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The Bear and the Maiden Fair

"The Bear and the Maiden Fair" is the seventh episode of the third season of HBO's fantasy television series Game of Thrones, and the 27th episode of the series overall. The episode was written by George R. R. Martin, the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels on which the series is based, and was directed by Michelle MacLaren, her directorial debut for the series.

"The Bear and the Maiden Fair"
Game of Thrones episode
Game of Thrones-S03-E07 Brienne and the bear.jpg
Brienne of Tarth is forced to fight a bear.
Episode no.Season 3
Episode 7
Directed byMichelle MacLaren
Written byGeorge R. R. Martin
Featured musicRamin Djawadi
Cinematography byChris Seager
Editing byFrances Parker
Original air dateMay 12, 2013 (2013-05-12)
Running time57 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Climb"
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"Second Sons"
Game of Thrones (season 3)
List of Game of Thrones episodes

The plot of the episode advances the storylines of Daenerys's arrival to the city of Yunkai, the repercussions of the upcoming marriage of Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark, and Brienne's fate at the ruined castle of Harrenhal. The title of the episode refers to "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", a popular song among commoners and noblemen within the series' universe, which had been introduced four episodes earlier. In this episode, it refers to Brienne of Tarth (the maiden fair) facing a real bear.



In King's LandingEdit

Sansa Stark is comforted by Lady Margaery Tyrell, who has heard of Sansa's betrothal to Tyrion Lannister. Elsewhere, Tyrion and Bronn are also discussing the match and how it will affect Shae. Tywin Lannister meets his grandson, King Joffrey Baratheon, and teaches him a lesson in ruling; Joffrey asks what they should do about the rumors of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons, but Tywin claims there is no threat. When they meet later, Shae tells Tyrion that she will not continue their relationship once he marries Sansa.

On Blackwater Bay, Melisandre reveals to Gendry that his blood is noble and that his father was the late King Robert Baratheon.

In the NorthEdit

Jon Snow and the wildling party led by Tormund Giantsbane continue their journey south. Ygritte stops with Jon to discuss their next move. Soon after, Orell offers some harsh wisdom to Jon, and later speaks to Ygritte, confessing his love for her and trying to convince her that Jon is still loyal to the Night's Watch. Later, Jon tells Ygritte that the wildling cause is hopeless, but she remains undaunted.

Theon Greyjoy is freed from his constraints by two young women, who give him water and clean his wounds. Theon is apprehensive about their aid, until they disrobe and begin pleasuring him. The three are soon interrupted by his tormenter, who had ordered the women to seduce Theon in order to torment him further. The boy draws a knife and mocks Theon's sexual prowess, before ordering his men to restrain Theon as he removes Theon's genitals.

Heading for the Wall, Bran speaks to Jojen Reed while Osha and Hodor set up camp. Osha continues to grow suspicious of the Reeds, calling Jojen's visions "black magic". When she says they have to continue to the Wall, Jojen reveals that the three-eyed raven is north of the Wall, and that is their destination. Osha refuses to allow them to go north of the Wall, relating to them the story of her husband's death and resurrection as a wight.

In the RiverlandsEdit

King Robb Stark, his advisors, and his army are delayed by rain in their march toward the Twins for Edmure Tully's wedding to Roslin Frey. Catelyn Stark and Brynden Tully discuss their distaste for Walder Frey, who will see their delay and Robb's oath-breaking as slights against his family. When the Tullys depart, Queen Talisa Stark reveals to Robb that she is pregnant.

At the Brotherhood's hideout, Arya Stark berates Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr for selling Gendry to Melisandre. When Anguy tells Beric of a Lannister raiding party near them, Beric orders the men to move out in pursuit. Arya calls Beric a liar, as he promised to take her to Riverrun but is instead holding her hostage. She runs away, and is pursued by several of the Brotherhood soldiers, but before they can locate her, she is taken captive by Sandor "The Hound" Clegane.

Outside YunkaiEdit

Daenerys, her knights Ser Jorah Mormont and Ser Barristan Selmy, and her army of Unsullied reach the yellow city of Yunkai. Though she is advised that Yunkai holds no strategic value, Daenerys tells Jorah she will take the city to free its 200,000 slaves. She orders Grey Worm to send a messenger to the city demanding their surrender, or she will sack the city. Razdal mo Eraz is sent by Yunkai to offer terms of peace, which include chests filled with gold bars and as many ships as Daenerys wants. Daenerys refuses his offer, demanding the slaves of the city be freed and paid for their service. Razdal angrily refuses, and departs the tent.

At HarrenhalEdit

Jaime Lannister visits Brienne of Tarth in her cell. He tells her that he will be leaving for King's Landing the next day, and that she will be left at Harrenhal under the care of Locke, as Roose Bolton is also leaving for Edmure Tully's wedding at the Twins. Before Jaime leaves, Brienne makes him swear to uphold his oath to Catelyn Stark and return the Stark girls to their mother. As he leaves, Jaime tells Roose to tell Robb Stark that he is sorry that he can't attend the wedding, but that "the Lannisters send their regards."

While on the road, Qyburn checks on the condition of Jaime's right arm, and reveals that he lost his maester's chain for experimenting on living humans. When Qyburn informs Jaime that Brienne will not be ransomed by Locke, Jaime manipulates the party leader, Steelshanks, to order their return to Harrenhal. Upon their arrival, Jaime finds that Brienne has been thrown into a pit by Locke and his men, and, armed only with a wooden sword, has been forced to defend herself from a bear. Jaime tries to ransom Brienne, but is unsuccessful, and instead leaps into the pit to protect her. Steelshanks shoots the bear with a crossbow, but it continues to attack. However, Jaime boosts Brienne out of the pit, and is then lifted to safety. Confronted by Steelshanks and his men, who are ordered to ensure Jaime's safety, Locke relents and lets Jaime and Brienne leave for King's Landing.



George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, scripts one episode per season.

The episode was written by George R. R. Martin, author of the novels of the A Song of Ice and Fire saga that the show adapts. "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" is based on material from the third book of his series, A Storm of Swords, adapting chapters 42 to 46 (Jon V, Daenerys IV, Arya VIII, Jaime VI and Catelyn V).[1]

In some of the scenes, Martin had to take into account the changes done by the production to some of his original plots or characters, writing scenes that could never happen in the novels: the books have Talisa's counterpart stay in Riverrun instead of following Robb, Melisandre never interacts with Gendry, and Sansa does not get to confide with Margaery.[1]

Martin initially titled the episode "Autumn Storms", because it was supposed to be raining in many of the scenes. When he was forced to change it because most of the rains had been cut from his script in pre-production, he came up with the title "Chains", that worked both in a literal and metaphorical level.[2] However, later on, the final scene including the bear that had been originally written by showrunners Benioff and Weiss for the next episode was incorporated, and the episode was given its final title.[3]


To play the part of the bear at Harrenhal, the producers chose the nearly nine-foot-tall Alaskan brown bear Bart the Bear 2 (a.k.a. "Little Bart"), who was born in 2000 and trained by Doug and Lynne Seus (the same trainers of his well-known predecessor, the original Bart the Bear).[4]

Filming locationsEdit

The episode introduces Yunkai, based on the Moroccan city of Aït Benhaddou.

The production continued to use Morocco to depict the Slaver's Bay. While the coastal city of Essaouira had doubled as Astapor, this episode used the city of Aït Benhaddou (near Ouarzazate) to depict Yunkai. Daenerys's camp was built in the nearby location of Little Barrage.

The scenes with Jon Snow and the wildlings were filmed in the forests around Toome, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The scenes in Northern Ireland were filmed six weeks before the production moved to Iceland to film several scenes for the previous episodes.[5]

Due to the legal restrictions and the difficulties involved in the transport of large animals, the scenes with the bear Little Bart had to be filmed in the USA. Although it was only used for a single scene, this was the fifth country where the production filmed during the season (after Northern Ireland, Morocco, Croatia, and Iceland).[6] The actual bear-pit set was built in Northern Ireland: the bear was filmed where it was living in Los Angeles, interacting with its trainer, and was later digitally added into the footage from the bear pit set in Northern Ireland.



4.84 million viewers watched the premiere airing of "The Bear and the Maiden Fair", a decrease of 0.67 million compared to the previous week. This ended the streak set during the four previous episodes, each of which established a new series highs in ratings. 1.12 million people watched the second airing, bringing the total viewership of the night to 5.96 million.[7] In the United Kingdom, the episode was seen by 1.023 million viewers on Sky Atlantic, being the channel's highest-rated broadcast that week.[8]

Critical receptionEdit

The critical reception to the episode was generally favorable, although most commentators agreed that it was not among the best episodes of the third season, or the ones written by Martin. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes surveyed 21 reviews of the episode and judged 81% of them to be positive with an average score of 8.05 out of 10. The website's critical consensus reads, "'The Bear and the Maiden Fair" feels like a bit of a holding pattern as Game of Thrones moves its pieces into place for the final three episodes."[9] The quality of the dialogue and characterization was widely praised. The A.V. Club's David Sims found that the interactions felt more natural,[10] and Elio Garcia from suggested that the characters "oozed a richer version of themselves".[11] Another aspect that was mentioned as an improvement was the treatment of the romantic relationships.

"'The Bear and the Maiden Fair' is much more of a piece-mover episode, getting characters from Point A to Point B either on the map (the wildlings marching towards Castle Black, Melisandre and Gendry sailing back towards Dragonstone) or on their emotional journey (Sansa and Tyrion both struggling to make peace with their impending nuptials). It's one of the more thorough of its kind, touching on nearly every plot this season has set in motion. And because it's directed by Michelle MacLaren (...) and written by George R.R. Martin himself, it's about as good (and good-looking) a piece-mover episode as you're going to see."

— Alan Sepinwall, HitFix[12]

Many reviews signaled the lack of focus as the main flaw of the episode, although they agreed that the story required to prepare the stage for the final part of the season: Todd VanDerWerff wrote at The A.V. Club that it was a "somewhat disjointed hour, full of characters moving into place for what’s next (...) it nonetheless accomplishes what it sets out to do".[13] According to Myles McNutt from Cultural Learnings, the episode "never evolves into a particularly exciting hour of television, content mostly to sketch out the boundaries of the season’s storylines in preparation for the oncoming climax."[14]

The final scene was very well received: IGN's Matt Fowler called it "a spectacular moment",[15] HitFix's Alan Sepinwall deemed it "gorgeously staged and executed",[12] and David Sims found it "tense, thrilling television".[10] Other scenes that were highlighted were the parley between Daenerys and the slaver, and the confrontation between Tywin and Joffrey. In the latter, the camera work used by director Michelle MacLaren was lauded.

In contrast, the scene featuring Theon's torture was criticized for what was seen as its gratuitous violence and nudity, and for the repetitiveness of the storyline over the season. Sepinwall declared that he had no need "to witness more of The Passion of the Greyjoy",[12] and Sims considered it "boring and confusing to watch".[10] VanDerWerff concluded: "Endless torture sequences don’t make for terribly exciting fiction, and that’s more or less bearing out here."[13] On the other end of the spectrum, the reviewer for Time, James Poniewozik, considered it "chilling".[16]


  1. ^ a b Garcia, Elio; Antonsson, Linda (May 14, 2013). "EP307: The Bear and the Maiden Fair". Retrieved November 11, 2014.
  2. ^ Martin, George R.R. (January 10, 2013). "Title Change". Not a blog. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  3. ^ Martin, George R.R. (February 26, 2013). "UnChained". Not a blog. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  4. ^ Martin, George R.R. (January 21, 2013). "It's the Pits". Not a blog. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  5. ^ Taylir, Cat (May 29, 2013). "Leeches, Dragons and a Bear: Behind the Scenes of Episodes 307 and 308". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  6. ^ Hibberd, James (January 28, 2013). "'Game of Thrones' add 5th country, casts bear". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 6, 2013.
  7. ^ Kondolojy, Amanda (May 14, 2013). "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'Game of Thrones' Wins Night + 'Breaking Amish', 'Mad Men', 'Long Island Medium', 'River Monsters' & More". TV by the Numbers. Retrieved May 14, 2013.
  8. ^ "Top 10 Ratings (13 - 19 May 2013)". BARB. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  9. ^ "The Bear and the Maiden Fair". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  10. ^ a b c Sims, David (May 12, 2013). ""The Bear and the Maiden Fair" (for newbies)". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  11. ^ Garcia, Elio. "EP307: The Bear and the Maiden Fair". Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  12. ^ a b c Sepinwall, Alan (May 12, 2013). "Review: 'Game of Thrones' – 'The Bear and the Maiden Fair': Come blow your horn". HitFix. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  13. ^ a b VanDerWerff, Todd (May 12, 2013). ""The Bear and the Maiden Fair" (for experts)". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  14. ^ McNutt, Myles (May 12, 2013). "Game of Thrones – "The Bear and the Maiden Fair"". Cultural Learnings. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
  15. ^ Fowler, Matt (May 12, 2013). "Game of Thrones: "The Bear and the Maiden Fair" Review". IGN. Retrieved May 13, 2013.
  16. ^ Poniewozik, James (May 13, 2013). "Game of Thrones Watch: Dragons and Eagles and Bears, Oh, My!". Time. Retrieved May 15, 2013.

External linksEdit