For the past seven years, the world has been absolutely obsessed with HBO’s phenomenal long-form fantasy series Game of Thrones. Based on the book series written by George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones has been adapted from the novels in order to fit an entirely different medium. As such, some things had to be streamlined for audiences.
One can argue that everything the showrunners at HBO have done has been crucial to making the series the success it is. As we wait patiently for the thrilling final season, here are ways that Game of Thrones television show differs from the books…
Editor’s note: This list contains many spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Daario Naharis may have been left behind to see to Daenerys’ affairs in Mereen, but that doesn’t mean that he’s not still everyone’s favorite sellsword. He’s apparently even more flamboyant in the books and is known for wearing bright colors and even has a bright blue trident beard and long blue hair. In the books, he even has a gold mustache and tooth.
Daario isn’t the only one who looks different in the books. Show Daenerys has the typical Targaryen silver-blonde hair, she does not have the striking violet eyes that George R.R. Martin describes in the book. Apparently, the HBO showrunners were worried that the violet eyes would be too distracting for the viewers and opted to omit that minor detail.
The Black Bear
Ian Glain does a great job portraying Ser Jorah Mormont and we can’t imagine anyone doing a better job, but it seems that Ser Jorah’s look has changed a great deal from the way he was described in the books. In them, he’s described as having black hair, not blonde, nor is he balding in the books. In fact, he’s described as being very hairy. He eventually gets scarred as well when he becomes enslaved after having been banished by Daenerys.
The showrunners also managed to combine his story with that of the book-only character Jon Connington, who is supposed to be escorting a young lost heir to the Targaryen throne, Aegon, Rhaegar’s son. Jon Cottington also gets greyscale while pulling Tyrion from the water, just as Jorah eventually does in the show and this method of combining characters happens often and streamlines things for the viewer.
In the show, Missandei serves as Daenerys’ interpreter and advisor, assisting her mistress in many endeavors. She even has an almost nonsexual love affair with the militant eunuch, Grey Worm. Yet, as enjoyable as this bit of romance is, it can only be achieved on the show. This is due chiefly to the fact that the Missandei from the books is only 10 years old and is often referred to as Daenerys’ “little scribe.”
In the show, “King Over the Wall” Mance Rayder was burned at the stake for refusing to pledge his Wilding followers to the service of would-be king Stannis Baratheon. In the books, however, he is still burned at the stake but Melisandre uses her red magic to switch his body with that of Rattleshirt, otherwise known as the Lord of Bones. Apparently, book Melisandre thought he might come in handy.
Even this far into the books series, Sansa Stark is nowhere close to returning to Winterfell. Neither has she met up with Jon or been married to Ramsay…lucky her. In the book version, it is Sansa’s old friend Jeyne Poole who marries Ramsay and faces all the abuse and terror that Bolton brings to bear. In the meantime, book Sansa is still safe in the Eyrie with Littlefinger.
Unlike show Littlefinger, book Littlefinger seems to have no desire to marry Sansa. His plan is to marry her off to Ser Harry Hardyng, also known as “Harry the Heir” in the novel “A Feast for Crows.” Harry is next in line to the lordship over the Vale after the sickly Robin Arryn. This would mean that if he were to unexpectedly perish, Sansa and Harry would be next in line and the Eyrie would effectively be under his control.
Ser Harry, who doesn’t exist in the show, isn’t thrilled to be marrying Sansa. She’s been posing as Littlefinger’s daughter, not his niece, the whole time, and he thinks that marrying her would be far below him. He’ll likely perk up a bit once he learns who she really is, but though book Sansa’s future seems bright, we’re sure George R.R. Martin has plans to muck things up for her.
No More Roses
The explosive end of season six reveals that almost all the Tyrell family line is wiped out. Margaery, Loras, and Mace all blow up in the Sept of Baelor. In the books though, the Tyrells have two more living sons waiting in the wings. The eldest, Willas Tyrell, is holding down the fort at Highgarden and Garlan “the Gallant” Tyrell has been living at King’s Landing with his wife. Book Olenna actually tried to marry Willas to Sansa briefly in the novels, but this changed to Loras in the show to simplify matters.
With Bells On
In the books, the Dothraki Khals are said to have not only long braids to represent their skill in battle but also bells threaded into those braids. Despite the fact that Jason Momoa looks every bit the Dothraki in the television show, he does not remember Khal Drogo in every sense. We suppose the tinkling of bells might have distracted from his overall manly aesthetic.
In the books, Ser Bronn of the Blackwater is not hired to help the one-handed Ser Jaime Lannister relearn sword fighting. His literary tutor is actually the much more accomplished but the much less talkative (he doesn’t have a tongue, you see) Ser Ilyn Payne. Book Jaime actually picks Ser Ilyn because he can’t talk. You see, he doesn’t want anyone to know about his lessons and he knows the tongueless Payne can’t talk.
Contrary to the somewhat violent interaction we witness on the HBO series, Daenerys and Khal Drogo’s wedding night is not the spectacle the showrunners would have us believe. In the series, Daenerys is seduced into marrying Drogo, not explicitly sold and he blatantly asks her permission to make love, which she willingly agrees to.
Of course, the Daenerys in the books is only thirteen years old when she married Khal Drogo, a man in his late 20s. She does indeed say yes, but even if it isn’t sexual assault, it’s still statutory rape. Nevertheless, their romance in the books is just as heartbreaking as the one in their show becomes when Drogo finally rides into the Night Lands.
In the books, Arya Stark isn’t just a girl with no name, she’s also a Warg like he brother Bran. During the course of the novel “A Dance with Dragons,” she is indeed blinded and ends up warging into a Braavosi alley cat in order to let her spy on people even though her physical body can’t see. In a “blink and you’ll miss it moment” she also wargs into her lost direwolf Nymeria at one point.
Aemon and the Child
Just as they do in the show, book Sam and Gilly sail to Oldtown in order to learn more about the Long Night and they do so in the company of old, blind, wonderful Maester Aemon. The baby that goes with Sam and Gilly in the books isn’t her son, but Mance Rayder’s. Jon Snow smuggled Aemon and the boy out just in case Melisandre decided to burn yet another child with “King’s Blood” as she had before.
In the show, the Purple Wedding shows us a rather tasteless dwarf jousting match involving costumed dwarves all dressed as the potential “kings” of Westeros. The same thing happens in the books but the two dwarf jousters, yes there are only two, are a brother and sister of some importance later on. Tyrion actually runs into the sister later on and she explains that the whole thing was Littlefinger’s idea.
Vengeance and Friendship
The sister dwarf is actually very angry at Tyrion as it turns out because her brother was killed soon after Joffrey’s much-anticipated demise. Cersei had offered a lordship to any man who brought her Tyrion’s head. Eventually, they actually become friends and are sold as slaves together along with Ser Jorah, who as we said looks very different in the book.
The book character Edric Storm, who is yet another higher-born bastard son of the late Robert Baratheon, doesn’t appear in the HBO series. Instead, the show decided to give more importance to Gendry, the blacksmith’s apprentice introduced in season one. All the stuff that happens to Gendry throughout the show is actually what happens to Edric Storm in the books.
In the show, Doran Martell does little more than sit in his old-school wheelchair judging his brother’s bastards. Indeed, the only thing he does of note is to betroth his only son Trystane to Myrcella Baratheon and avoid the war with the Lannisters that is most assuredly coming. He does much more in the books, including planning to marry his daughter Arianne to Viserys Targaryen, once he reclaims his kingdom.
This plan falls apart when Viserys dies, of course, but it doesn’t stop book Doran. Instead, his new plan is to marry his second child, Quentyn, to Daenerys Targaryen. He even goes as far as to ship Quentyn out to Meereen to have him beg her hand in marriage. Quentyn never really gets the chance though. He is burned alive by Rhaegal when he tries to tame the dragons in the dragon pit.
No Love for Talisa
Speaking of arranged marriages that went awry. We all know that Robb Stark marries Volantene Talisa in season two of the show, thereby breaking his agreement with Walder Frey and sealing both of their fates, but that’s not what happens in the books. In the books, he actually marries a girl named Jeyne Westerling, a girl from an ancient house sworn to Lannister that comforts him after one of their big battles.
Book Robb doesn’t marry her out of love like show Robb did for Talisa, he marries Jeyne Westerling because he had sex with her and is ashamed. He is worried that a bastard might result in the union and wants to do the right thing. Not only are the Freys furious, just as they are in the show, so are some Northern lords, who see it as Robb marrying the enemy.
Bronn hates Cersei just as much in the books as he does in the show and he trolls her hard by naming the bastard child of Lollys Stokeworth, Tyrion, in honor of his former friend and employer. Lolly isn’t just his intended in the books as she is in the show, she was actually raped during the mob scene in season two and the bastard she has is the result of that sexual assault. Cersei is insulted by the naming and breaks off Bronn’s engagement to Lollys as a result.
The Thenn tribe of Wildings are some real creeps on the show. They are presented as cannibals, who eat the bodies of the villagers they kill as they head south. In the books though, they are actually quite civilized, it’s the Ice-River clans that are the cannibals. The show just didn’t want to go over each clan in detail and Thenn sounded easier for viewers to remember.
In the books, Jon Snow actually makes the Thenn’s an official house of Westeros. He creates House Thenn when he wed the leader, Sigorn Thenn, and Alys Karstark in order to prevent Alys from being forced to marry her own cousin. She has fled to Castle Black for safety and Melisandre actually performs the wedding. This ensures that Alys will inherit Karhold when her older brother dies.
Coming back to the Arryn’s the book actually gives far more insight into why Lysa Arryn is so obsessed with her sickly son Robin. All the show gives us in regards to this is Lyssa being a bit more murdery than your average helicopter parent. In the books, her mania is linked to the fact that her father made her give up a child that she’d gotten after a teenage rendezvous with low-born Petyr Baelish.
After that, it wasn’t easy for Lysa to get pregnant. Jon Arryn wanted an heir badly and though Lysa eventually had five more miscarriages and two stillborn children, Robin was eventually born. Though he was born sickly. Her paranoia at protecting her son is what forced her to kill Jon Arryn so that he didn’t send the boy off to Dragonstone to learn under Stannis.
In the books, Roose Bolton is known as the “Leech Lord” because of his obsession with leeches. This is something they felt was unnecessary to include in the show. There is even a disturbing scene where he is leached naked while meeting with the Freys in the book. In addition, Arya actually ends up serving as his cupbearer rather than Lord Tywin as she does in the show.
In the show, Arya asked Jaqen H’ghar to help save her and a few of her friends and help them escape, but the book sees things play out very differently. Arya and Jaqen actually save over a hundred people under threat of using his name and her actions in essence take back the castle for the Northerners. Of course in the book, Arya gets left behind and needs to escape herself.