepwood Motte, and by that gain credibility in the eyes of the people of the North.
- Robb's death has left a void. The people of the North wanted to pay their oppressors back, but needed someone to rally them; Stannis has proven himself capable for that mission.
- Joffrey's death has triggered a chain of events that resulted in Tywin's death - and from that point began the gradual decline of House Lannister, mainly due to Cersei's total incompetence as a ruler. Considering how far the show strayed from the books (in respect of the plotlines of Sansa, Dorne and more), it is not impossible that Stannis will survive the second Battle of Winterfell, and may take advantage of the unstable state of affairs at King's Landing. However, Stannis does not mean to march any southern than Moat Cailin and means to garrison every castle at the Wall with his forces, the Northmen, the Night's Watch, and the Free Folk. He does not plan to risk his resources until the critical situation with the Others and the army of the dead is fully resolved, so if he survives the Battle of Ice, he could die fighting during winter fighting against a human faction or the Others.
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Baratheon of Dragonstone - Stannis Baratheon entry
- "Garden of Bones"
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Baratheon of Dragonstone - Davos Seaworth entry
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Baratheon of Dragonstone - Matthos Seaworth entry
- "You Win or You Die"
- "The North Remembers"
- "A Golden Crown"
- "The Night Lands"
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Baratheon of Dragonstone - Melisandre entry
- "The Wolf and the Lion"
- "Fire and Blood"
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 map, special features - Areas of Control, Stannis Baratheon entry
- "The Ghost of Harrenhal"
- "The Prince of Winterfell"
- "Valar Morghulis"
- "Valar Dohaeris"
- "Walk of Punishment"
- "Kissed by Fire"
- "Second Sons"
- "The Lion and the Rose"
- "Breaker of Chains"
- "The Laws of Gods and Men"
- "The Children"
- "The Wars to Come"
- "The House of Black and White"
- "High Sparrow"
- "Sons of the Harpy"
- "Kill the Boy"
- "The Gift"
- "The Dance of Dragons"
- "Mother's Mercy"
- "Battle of the Bastards"
- "The Red Woman"
- "Book of the Stranger"
- "The Broken Man"
- "The Spoils of War"
- "Robert's Rebellion (Histories and Lore)"
- Stannis Baratheon's original death scene
- Westeros.org, Season 3 Interview: Bryan Cogman.