- "I've burned away my years fighting for terrible kings...a man of honor keeps his vows - even if he's serving a drunk or a lunatic. Just once in my life, before it's over, I want to know what it's like to serve with pride, to fight for someone I believe in."
- ―Barristan Selmy to Jorah Mormont
Ser Barristan Selmy was a knight who served in the Kingsguard with distinction for almost forty years. Nicknamed Barristan the Bold, he was considered by many to be one of the best swordsmen and most honorable men in the whole of the Seven Kingdoms.
He served as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard during the reigns of King Aerys II Targaryen, King Robert I Baratheon, and, for a short time, King Joffrey I Baratheon. After his public dismissal by Joffrey (an affront, as the Kingsguard is an irrevocable lifetime appointment), Ser Barristan, free of any vows, chooses to serve Daenerys Targaryen.
Barristan Selmy was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, the elite bodyguard of the King of the Andals and the First Men. Barristan is the only known member of House Selmy, a minor house that serves House Baratheon. Barristan Selmy is noted as an extremely capable warrior, even in his old age, and has a reputation for honor and chivalry that is second to none. He served in the Kingsguard of Aerys II Targaryen. He fought in the battle against the Kingswood Brotherhood and slew their leader Simon Toyne. Jaime Lannister, then aged 16, squired for Selmy during the battle and greatly admired his skill.
Although dismayed by King Aerys's many acts of insane cruelty, Ser Barristan had great admiration and loyalty for Aerys's son and heir Rhaegar Targaryen. He never wavered in his loyalty to House Targaryen during Robert's Rebellion, in accordance with the vows he swore when he joined the Kingsguard; he fought alongside Rhaegar's army at the Battle of the Trident, where Rhaegar was killed and Selmy was wounded. Both Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark held Ser Barristan in very high esteem.
King Robert Baratheon, Ser Barristan Selmy and Ser Jaime Lannister swap war stories in the Red Keep. Barristan recalls his first kill as being a Tyroshi soldier whose name he never knew. Barristan killed him with a lance to the heart. Barristan and Jaime also discuss their campaign against the Kingswood Brotherhood, when Barristan slew Simon Toyne in single combat while Jaime scored his own first kill - an outlaw he decapitated - as a squire of sixteen. Selmy attends the King at the tournament thrown in honor of Lord Eddard Stark's appointment as Hand of the King.
Barristan stands vigil for Ser Hugh of the Vale after his death in a tournament accident. Eddard quizzes him over Hugh's death and how the lots are drawn to determine which knight will face another in the contests. Eddard states that, in his father's opinion, Barristan was the finest knight in the Seven Kingdoms.
Barristan later accompanies Robert, his squire Lancel Lannister and Lord Renly Baratheon on a hunt in the Kingswood. The king reflects on how much better things used to be, but Renly angrily accuses him of nostalgic self-delusion before stomping off. Barristan is bemused by the exchange, as well as Lancel's constant refilling of Robert's wineskin. Robert tracks a boar and attempts to kill it singlehanded. He takes a grievous wound but finishes the boar off with his dirk. Barristan bitterly claims to have failed the king as Robert lies on his deathbed, but Eddard counsels him that no one could protect Robert from himself.
Barristan accompanies the wounded king's return trip to King's Landing and stands guard outside his chambers. After Robert's death, he stands guard in the throne room as King Joffrey Baratheon commands his counsellors to swear fealty to him.
Barristan is shocked when Queen Cersei destroys Robert's proclamation announcing that Eddard is to become the Protector of the Realm, but even more so when Eddard says that Joffrey has no claim to the Iron Throne. During the ensuing melee, Eddard orders that Barristan is not to be harmed, but the City Watch betrays and murders Eddard's men and takes Eddard prisoner instead.
Joffrey later shocks the court by publicly dismissing Barristan from the Kingsguard - which is an irrevocable lifetime appointment - on the grounds of old age and the fact he failed to protect Robert. However, the reality is that Cersei is cleaning house by removing anyone from court who isn't a dedicated Lannister-loyalist. Barristan's shock turns to outrage when Cersei announces that his position as Lord Commander of the Kingsguard is to be given to Jaime Lannister. Barristan openly denounces Jaime as "the man who profaned his blade with the blood of the King he had sworn to defend!", causing Cersei to angrily rebuke him. Varys tries to defuse the situation by offering Selmy a keep to live in and servants to tend his needs out of respect for his years of service, but Ser Barristan bluntly refuses the offer, insulted at the council's attempt to fob him off with "a hall to die in and men to bury me". He tears off his cloak, breastplate, and some other items saying he is a knight and will die a knight. Littlefinger crassly jokes that he will apparently be a "naked knight", prompting the whole court to laugh at him.
However, their mockery abruptly comes to an end when Selmy draws his sword in fury, silencing the entire court. Though the other five Kingsguard members block his path to the Iron Throne and Joffrey, Barristan sneers that even now he could kill the other five Kingsguard as easily as "carving a cake". There is a tense pause in the throneroom, as despite his old age Barristan is such a legendary and skilled knight they know that he might indeed be able to fight his way through to harm Joffrey. However, Selmy notes the presence of Janos Slynt and the gold cloaks and ultimately realizes he is too badly outnumbered. He still mocks their fear of him by throwing his sword at Joffrey's feet, telling the "boy" to melt it down and add it to the others that make up the Iron Throne, before storming out in disgust. Ser Jaime was indeed named as the new Lord Commander in Barristan's place, though in absentia as he was captured by the Starks in battle before he could return to King's Landing. Jaime's own place in the Kingsguard was replaced by Joffrey's personal bodyguard Sandor Clegane, an affront to the institution, as Sandor is not even a knight.
The whereabouts of Ser Barristan are unknown.
Ser Barristan tracks down Daenerys Targaryen to Astapor in Slaver's Bay, where he saves her from an assassination attempt by a member of the Warlocks of Qarth, preventing a Manticore from harming her. Ser Jorah identifies him to the young queen, and Selmy quickly bows to proclaim his loyalty to her, explaining that in serving her, he hopes to make amends for his failure to protect her family in Robert's Rebellion. Declaring that she is the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, he asks to serve in her Queensguard.
As Daenerys prepares to negotiate for the purchase of Astapor's Unsullied, Barristan strongly argues against using slaves-soldiers as dishonorable. Jorah is in favor of using them, but Barristan retorts that when Daenerys' older brother Rhaegar led his army in the Battle of the Trident, men fought and died for Rhaegar because they believed in him, because they loved him - not because they were slave soldiers whose free will had been stripped away. Jorah responds that Rhaegar indeed fought honorably and nobly, but that in the end Rhaegar died. Daenerys was born months after Robert Baratheon killed Rhaegar at the Battle of the Trident, and only knew her cruel and half-mad brother Viserys, so she asks Ser Barristan if he knew Rhaegar. As a member of the Kingsguard at the time, Barristan knew Rhaegar well: he fought beside him and bled beside him at the Trident. Barristan says that Rhaegar was the finest man he ever met, the last dragon. Daenerys grows quiet and says she wishes she'd known her older brother, but that Rhaegar was not the last dragon (she is).
Later, when Daenerys agrees to give the Good Masters her largest dragon in exchange for the Unsullied, Ser Barristan openly protests, begging her to win Westeros back with dragons, not slaves. Daenerys ignores him and completes the transaction. As they depart, the furious queen tells Barristan and Jorah that while she values their advice, they will be advising someone else if they question her in public again.
Ser Barristan is present when Daenerys receives custody of the Unsullied and observes her betrayal of the Good Masters. He survives the subsequent Sack of Astapor and is overjoyed when the recently freed Unsullied agree to continue serving Daenerys. Along with Jorah Mormont and Missandei, Ser Barristan rides out of the city at her side.
As the Targaryen host marches towards Yunkai, Ser Barristan and Jorah ride together and discuss a variety of topics. Barristan admits that Robert was a good man and a good warrior, but a terrible king. Barristan explains that a man of honor must keep his vows no matter what, whether he's serving a drunk or a lunatic. Barristan also explains that Robert never trusted him to do anything more than protect him, hence Barristan was barred from Small Council meetings, though the Lord Commander is usually the Small Council's military attaché.
Ser Barristan is present when Daenerys and Jorah gather reconnaissance on the Second Sons and confirms that their presence will pose a problem. He later presents the Second Sons' captains– Mero the Titan's Bastard, Prendahl na Ghezn, and Daario Naharis– to the queen. He is incensed at the captains' attitude towards Daenerys during the meeting, but holds his tongue as per her instructions.
When the captains leave, Daenerys tells Barristan that if they must fight the Second Sons, he is to kill Mero first. Ser Barristan responds that it would be his pleasure.
When Daario Naharis, Grey Worm, and Ser Jorah Mormont plan to infiltrate Yunkai, Ser Barristan offers his assistance. Jorah advises him to stay behind and protect Daenerys, as he is a member of her Queensguard. Ser Barristan is present alongside Daenerys when the group returns victorious.
Ser Barristan is present when Daenerys makes a morning inspection of her army. When she asks after Daario and Grey Worm, Barristan and Jorah inform her that they are "gambling". When she finds her itinerant commanders, Daenerys tells them that it is Barristan and Jorah who will ride at her side, since they didn't keep her waiting. Barristan is later present when Daenerys learns that every mile-marker from Yunkai to Meereen is decorated with the corpse of a slave child.
Ser Barristan is at his queen's side at the gates of Meereen. He volunteers to fight Meereen's champion and mentions that he's probably won more duels than anyone else alive; Daenerys rejects his offer, as she wants to preserve his skills for more worthy foes.
Ser Barristan is present when the so-called "Great Masters" are rounded up to be crucified like the slave children on the road to Meereen. He advises her against it, saying that sometimes, it is best to answer injustice with mercy. Daenerys shows her Targaryen blood by firmly declaring that she "will answer injustice with justice".During a meeting in Meereen, Barristan Selmy is in favor of launching an invasion of Westeros. Ser Jorah councils that the Lannister forces outnumber them, but Selmy states that after the many battles they've fought in the War of the Five Kings their army is dispersed, tired, and their king is dead. Barristan believes with their current forces and the element of surprise, they could take King's Landing. Barristan also believes that the old Houses will flock to support Daenerys, but Jorah counters that the old Houses will only side with who they believe will win.
Barristan is present when a goat herder and Hizdahr zo Loraq are given audiences with Daenerys Targaryen in Meereen. On the other side of the world, Varys informs the Small Council that Barristan did not take kindly to his dismissal from the Kingsguard, and is now one of Daenerys's advisors. Cersei dismisses Barristan as an old man who was not fit to protect Joffrey. Tywin disagrees, saying her decision to dismiss Barristan was as insulting as it was stupid, because of the old knight's reputation; he also points out that Joffrey did not die under Barristan's watch.
Outside Meereen, as Barristan watches the Unsullied taking down the bodies of the crucified masters, a small boy approaches him, giving him a scroll bearing the seal of the Hand. He reads its contents slowly in consternation. He confronts Ser Jorah: the document is a royal pardon signed by King Robert Baratheon. Barristan surmises Jorah spied on Daenerys. Jorah begs to be allowed to speak with her privately, but Barristan tells him that he will never allow Jorah to be alone with her again. He is later present when Jorah is banished from Daenerys' service.
Ser Barristan remains at Daenerys' side when she meets with more supplicants. He is present when a former slave Fennesz requests to resell himself to his former master and when the charred bones of a goatherd's daughter are presented to Daenerys.
Ser Barristan presents the mask found on the body of White Rat, who was murdered by a member of a group called the Sons of the Harpy, to Daenerys. She orders the murdered Unsullied to be given a public funeral in the Temple of the Graces. Barristan warns that the Sons will see that as another reason to oppose Daenerys, but she hopes it will make them easier to find and eliminate.When a member of the Sons of the Harpy is discovered and arrested, Barristan counsels that the man should be given a fair trial rather than simply executing him. Daenerys dismisses everyone present and thanks them for their counsel, but Barristan wishes to have a word with her in private. He reveals how her father set towns and castles aflame, murdered sons in front of their fathers, and burned men alive with wildfire. These brutal actions lead to revolt which toppled the Targaryen dynasty. Barristan states that Aerys ordered these brutalities because he thought he was dispensing "justice" and it made him feel powerful, until the very end. Heeding his advice, Daenerys decides that a fair trial will be held. Unfortunately, a trial never takes place, as Mossador murders the Son of the Harpy. Barristan is later present when Mossador is publicly beheaded by Daario Naharis on the order of Daenerys.Atop the Great Pyramid with Daenerys, Barristan reminisces about the times he spent with Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. He recalls that he accompanied Rhaegar whenever he left to Red Keep to sing to the smallfolk with his harp. Barristan guarded Rhaegar and collected the money, which they would donate to another minstrel, an orphanage, and once they used their earnings to get very drunk. Daenerys is very surprised, who only knew Rhaegar as a great warrior from stories Viserys told her. Daario Naharis appears to tell Daenerys that Hizdahr and many more supplicants are waiting for her. With Daario already guarding her, Barristan decides not to attend. Later, Barristan is walking through the streets of Meereen when he hears the bells toll and notices many civilians fleeing in terror. Drawing his sword, he discovers the Sons of the Harpy have ambushed and murdered several Unsullied soldiers and Grey Worm, severely wounded, making his last stand. Barristan draws several of the Sons of the Harpy away from Grey Worm, cutting down a number of them before being stabbed multiple times. Before Barristan can be finished off, Grey Worm manages to kill the last Son of the Harpy. Grey Worm struggles to check if Barristan is still alive, but sees that the old knight has succumbed to his wounds.
Ser Barristan's body is laid to rest within the throne room in the Great Pyramid. In reaction to Barristan's death, Daenerys angrily rounds up each of the leaders of Meereen's noble families in the catacombs where Viserion and Rhaegal reside, and feeds two of the Great Masters to her dragons in order to intimidate the rest. However, she later regrets taking revenge and decides to instead secure her bondage with the noble people of Meereen by reopening the fighting pits and wedding herself to Hizdahr zo Loraq.
A seasoned knight, Barristan Selmy served under the Kingsguard of King Aerys Targryen and Robert Baratheon and protected them both all his life. Though he was an old man when he came into the service of Robert and Daenerys Targaryen, Barristan was a courageous and fierce fighter who could duel evenly with much younger and skilled swordsman, once even claiming that he could cut into the five Kingsguard like "carving a cake" (Considering that barely any of the Kingsguard present were especially skilled warriors, this was probably true). He valued honour greatly and grew disgusted how Cersei and Joffrey were weeding the Small Council and court with sycophants; in rage he surrendered his title of Lord Commander but refused Varys' offer as he was a knight and would die a knights death. Like most honourable men, Barristan held some mistrust towards the Kingslayer, Jaime Lannister; although the two men had mutual respect for each others' skills, Barristan still saw his murder of Aerys as a very dishonorable act, and although he did not treat him with open contempt, he believed it would be dishonorable to reward Jaime with command of the Kingsguard after what he had done.
However, Barristan's dutiful personality put him at odds that he could be too honorable at times. As a knight does not question or go against the wishes of his King, no matter what the King has or will do, with the Mad King, he could only watch as Aerys burnt innocent people alive and do nothing about it due to the oath he had sworn. While this exemplified the fact that he was an extremely honorable man, it also marred his conscience for the rest of his life. He served Robert Baratheon faithfully on the basis that Robert was more or less a fundamentally good man, even though he was also an extremely ineffective King. However, when Joffrey relinquished him entirely, Barristan vowed to serve under a king who he was proud to serve and believed in. His loyalty to his monarch was such that he was verbally incredulous when Cersei tore up Robert's final decree, stating that they were the King's words.
Barristan was also a deep supporter of House Targaryen. Though he was horrified regarding the acts that Aerys committed, he still fought to retain the Targaryen Dynasty during the Sack of King's Landing and was close with Rheagar, Aerys' son whom he bodyguarded. Though he served under the man who killed Rheagar and stole Aerys' throne, he continued to support the Targaryens and finally assisted the Mad King's last living heir, Daenerys in helping her seize her birthright. Ser Barristan Selmy was extremely brave, being completely able to confront a ring of Sons of the Harpy with only a sword and no armour, while his faceless opponents had the advantage of armoured faces, numbers and weapons. Barristan fought incredibly well for a man of his age, cutting down a great number of the Sons without even crossing swords twice, even continuing after he was severely wounded and disoriented - what is fitting is that one of the greatest warriors that the Seven Kingdoms knew died the way he always wanted to, fighting against the forces of a malevolent and dangerous enemy with a sword in hand.
|Season One appearances|
|Winter Is Coming||The Kingsroad||Lord Snow||Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things||The Wolf and the Lion|
|A Golden Crown||You Win or You Die||The Pointy End||Baelor||Fire and Blood|
|Season Three 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|
|Season Four 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|
|Season Five 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|
* Only appears as a corpse.
- Spoken by Barristan
- "I am a knight! I shall die a knight!"
- ―Ser Barristan to Cersei Lannister, defying her (unlawful) attempt to dismiss him from the Kingsguard.
- "Even now I could cut through the five of you like carving a cake!"
- ―Barristan to the other members of the Kingsguard.
- Barristan Selmy: "When your brother Rhaegar led his army into battle at the Trident, men died for him because they believed in him, because they loved him. I fought beside the last dragon on that day, your Grace. I bled beside him."
- Jorah Mormont: "Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly. And Rhaegar died."
- — Barristan Selmy and Jorah Mormont to Daenerys Targaryen.[src]
- Barristan Selmy: "Your Grace, I served in his Kingsguard. I was at his side from the first. Your enemies did not lie."
- Daenerys Targaryen: "Go on."
- Barristan Selmy: "When the people rose in revolt against him, your father set their towns and castles aflame. He murdered sons in front of their fathers. He burned men alive with wildfire and laughed as they screamed. And his efforts to stamp out dissent led to a rebellion that killed every Targaryen, except two."
- Daenerys Targaryen: "I'm not my father."
- Barristan Selmy: "No, your Grace. Thank the Gods. But the Mad King gave his enemies the justice he thought they deserved, and each time, it made him feel powerful and right, until the very end."
- — Barristan implores Daenerys not to make the same mistakes her father did.[src]
- Spoken to/about Barristan
- "My father once told me you were the best he'd ever seen. I never knew the man to be wrong about matters of combat."
- ―Eddard Stark's opinion of Barristan.
- Varys: "As for Ser Barristan, it would seem he took his dismissal from the Kingsguard a bit harder than anticipated."
- Cersei Lannister: "He's an old man. He wasn't fit to protect my son."
- Tywin Lannister: "Joffrey didn't die on his watch. Dismissing him was as insulting as it was stupid."
- — The Small Council discuss the backlash of dismissing Barristan.[src]
- "Barristan the Bold, they called him. He crossed a continent to serve me; he was a loyal friend. And he died in an alley, butchered by cowards who hide behind masks."
- ―Daenerys Targaryen, mourning Ser Barristan's death.
Behind the Scenes
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Barristan Selmy is one of the most skilled and respected knights in the Seven Kingdoms. He started learning the art of combat as a small child and was taking part in tourneys while barely a teenager (he earned the epithet "Barristan the Bold" when he disguised himself as a knight and jousted with a Targaryen prince when he was only ten years old). He was made a member of the Kingsguard while very young and proved his valor in the War of the Ninepenny Kings, where he slew Maelys the Monstrous, the last of the Blackfyre Pretenders, in combat on the Stepstones. He also rescued King Aerys II Targaryen from the rebellious Darklyns during the Defiance of Duskendale.
One of Ser Barristan's most famous heroic deeds was the campaign against the notorious outlaw gang known as the Kingswood Brotherhood, in which he, Arthur Dayne, Lord Sumner Crakehall, and Jaime Lannister participated. At that battle, Ser Barristan killed the Brotherhood's leader Simon Toyne and rescued Lady Jeyne Swann and her septa. Unlike mentioned in the TV series, Jaime was fifteen years old then; he served as a squire for Lord Sumner Crakehall, not for Ser Barristan; he did not kill any of the outlaws, but crossed swords with the Smiling Knight (who was killed by Arthur Dayne) and saved his master from another of the Brotherhood. As a reward for his valor, Jaime was knighted by Arthur Dayne that day.
Like many, Barristan was disturbed by the increasing insanity of King Aerys, but continued to serve the Targaryens due to his strong belief in keeping his vows. Indeed, by the end Barristan (along with many others) wasn't really serving the Mad King so much as he was serving Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, who it was generally thought would be a great king when it came time to succeed. Most were hoping to simply wait out the remainder of Aerys's kingship until he died and Rhaegar succeeded him, rather than deal with the moral dilemma of rebelling against their sworn king.
During Robert's Rebellion, Ser Barristan remained true to King Aerys and fought alongside his son Prince Rhaegar at the Battle of the Trident. Barristan took grievous wounds and was captured; Roose Bolton urged that he should be killed, but Robert Baratheon was inspired by the great loyalty and bravery Barristan had displayed during the battle, so Robert not only spared his life, but sent his own personal maester to treat Barristan's injuries. By the time he had recovered, Rhaegar and King Aerys were both dead and Robert enthroned. Barristan was convinced to remain in the Kingsguard to provide continuity on the basis of his reputation for honor and steadfastness.
Five of King Aerys's Kingsguard were killed during Robert's Rebellion, all except for Barristan and Jaime Lannister. Rarely, if ever, have so many vacancies occurred at once in the Kingsguard. Many of the replacements were the result of political appointments made to appease other Houses rather than being selected for either valor or skill at arms. As a result, Robert's Kingsguard was considered to be one of the worst in its history, with many regarding Barristan and Jaime as the only true remaining knights of the Kingsguard. While Ser Jaime Lannister was considered to certainly be one of the most formidable swordsmen in all of the Seven Kingdoms, his retention in the group after his murder of King Aerys was particularly controversial. As a result, many throughout the realm considered Ser Barristan to be the only true and honorable living member of the Kingsguard. It is also mentioned that Selmy never wanted Jaime in the Kingsguard; before Robert's Rebellion, Selmy thought Jaime too young and unready and afterwards he believed Jaime should be exiled to the Night's Watch.
In the novels, Selmy also sits on the King's small council and advises the King, particularly on military matters, and he takes Ned Stark's side that an assassination contract should not be taken out on the now pregnant Daenerys Targaryen. He does not appear at the council in the TV series.
Dismissing Selmy from the Kingsguard was Varys' idea. Ostensibly it is because of Ser Barristan's advanced age, but in truth it is to provide a scapegoat for Robert's death, to allow Jaime Lannister to be appointed Lord Commander, and so King Joffrey can reward Sandor Clegane with the vacant Kingsguard place. A disgusted Barristan throws his sword at Joffrey's feet, telling him to melt it down and add it to his throne, and declares his contempt for Jaime Lannister and the rest of the Kingsguard (stating that Meryn Trant and his ilk do not deserve to wear the white cloak if they are willing to serve under the command of the Kingslayer). He predicts that Stannis will take the Iron Throne from the boy-king with ease, and then storms off, stopping at the White Sword Tower to dutifully record his own dismissal in the White Book. Joffrey decides that Barristan's last words were treasonous and orders the Gold Cloaks to apprehend him. They find him at the stables but Selmy, armed only with a knife, kills one and rides off. They catch him at the Mud Gate, and Selmy kills another of his attackers and disappears. Varys' reasons for the dismissal become clear later, as Selmy can now join Daenerys Targaryen, something Illyrio Mopatis arranges for him.
Later, Selmy admits: "I might be serving in King's Landing still if the vile boy upon the Iron Throne had not cast me aside, it shames me to admit. But when he took the cloak that the White Bull had draped about my shoulders, and sent men to kill me that selfsame day, it was as though he'd ripped a caul off my eyes. That was when I knew I must find my true king, and die in his service". It was at that point Barristan realized how far he had fallen, having spent so many years defending the man who'd overthrown his rightful king and serving alongside treacherous scum like the Kingslayer and others just as bad; Barristan recognized that Robert had been a good warrior but a bad king, for he had no right to the throne he sat upon, and decided he had to find the rightful Targaryen heir to the Iron Throne and make amends for his sins, or die in the attempt.
Selmy sells his sword and armor, disguises himself as a beggar, and hides in the capital instead of returning to his family's lands, not wanting to cause them trouble because of Joffrey's quarrel with him. He recounts at one point that he was present in disguise at the Great Sept of Baelor when Ned Stark was executed, and afterwards went into the Great Sept to pray for Eddard and thank the seven gods that Joffrey had stripped him of his cloak (despite Ned's attempt to depose Joffrey, Barristan continues to remember and defend Eddard as an honorable man, even against Daenerys when she disparages Ned). Ned's execution was not what caused Selmy's change of heart - it was his earlier shameful dismissal by Joffrey. It is likely that had Selmy continued to serve Joffrey, he'd have stood still during the execution and done nothing to save Ned, the same way he acted years ago at the execution of Ned's father and brother, or in any other occasion he witnessed the mad king's atrocities.
For some time afterwards, Ser Barristan's whereabouts are a mystery in Westeros. Renly asks Catelyn Stark if Barristan has joined Robb. He tells her that the rainbow cloak of his guard that he bestowed on Brienne of Tarth was the one he had been saving for Barristan Selmy, as he had expected Selmy to show up to support him after being dismissed by Joffrey. When Catelyn confirms that Selmy is not with the Stark host, Renly assumes Barristan is with Stannis; as he prepares for battle with Stannis's army at Storm's End, Renly orders his knights to spare Selmy's life should they encounter him fighting for Stannis.
When Tyrion arrives in King's Landing, he berates Queen Cersei for dismissing Barristan, whom he says is now sure to join up with one of their enemies. As a revered figure in Westeros, Barristan gives honor and prestige to whoever he serves. Him pledging to the cause of one of the rival claimants to the Iron Throne would give them legitimacy in the eyes of the smallfolk, which Cersei is forced to admit she simply had not considered (one of a growing string of follies in which Cersei doesn't think out the obvious long-term repercussions of her actions). This is of course exactly what happens, but everyone assumed that Barristan would seek out the "rightful heir" by supporting the claim of Stannis Baratheon or possibly his younger brother Renly, or else might join the Starks. None suspected that Barristan would leave Westeros in search of the surviving Targaryen heir, Daenerys.
While on the run, Barristan grows his hair and beard (much longer than in the show) as a precaution and adopts the alias "Arstan Whitebeard". The disguise works so well that no one recognizes him despite being famous all over Westeros and outside of it. When he first meets Daenerys, he presents himself as an old man in service to Illyrio Mopatis, and squire to a eunuch pit-fighter named Strong Belwas, who has thus far not appeared in the series. Ser Barristan foils the assassination attempt on Dany using a staff, rather than a dagger as in the series. Furthermore, he meets her on the docks of Qarth as she is about to leave for Astapor, not on the docks of Astapor when she arrives there. Jorah is suspicious of "Arstan", whom he dubs "the world's oldest squire", but does not recognize him.
During the Siege of Meereen, Barristan saves Daenerys again, this time from Mero, using a staff to kill him. Jorah is astonished that a squire could kill Mero. Only then does he realize who "Arstan" really is, and Barristan reveals himself to Daenerys. He then reveals that Jorah was spying on her for Varys.
The TV series cut the "Arstan Whitebeard" subplot, simply having Barristan reveal his true identity as soon as he meets Daenerys and Jorah. It is possible that it was left out of the adaptation because while the true identity of "Arstan" was a surprise for book readers, TV viewers would visually recognize him. Moreover, the TV series moved around the chronology so that Daenerys only learns about Jorah's betrayal at the end of Season 4, meaning that Barristan would have had to spend two full seasons with Daenerys but without revealing Jorah's secret. The TV series did take care to alter events to make this change fit: Barristan is simply not present at the small council meeting in Season 1 during which Jorah's spying activities are being discussed. In Season 3's "Kissed by Fire", the writers went so far as to have Jorah fear that Barristan knew of his spying from small council meetings. Barristan explains that Robert did not trust an old Targaryen loyalist to attend his council meetings, and Barristan was content to avoid them anyway because he disliked politics. Thus the official change was established that in the TV continuity Barristan simply never knew that Jorah was spying.
Daenerys, disgusted, dismisses both men and gives them a suicide mission: to help her capture Meereen by infiltrating the city via its sewer system. Both men miraculously survive and help her take the city. They are called before her again. Barristan humbly begs forgiveness for his deception, and for abandoning her family after Robert took the throne. He explains that he kept his identity a secret to prevent the Lannisters discovering his whereabouts, and to observe Daenerys and get to know her better, to determine that she did not have the same streak of insanity as her father. He pledges to serve her in any role she sees fit for him, even a cook or a fool. She pardons Barristan and appoints him to her Queensguard, but banishes Jorah.
While Daenerys and Hizdahr zo Loraq attend the games at Daznak's Pit, Ser Barristan notices that Hizdahr offers Daenerys a bowl of honeyed locusts. Luckily (for the locusts are poisoned), she does not eat them. Strong Belwas eats a lot of them, soon becomes ill, and nearly dies as a result. The sudden appearance of Drogon causes a general panic, and Ser Barristan cannot get to his queen in time before she departs on Drogon's back. He blames himself for failing her, as much as he failed her brother, her father, even Robert.
As Hizdahr takes over Meereen, Ser Barristan is unsure whether he is bound to be loyal to him, in Daenerys's absence. Gradually he grows suspicious of Hizdahr, recalling how he begged Daenaerys to taste the poisoned locusts but did not eat them himself, and also in view of Hizdahr's indifference to Daenerys's departure and the way he behaves toward the Yunkai. Ser Barristan becomes convinced that Hizdahr collaborates with the Sons of the Harpy (maybe he is even their leader) and with the Yunkai Wise Masters as well - since all of them have a common goal: to dispose of Daenerys and restore the slave trade in Meereen. He confronts Hizdahr and demands to know who is the Harpy. Angry and frightened, Hizdahr calls his bodyguard Khrazz to protect him. Khrazz, two stone heavier than Ser Barristan and forty years younger, feels overconfident, which turns out to be his undoing. Ser Barristan kills him in a duel and throws Hizdahr in jail. Then he and other loyal servants of Daenerys form a council to rule Meereen in her absence, with Ser Barristan in charge as the Queen's Hand.
Ser Barristan is not killed by Sons of the Harpy and in fact survives the fifth novel to become a minor POV — that is, a minor protagonist with his own chapters, starting from the point Daenerys leaves Meereen.
In a sample chapter from The Winds of Winter, he is last seen leading his men in the upcoming large Battle of Meereen against the armies of Yunkai and their sellsword companies, as well as an outside Ironborn attack led by Victarion Greyjoy. He is left unsure what to do when he sees the House Greyjoy banner on the battlefield as the ironborn come ashore.
According to the TV series official pronunciation guide developed for the cast and crew, "Barristan Selmy" is pronounced "BAIR-iss-tin SELL-mee", as opposed to "BARR-iss-stan", etc.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 "Lord Snow"
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 "A Man Without Honor"
- ↑ HBO viewers guide, season 2 guide to houses, House Baratheon of King's Landing - Barristan Selmy entry
- ↑ "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things"
- ↑ "The Wolf and the Lion"
- ↑ "A Golden Crown"
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 "You Win or You Die"
- ↑ "The Pointy End"
- ↑ "Valar Dohaeris"
- ↑ "Walk of Punishment"
- ↑ "And Now His Watch is Ended"
- ↑ "Kissed by Fire"
- ↑ "Second Sons (episode)"
- ↑ "The Rains of Castamere (episode)"
- ↑ "Two Swords"
- ↑ "Breaker of Chains"
- ↑ "Oathkeeper"
- ↑ "First of His Name"
- ↑ "The Laws of Gods and Men"
- ↑ "The Mountain and the Viper"
- ↑ "The Children"
- ↑ "The Wars to Come"
- ↑ "The House of Black and White"
- ↑ "Sons of the Harpy (episode)"
- ↑ "Kill the Boy"