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As shown in the season 5 of Game of Thrones, Stannis' daughter was burned alive by Melisandre, the Red Woman.

Why did Stannis not try to save her? He seemed to really love her.

Is ambition and power more important to him than love?

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2  
No, but duty is. – Mooz Jan 5 at 0:16
up vote 11 down vote accepted

This is difficult to answer since:

  1. This incident never happened in the books.

  2. We are never privy to Stannis' inner thoughts on the matter.

Looking back at his history there are two possible motivations that would have lead him to prioritize the war over his daughter's life:

  1. Ambition for power. Stannis has never made it a secret that he desires the Iron Throne and he oft repeats that it is "owed" him. So perhaps he values the Iron Throne and all the rights that were denied him over his daughter.

  2. To serve the greater good. Stannis is also a (cautious) believer of the war between R'hllor and the Great Other. He believes that defeating the Great Other is his greatest mission, and being the king of Westeros is only a stepping stone towards that great goal. He has also been lead by Melisandre to believe that sacrificing his daughter is the only way for him to move forward in this war. So perhaps he sacrificed his love for his daughter in order to defeat the Great Other, much in the way that Azor Ahai (who some believe he is an incarnation of) sacrificed the life of his beloved wife Nissa Nissa to forge Lightbringer.

In my mind, the second is the most convincing.

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What's "R'hllor" and the "Great Other"? – Napoleon Wilson Jan 4 at 21:49
2  
@NapoleonWilson - R'hllor is also known as the Red God or the Lord of Light. He is the deity that Melisandre and her followers worship. The Great Other is his evil counterpart. The eternal battle between the two is one of the central tenets of the Lord of Light religion. – System Down Jan 4 at 22:31
    
"He believes that defeating the Great Other is his greatest mission" - I dont think this is true. There is no justification in the books for this. Most of what he does in the name of the Lord of Light is at the prodding and pushing of Melisandre and that too because he thinks that she can help him attain the Iron throne. – bobbyalex Jan 5 at 20:55
    
@bobbyalex - This goes back to the problem that we are not privy to Stannis' thinking process. He does however state to Jon Snow that his reason for abandoning the war effort in Westeros and moving his army to the Wall was to battle the Great Other, and this was not at the behest of Melisandre but from Davos Seaworth guilting him into doing it. – System Down Jan 5 at 21:02
    
@SystemDown: The letter from the Wall was sent to everyone who claimed to be a King of Westeros. Davos believed that there was an imminent threat at the wall that Stannis AS THE RIGHTFUL king should answer the call as it was his DUTY. He did not do it to battle the Great other (at least not in the books anyway). And Davos does not believe in R'hllor or the Great Other. But you are right, the problem in the TV series is the lack of insight into Stannis' thinking. – bobbyalex Jan 5 at 21:07

In the book, he orders the burning of couple of his own men at the behest of Melisandre. I believe this is what they replaced with his daughter in the TV series.

The reason he does it in the books and as far as I can make out, in the TV series, is as a sacrifice to R'hllor for a favorable weather so that he can continue his march on Winterfell. The unrelenting snow and cold weather was taking a toll on his army. He lost men and horses and the snow was slowing his progress.

To Stannis, the Iron Throne is his destiny and he will allow nothing to stand in his way so probably he would have considered it acceptable sacrifice.

Personal view point below: This is shoddy script writing done just for shock value. There is no real justification for Stannis to sacrifice his own daughter. In the books when they find one of King Roberts bastard sons, he was extremely reluctant to allow Melisandre to sacrifice him. As you noticed this makes it look like he was willing to sacrifice ANYTHING for the sake of attaining power. Also, in the Books, Stannis is more interested in the power that Melisandre wields through the lord of light. He is not shown to be overzealous in the praise of the God or the beliefs of Melisandre.

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