Brienne of Tarth versus The Hound

Apr 25, 2016 | Swordplay


So, Season 6 of Game of Thrones has debuted, and everyone is predictably losing their marbles over it. Except for me, of course. My lack of interest in grimdark fantasy continues, and with it, my lack of interest in following along with Game of Horrible-Things-Happen-To-Everyone-And-Everything-Sucks-Balls. However! I still like to see the fights, because they’re all about the swords and medieval armor, and that is totally my bag, baby. One character who I’m rather drawn to is Brienne of Tarth, who seems to be the only one sensible enough to wear greaves (even though she’s still apparently in the ‘no helmets’ camp). I still don’t know anything about what her character does or what her deal is in the series, but hey, she’s got the armor I’d go to war in, so I’m on her side regardless.

Let’s look at one of her fights, against this guy called The Hound. I gather he’s a bad guy of some kind. I’m watching the clips on YouTube with the sound off, so I like to imagine that they’re fighting over who has to clean their armor.

Watch it on YouTube here; I can’t find an embed-able video for some reason.

One thing I find interesting about this fight is that they don’t try to get too fancy with the sword work. It’s really easy to fall into this trap of whacking each other’s swords with the typical flailing-baseball-bat style that no one who’s ever wielded a sword believes. This fight avoids that with choppy camera work that effectively hides the fact that the actors aren’t trying to kill each other, and grants some illusion of the fight being faster than it really is.

Frankly, I’m not a fan of choppy camera work, but it’s better than watching two fighters in armor half-assing their way through a stylized version of real swordplay, so I’ll take what I can get.

Two things jump out at me, unfortunately:

  • The incident at the very start of the fight, where Brienne stops the Hound’s sword and they stare at each other for a moment with their blades held up against each other. Please note: this is not a thing. This has NEVER been a thing in swordplay. Binds don’t work that way. Swords don’t work that way, for gods’ sake. It’s purely a dramatic device, and it’s an incredibly stupid one. A swordfighter who tries that is almost asking to get disarmed and disemboweled.

  • Partway through the fight, Brienne does this silly little twirl move. For the record, people, you DO NOT turn your back on an opponent in combat like this unless you’re (a) not alone and someone is covering you, or (b) a giant idiot who’s about to get stabbed through the spine. Longsword fencing against a single opponent when you have no backup is not the time to get into ballet. The spin is ostensibly a result of carrying through on a blow instead of trying to reverse the sword’s direction to strike again. But, and this is important, it’s faster and easier to spin the sword instead of your whole body.

All in all, I give this one a thumbs up, mostly because they get away from swinging swords. Choreography with fisticuffs, and Brienne beating the Hound’s head in with a rock, is probably easier to pull off than swordplay and more in keeping with the general horribleness of Game of Thrones. It doesn’t make me want to actually watch Game of Thrones – that’s not likely unless they replace half the cast with bunny rabbits – but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.

Plus that punch to the balls was neat. Maybe that’ll encourage the men of Game of Thrones to start wearing codpieces.