Known for his vicious fighting style, fiery red hair, and infatuation with Brienne of Tarth, Tormund Giantsbane has certainly made his mark on Game of Thrones. He initially started out as Jon Snow’s wary rival in the earlier seasons, but Tormund has since become one of the King in the North’s most dependable fighters, advisors, and friends.
Tormund has managed to survive the biggest and baddest fights Game of Thrones has thrown his way, from the epic battle at the Wall between the wildlings and the Night’s Watch, to the terrors at Hardhome, to liberating the North from the one and only Ramsay Bolton (not to mention that bloody one-to-one battle Tormund had against Smalljon Umber).
His role has been upped in season 7, with Jon first assigning Tormund to lead the wildling guard against the White Walkers at Eastwatch-by-the-Sea and then choosing him to join his Westerosi A-team to bring back a wight south of the Wall.
Since he’s become one of the North’s most important players, it’s only fair to give Tormund some extra attention and break down the most interesting little-known facts about this leader of the Free Folk.
Keep reading on to find out all you need to know about this fiery fighter with the 15 Things You Didn't Know About Game Of Thrones' Tormund Giantsbane.
15 He’s Way Older in the Books
One of Tormund’s most definitive traits on the Game of Thrones series is his wild red hair and beard – or, as the Free Folk call it, being “kissed by fire.” It makes him immediately recognizable on screen, and is one of the many reasons why he’s one of the most memorable characters on the show.
Although the image of his bright red hair now seems like an essential trait of Tormund’s character thanks to the show, Martin had a completely different vision of the wildling leader. While Tormund is in his fighting prime on the television series, his appearance in the books is described as significantly different.
Tormund is much older in George R.R. Martin’s novels, with the wilding fighter being described in A Dance of Dragons as having a “massive belly” and a “thicket of white hair” that had begun to thin. It’s almost as if, when the two versions of Tormund’s appearance are compared, two different characters are being described.
14 A Fan Theory Says He Might Be Lyanna Mormont’s Father
Tormund himself would probably argue his top claim to fame is his special night with Sheila the bear, considering how much he tells the story to others. While the story is over-the-top and fantastical at first, a fan theory outlined in one Alt Shift X video proposes that Tormund’s story might actually have some truth to it.
The theory claims that Tormund’s night with a she-bear might actually be in reference to Maege Mormont, the Lady of Bear Island (before she died fighting for Robb Stark) and mother to Lyanna Mormont. The video points out that Bear Island, where House Mormont resides, is not too far from the Wall and wildling territory.
Maege’s nickname is “the She-Bear” – so Tormund’s elaborate story about taming a bear for the night might not be referring to an actual bear, but to Maege. Additionally, nobody knows who Lyanna Mormont’s father is, due to the fact that nobody ever knew if Maege had a husband or not.
The theory is pretty convincing, so it could be true that Tormund fathered the tiny but fearsome Lyanna Mormont.
13 Kristofer Hivju Uses Vikings as Inspiration
Playing Tormund Giantsbane is probably Kristofer Hivju’s most recognizable role to date, and it has certainly opened up opportunities for him to act in prominent movies such as The Last King and The Fate of the Furious. However, Hivju says he looks to his smaller past roles for inspiration whenever he goes to take on the character of Tormund.
Hivju has said that he’s played the role of Olav, a Norwegian Viking king who was later proclaimed Holy after his death, multiple times, and he’s become fascinated with the era and Viking people as a result of these roles and the research required. When he took the role of Tormund, Hivju found compelling parallels between the wildlings and Viking culture.
“I've played Olav many times so I've studied the Viking era,” the actor said. “The free folk are not Vikings, but there are similarities in the culture and way of being.” Hivju was then able to take some elements of what he’s studied about Vikings and transferred them into his performance of Tormund Giantsbane.
It’s this unique actor’s touch that has made Hivju’s work as Tormund one of the most convincing and compelling performances on Game of Thrones.
12 He’s Known for His Lies
Tormund is known in the books as being many things. Mance Rayder introduces Tormund to Jon Snow by describing him as the Horn-blower, Breaker of Ice, Husband to Bears, and the Speaker to Gods, amongst many other titles. However, most of all, Tormund is infamous for his lengthy and elaborate lies, earning him the title “Tall-talker.”
Show watchers have suffered through his penchant for spinning tales with his favorite story about how he supposedly bedded a she-bear named Sheila, which earned him a firm scolding by Ygritte back in season 4.
In the books, Jon is forced to hear even more ridiculous stories from Tormund when he pulls Jon aside and brags of his adventures. Besides his night with Sheila, Tormund also claims to have opened the belly of giantess to sleep inside her to keep warm. According to Tormund, that same giantess kept him as her child for three months in the spring.
Tormund Giantsbane the Tall-talker, indeed.
11 He’s a Bit of a Player
Although the possibility of a Tormund-Brienne relationship has grown a huge support base amongst fans during the last two seasons of Game of Thrones, it would appear that Tormund’s romantic life is a little more complicated than that.
Though there hasn’t been any clear references to whether or not Tormund has a wife, writers have referenced Tormund’s daughters on the show multiple times, mostly when the wildling is making fun of Jon Snow’s good looks by saying he’s prettier than Tormund’s daughters.
This encouraged Kristofer Hivju, the Norwegian actor who portrays Tormund in the HBO series, to try to get to the bottom of his character’s personal life come season 5, when Tormund reunites with his people at Hardhome with Jon Snow.
Hivju explained, “When we shot Hardhome I asked creators David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss], ‘Where's Tormund's family? Where are his kids?’ And they said, ‘He's a bachelor, he has women everywhere.’”
Still, fans of Tormund and Brienne can be assured that there’s still hope for the two of them: Hivju has maintained that Brienne is “the perfect match for Tormund” and “[his] first choice” (besides Sheila the bear, of course).
10 He Has Four Sons and a Daughter
One of the major changes made to Tormund from page to screen was his family structure. Though Martin’s novels and the television series both have Tormund without a wife, the two diverge when it comes to his children.
The show has managed to mostly skim over Tormund’s family details and hasn’t shown Tormund’s daughters at all, even in the “Hardhome” episode. In Benioff and Weiss’ television adaptation, Tormund has two unnamed daughters.
Meanwhile, in Martin’s novels, Tormund is father to four sons and one daughter. His sons are named Toregg, Torwynd, Dryn, and Dormund, while his daughter is named Munda.
His children play a larger role in Martin’s novels – though they are only mentioned from time to time, they still work to reveal a softer side to Tormund and add depth to his character.
9 Tormund and Brienne’s Famous Look Was Improvised
Season 6 was packed with memorable moments. Jon Snow’s resurrection, the epic Battle of the Bastards, and Cersei’s destruction of the Sept are only a few examples. Then, there was “the look.”
When Brienne brings Sansa to the Wall and reunites her with Jon, she meets Tormund. Later, when they all prepare to leave the Wall, Tormund and Brienne share a look that fans are still talking about.
As it turns out, this moment was entirely improvised by Hivju and Christie on set. Dan Weiss explained in an interview after the episode aired, “[There’s] a shot — it wasn’t scripted at all — of two of them on horseback and she looks at him and he smiles at her. It’s not something you could ever write. …I saw it 150 times and every time it made me laugh; it’s purely the two of them.”
Gwendoline Christie has said that her scenes with Hivju are among the most difficult to film on Game of Thrones because the Norwegian actor consistently makes surprising choices that catch her off guard and make her laugh.
Hopefully the two can make it through season 7 and share more moments like this in the future.
8 His Family’s Seen Its Fair Share of Tragedy
With increased importance comes increased tragedy in the Game of Thrones universe, and Tormund’s children are no exception. Though fans have speculated that Tormund’s daughters in the show might have perished at Hardhome, the series has not confirmed whether or not this is true.
However, Tormund’s children in the books don’t get to enjoy such an ambiguous fate. In A Storm of Swords, Tormund’s son Dormund is present when Stannis Baratheon brings his forces north of the Wall and attacks the wildlings. Though Tormund himself escapes, Dormund dies at this battle at the hands of one of Stannis’ knights, Ser Richard Horpe.
Later, in A Dance with Dragons, Tormund is tragically forced to kill his son Torwynd after he dies from the cold and comes back as a wight. Meanwhile, his daughter Munda is kidnapped by a wildling named Longspear Ryk (although there is a silver lining to this one, as the two later happily marry).
Tormund’s family is just one of many that suffers at the hand of George R.R. Martin in his A Song of Ice and Fire novels.
7 He Never Climbed the Wall in the Books
Easily one of the most memorable sequences on Game of Thrones is Jon Snow and the wildlings’ harrowing climb up the enormous icy Wall in the season 3 episode “The Climb”. Benioff and Weiss have Tormund leading the charge of the intimidating mission, and it proves to be one of Tormund’s defining moments on the show when he successfully leads his group to the top.
However, this iconic moment never exists for Tormund in the books, as it’s Styr, the Magnar of Thenn, who is given the mission of leading the wildling scale of the Wall.
Instead, Tormund is told by Mance Rayder to stay behind with the primary wildling force to later be sent to attack the Wall as a distraction. Tormund does not get the chance to participate on the attack on Castle Black as in the show, nor is he caught by the Night’s Watch and kept prisoner.
These are all key events that eventually make Tormund leader of the wildlings by the King of the North’s side, so fans of Tormund have writers Benioff and Weiss to thank for Tormund’s position in season 7 of Game of Thrones.
6 He’s One of Mance Rayder’s Chosen Chieftains
Game of Thrones spent a good deal of time characterizing the nature of Mance Rayder’s relationship to the wildlings and his leading style. However, the show mostly skimmed over the intricacies of Rayder’s leadership structure. Tormund is implied to be one of Rayder’s top men, but he’s never given a firm title or place in Mance’s group of soldiers on the show.
The books make it clear that Tormund is one of Mance Rayder’s best and most trusted fighters. In a more official capacity in Martin’s novels, Tormund works as one of Mance’s chosen chieftains and serves as political advisor and military lieutenant to Rayder. Working alongside him is the Lord of Bones (who he violently beats to death on the show with the Lord’s own staff during the “Hardhome” episode) and Styr, the Magnar of Thenn.
These titles signify the trust and bond shared by the two men, and emphasize exactly how close Tormund and Rayder were.
5 He Never Made it to Hardhome in the Books
Easily one of the most terrifying sequences on Game of Thrones is the ending to “Hardhome”, where Jon Snow and Tormund attempt to ferry the wildlings back to the wall in order to save them from the White Walkers. Their heartbreaking failure makes the episode one of the most memorable of the entire series.
However, just as Tormund isn’t given a chance to climb the Wall in the books, he hasn’t been able to fight for Hardhome just yet. In the books, Tormund and Jon are still at odds with each other when Jon forms the idea to help the wildlings at Hardhome.
Instead, Jon sends a member of the Night’s Watch, Cotter, to Hardhome on his own. It’s only when Pyke encounters trouble that Jon asks Tormund to help him on the mission. Even then, it’s at this point in the books that Jon receives the threatening Pink Letter from Ramsay Bolton, and Snow decides to send Tormund to Hardhome on his own.
Hopefully, when Martin’s latest book The Winds of Winter is published, readers will get to experience the fight for Hardhome on the page just as viewers were able to experience it on screen.
4 He’s a Romantic at Heart
Even though Tormund and Jon lost Hardhome to the White Walkers and wights, actor Kristofer Hivju still thinks it’s one of the best Tormund moments on the show. In a Norwegian podcast interview, the actor said Tormund’s failure to protect all of his people from the White Walkers allowed the show to see a different, more emotional side to him that hadn’t been revealed before.
"When [Tormund] saw his people becoming wights, Tormund started crying, and that is something I never thought that character would do,” Hivju said. “It opened up my view of him." To Hivju’s delight, Tormund’s softer side has been given even more breathing room in the most recent seasons with his meeting of Brienne.
In his interviews for season 7, Hivju enthusiastically spoke about Tormund’s attraction to Brienne. Hivju remarked, “[What] I love is that we’re finally seeing a new side of Tormund. For so many reasons, he’s been kind of a bad guy in the series, and now you see the romantic, the lover."
Tormund is a vicious wildling fighter when he needs to be, but he has a soft side too (although he'd never admit it himself).
3 He Never Wanted to Be a Leader
After Mance Rayder’s death in season 5, Tormund must step up to the plate and become leader of the Free Folk. However, Hivju says this was a difficult decision for his character to make.
Tormund is fiercely loyal to his leaders, whether it's Mance or Jon Snow, but never imagined acting as a leader himself. Hivju has explained that his was especially true for Mance Rayder, because the two men were extremely close. At the same time, the Norwegian actor sees his character steadily growing comfortable in his role as leader, saying that it’s begun to grow on Tormund.
Ultimately, it’s all about living up to Mance’s legacy for Tormund. “He will get more involved politically, because he has to,” Hivju has said. “He has to step up and keep on doing what Mance Rayder had to do.”
This is yet another divide between the Tormund Giantsbane of the show and Martin’s books. In A Dance with Dragons, Tormund reveals to Jon that he once tried to grab the title of King-Beyond-the-Wall for himself, but was beat out by Mance, implying that the book Tormund has always carried political aspirations.
2 A Carrot Won Hivju the Role
Back in 2015, HBO released some select audition tapes from Game of Thrones, revealing how some cast members read for their characters. One of those released was Kristofer Hivju’s, and though his is one of the shortest, it’s certainly one of the most entertaining.
Hivju was asked to read the scene in which Jon Snow first meets him in season 3, where Tormund is sitting down and eating with Mance Rayder when Jon enters Mance’s tent. In the actual show scene, Tormund is eating some sort of meat. However, for his audition tape, Hivju made an amusing substitution.
Instead of simply miming the action, Hivju chose to eat a large carrot for his audition tape. This allowed him to do an improvised spit-take when his scene partner read the line revealing that Jon killed Qhorin Halfhand.
The creative choice was clearly successful: it added a unique flair to his audition and eventually helped win him the part.
1 Tormund Told Brienne His Sheila the Bear Story
Tormund just couldn’t resist. Maybe he thought his favorite story would impress Brienne, or maybe he was trying to make a shocking impression. According to Hivju and Jeremy Podeswa, who directed the season 7 premiere, Brienne of Tarth has joined the growing list of people who have been forced to hear Tormund’s famous Sheila story.
In the premiere, there’s a scene after Brienne beats Podrick during training where Tormund approaches her and the two have a brief chat. The camera is distanced from the two, so the conversation can’t be heard, but when Hivju and Podeswa were interviewed, they revealed the truth.
The two actors improvised some of the conversation, as that scene is mainly about a different conversation between Sansa and Littlefinger. Hivju revealed exactly what was said in the scene and explained, “Tormund comes over and says 'you remind me of someone who was very close to me’, but then Brienne realize that I was talking about a [Shiela], and therefore she walked away.”
According to Hivju, this scene was filmed in full and might just end up on season 7’s deleted scenes reel.
Can you think of any other interesting facts about Game of Thrones' Tormund Giantsbane? Do you want to see a happy ever after between Tormund and Brienne? Let us know in the comments!