Credit: HBO

George R. R. Martin knows how to keep Game of Thrones fans guessing. On his LiveJournal this week, the author answered a fan’s question about whether Stannis Baratheon is dead. “In my books? Alive, beyond a doubt,” Martin wrote.

So yes, Stannis is still alive! In the books.

But the HBO series has significantly departed from the books, and surpassed much of Martin’s text by the end of the fifth season. In the series, Stannis (Stephen Dillane) is shown at the pointy end of Brienne’s (Gwendoline Christie) sword, Oathkeeper, just as the camera cut away. The episode’s director, David Nutter, later confirmed to EW at Comic-Con that the wannabe king died; they just didn’t show the shot. “From the beginning, and [through] the script process, that was the intent — he’s dead,” Nutter said.

In the books, however, no battle scene is depicted — at least not yet. Because the chapters shift points of view, the only “news” of what happened at Winterfell when Stannis’ men tried to take the castle from Ramsay Bolton came from a letter Ramsay sent Jon Snow claiming the Boltons won and Stannis died.

What does it all mean, then? Martin’s novels have been known for their misdirection — remember when Davos’ head and hands were displayed at White Harbor, only to have him revealed to be alive? — so it’s not a stretch to believe that the pink letter from Ramsay was a ruse and that Stannis is alive, kept somewhere in Winterfell or on the run in the North. (It’s also not too much of a stretch to take his post as misdirection as well. Seven hells!) But in the show, which is known for depicting violent deaths of characters, Martin’s seven-word post on LiveJournal could raise questions from viewers again over whether on-screen Stannis is indeed dead, even if production said otherwise.

In print, though, Stannis Baratheon, First of His Name, Warrior of Light, Lord of Dragonstone, etc. etc., is, according to Martin, very much alive.

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Game of Thrones

HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.

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