Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones, season 8, episode 2, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.”
Tormund Giantsbane, Game of Thrones’ resident comic relief character, has a weird idea about what counts as a pickup line. In season 8’s second episode, when he finally reunites with Brienne of Tarth, who he’s been nursing a crush on for a while now, he tells her what sounds like a tall tale, claiming it’s the true story of how he got his nickname. The story he tells is an embellished version of the one he tells in George R.R. Martin’s source books, and both versions sound pretty unlikely. Is there any way that the facts he states line up?
In “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” Tormund asks Brienne, “They call me Giantsbane. Want to know why?” When absolutely no one volunteers a response, he grabs a chair and gets comfy. “I killed a giant when I was 10. Then I climbed right into bed with his wife. When she woke up, you know what she did?” Davos Seaworth looks disgusted; Jaime Lannister looks mildly curious. Tormund continues, unperturbed: “Suckled me at her teat for three months. Thought I was her baby. That’s how I got so strong: giant’s milk.” Then he proceeds to down his drink, spilling it all over his beard and clothes in the process. It’s a ridiculous moment, but it raises the question: did Tormund really kill a giant? And is it true that giant’s milk made him stronger?
In George R.R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords, Tormund tells a version of this origin story to Jon Snow during their travels. In this rendition, he says he was “half a boy and stupid the way boys are.” Caught in the middle of a winter storm, he sought warmth from a sleeping giant and “cut open her belly and crawled up right inside her.”
Then, this part of the story resembles the show:
Kept me warm enough, she did, but the stink near did for me. The worst thing was, she woke up when the spring come and took me for her babe. Suckled me for three whole moons before I could get away. Har! There’s times I miss the taste o’ giant’s milk, though.
Even Jon can see the glaring inconsistency in this tale: he points out that Tormund couldn’t have killed the giant, as his name implies, if she remained alive and took care of him. Tormund shrugs off the fact that he was just caught in a lie, admitting that he didn’t actually kill the giant. “Tormund Giantsbane has a better ring to it than Tormund Giantsbabe, and that’s the honest truth o’ it,” he says. He then proceeds to tell another outrageous tale, this time about how he once slept with a she-bear.
It’s true that there were once giants in the far north, like Wun Wun, who appeared on the show on seasons 5 and 6. And while nicknames do sometimes carry some inkling of the truth, it’s still hard to make sense of Tormund’s story. Game of Thrones’ showrunners do Tormund a favor by clarifying that there are two giants: the one he killed and the one who nursed him. Otherwise, his claim that he killed her, slit her open, then spent three months drinking her milk might have been too confusing of a tale.
It’s still confusing why he thinks this story will impress Brienne or anyone else present. His inclination for stories like this explains why Jon Snow thinks of him as a “great bag of wind and lies” at one point in the book. It also explains another one of his many nicknames: Tall-talker. Even though Game of Thrones does feature real giants — which the wildlings commemorate in story and song — there’s probably no baseline truth to Tormund’s story. But given that this was certainly the last episode before the full-on war with the White Walkers breaks out, it’s unlikely that the show is going to revisit the story enough to pick apart the details anytime soon.