Tormund Giantsbane entered Game of Thrones in season three as a minor character, part of the wildling rabble who captured Jon Snow. Over time, though, the red-headed warrior has steadily worked his way into our affections with his bluff jibes and unrefined ways, injecting some much needed levity in the often dour plotline of Castle Black. It was only when faced with the prospect of Tormund's death, as an ice dragon descended on the wall in the finale of season seven, that fans realised just how fond they’d actually grown of him.
Thanks to his crude one-liners, Tormund (played with puckish insouciance by Norwegian actor Kristofer Hivju) is now poised to challenge Tyrion’s crown as the most quotable character – even if he might not be quite so insightful as the Imp. Who else, though, can claim that their strength is caused by the milk from a lady giant’s teat?
His bromance with Jon Snow has been a joy to behold. As a wildling and a man of the Night’s Watch, the pair started out as natural nemeses but have grown to be firm friends. Fighting an undead army will do that to people. Tormund is bold and funny enough to bring Jon back down to earth. The only man to be so unfazed by Jon’s resurrection that he quips “I saw your pecker. What kind of god would have a pecker that small?”
But in spite of these blunt, jovial put-downs, Tormund has complete faith in Jon. He rallies the wildlings and convinces them to fight alongside their ancient enemies, the Night’s Watch. Although initially stubborn, Tormund is astute enough to trust in Jon Snow’s good intentions and know that joining forces with the Seven Kingdoms is the only way to defeat the Night King.
With Mance Rayder, the King Beyond the Wall, dead, Tormund has come into his own as a leader. He rallied the free folk to fight for Jon and then fought ferociously at the Battle of the Bastards.
Tormund has an unwavering self confidence that we should all aspire to. When faced with a prospect of Ramsay Bolton’s army and a worried Davos Seaworth, he stressed his hope in the ferocity of his own wildling troops. While most of us are used to gingers being stigmatised, Tormund reacts with incredulity to the Hound’s jibes and retorts “gingers are beautiful! We are kissed by fire.” Any insults are like water off a duck’s back for a man who trusts in his own good looks and strength as much as Tormund does.
And who would have thought, that at heart, this burly warrior was a romantic? Yet Tormund's unrequited love for Brienne of Tarth has provided some much-needed giddiness amid everyone’s brooding over war and White Walkers. Those unreciprocated flirtatious glances at Brienne are met only with a derisive eyeroll. Yet still, he persists – the first question he asked after revealing that he had escaped the fatal clutches of the White Walkers at Last Hearth was: “The Big Woman still here?”.
Somehow, these moments do not come across as lecherous, but rather sweet and funny – and that's mostly down to Kristof Hivju’s ability to play the character with a charming dose of naivety. It also helps that as Brienne, Gwendoline Christie plays the straightwoman so well. Brienne is the perfect comic foil to Tormund’s helpless fool.
What’s more, Tormund’s sees the beauty in someone most Westerosi men have been repulsed by, which has endeared him to audiences. While Jaime Lannister has described Brienne as “strong as Gregor Clegane, though not as pretty”, Tormund is besotted with her “beauty”. And then some. In episode two, by ridiculing the idea that women can't be knights he instigated the most perfect moment of all - Brienne being knighted.
That said, Tormund, a man who claims to have been amorous with a bear possibly isn’t the best yardstick for conventional tastes. His intentions with Brienne are also oddly pure, if slightly ambitious (“I want to make babies with her. Think of them. Great big monsters! They’d conquer the world!”).
Although some fans think Brienne is destined for a romance with Jaime, you can’t help but cheer for Tormund and the prospect of his monster brood.
Here’s hoping that there’s room for a romantic tryst somewhere between the bloodshed that season eight promises. Tormund has survived the collapse of the Wall and countless other challenges – it’s time to give this anti-hero what he deserves.
What are your favourite Tormund moments from the series? Tell us in the comments section below.