It’s important to note that Game of Thrones is an adaptation, a detail that is often missed by many fans online. In case you didn’t know, books and television are two different types of media, and because of that there are going to be some inevitable changes between the two pieces of work. For instance, the book The Iron Throne is made up of a thousand swords that were melted together by dragon fire, and in the book, it’s a neatly welded array of a few swords. George R. R. Martin – the mastermind behind the Game of Thrones universe – has said himself that the Iron Throne – along with the throne room – as described in the books, would simply be impossible to film. Let us also remember that books don’t have production budgets.
Is one better than the other? Well, it’s completely subjective. The book’s aesthetics are only limited to our imaginations, and so they can be more grandiose. The show, however, has successfully created stunning and memorable scenes that have become cultural phenomena that we all share together. They’re different, that’s all.
If you haven’t started reading the books yet, be honest with yourself, it’s not going to happen. But don’t worry! We’ve compiled a list of the biggest and most important differences between the books and the show. Enjoy!
(Note: This list assumes that you’ve caught up to at least Season 6, Episode 8 of Game of Thrones. Spoilers beware.)
25. The Books are Told in Point of View
One of the biggest changes from the book to the show is that all events in the book are told in the point of view, or POV, of certain characters. While there are a lot of characters who have their stories told in their POV, it’s important to note that not every main character from the show is a POV character in the books. Jon, Arya, Dany, and Tyrion are all POV characters, but you might be surprised to know that characters like Robb, Pod, or Stannis are not. There are also characters who gain POVs as the story progresses. Cersei, for example, is a character throughout the entire series, but only begins being a POV character starting in the fourth book.
This is interesting in a few ways. For instance, the show doesn’t have many flashbacks, while the characters in the book often reminisce. You know that scene in season 6 where Bran watches Ned fight the Kingsguard? Well, book readers got to see that in the first book.
24. Where’s Gendry?
Gendry was an apprentice blacksmith and Robert Baratheon’s bastard. He became Ayra Stark’s friend when they were both escaping King’s Landing. They were being sent to Castle Black under the guise of joining the Night’s Watch. Of course events happened and they were caught, and blah blah blah, they ended up with the Brotherhood Without Banners where The Hound had that awesome flaming sword fight.
This is where the stories diverge. In the book, Gendry decides to stay with the Brotherhood and that’s the last we see of him, but in the book The Red Woman shows up and offers two bags of gold for Gendry, which the Brotherhood accepts. She then uses Gendry in blood magic. In the book, Melisandre finds another one of Robert’s bastards from somewhere and basically does the same thing. If you’re a show runner and you have a popular actor and keeping him around helps you cut down in expository dialogue, then it makes a lot of sense to keep him around.
23. Theon’s Torture
Poor Theon. Watching Theon have his entire identity taken away from him along with… other things, was one of the most heart wrenching affairs we’ve seen on television, but it was also pretty great. It allowed us to really change our perspective on Theon while being introduced to the values and tactics of Ramsay.
We were spared the torture scenes in the book. In the second book, the last we see of Theon is in his own perspective as he loses consciousness while Dreadfort soldiers take Winterfell. He does not appear again until the fifth book, where he now identifies as Reek. Book readers had long thought Theon dead, as did most of Westeros. He earned the name Theon Turncloak because he betrayed the Starks and the North. We can all agree that he’s paid his penance.
22. Targaryen Eyes
You can always tell a Targaryen by their silver or white blonde hair, but in the books they have distinctive eye colours as well. The Targaryen’s are described as having purple, lavender, or indigo colored eyes.
This may seem like a purely aesthetic choice, but it strengthens their bonds to Old Valyria. The Targaryens originally come from Old Valyria, a place where they used magics to control dragons and volcanoes to create an industrious civilization. The Valyrians almost conquered the whole continent of Essos until the Doom of Valyria when everything was mysteriously destroyed.
This is why Targaryens are supposed to marry each other, so they can keep their bloodline pure.
21. The Adventures of Bronn
Bronn became a fixture in the books the same way he did in the show. He originally agreed to be Tyrion’s champion in the Vale when Tyrion demanded a trial by combat. And beside a few discrepancies his story is very much the same for the first three seasons/books.
The difference is that the last we see of Bronn is when Tyrion asks him to be his champion against The Mountain. Bronn explains that he’s happy where his life is now and doesn’t see the value in risking it for further wealth, and that’s it. He’s maybe one of the few characters in the Game of Thrones universe who has a happy ending.
In the show, Jaime Lannister conscripts Bronn’s help him train with his left hand, but in the book it’s Ilyn Payne – the mute executioner – because he literally couldn’t talk about it. The relationship Bronn and Jiane build in this training leads to Bronn going to Dorne and eventually Riverrun with Jaime, ensuring that we keep getting our Bronn fix.
20. Pyp and Grenn are Still Alive
Jon has always had his entourage. Besides Sam, it includes Dolorous Ed, Pyp and Grenn. In the show both Pyp and Grenn die in the Siege of Castle Black, but in the book both characters are still alive.
It’s hard to determine exactly why the show creators decided to kill them off, but it’s likely to mark the severity of the siege. Also, Jon had to appear increasingly isolated throughout season five, which can be explained more clearly in a book, but if he still had his loyal friends surrounding him in the show, it could be confusing.
19. Daario’s Appearance
Time for a quick geography lesson about a fictional world, because being a nerd is cool in 2016. Daario Naharis is from the free city of Tyrosh, which is a harbour city on the South of Essos. Why is this important? Well, in the books, George goes out of his way to tell us that Tyroshi people love ordaining themselves in colorful attire, even going so far as dyeing their hair bright colours.
Daario is described as having dyed his hair and beard bright blue, with the exception of his moustache which is painted gold. He also has a gold tooth.
My guess is the creators decided it would be hard to accept Dany falling for such a person on-screen. They ended up recasting Daario to make him look even more Westerosi, at least that’s what some people online would have us believe.
18. Jojen is Still Alive
Bran would not have made it to the three-eyed raven without the help of Meera Reed and her green-seeing brother Jojen. Jojen was characterized as a wise young boy who could see into the future. In the show, he sacrifices himself in order to save the rest of the group.
Jojen is never forced to make this decision in the book, at least not yet. He’s still with Bran and Meera on the cave, but he’s beginning to sink into a depression. He desires to go home to Greywater Watch.
17. Tywin and Arya
In the show, Tywin Lannister and Arya Stark develop an unlikely friendship at Harrenhal as Arya becomes Tywin’s cupbearer. It’s a good opportunity for Arya to learn that events and people aren’t always as simple as believes. It’s also a great chance to see Tywin’s softer side as he is able to connect with the young girl. He remarks on how clever she is, but is never able to deduce that he’s talking to Arya Stark.
This dynamic never happens in the book. Arya actually serves Roose Bolton after she helps coordinate their taking of Harrenhal. She concocts a plan with Jaqen H’ghar to free Northern prisoners, but scalding people with hot soup in an incident remembered as Weasel Soup (Weasel being her pseudonym at the time).
16. Strong Belwas
Strong Belwas was a fan favourite in the book, but it appears as though there was no room for him in the show. He is a eunuch, former slave, and pit fighter who claims to have never lost a fight in the pits. His body is covered in scars as he lets each opponent cut him once before he kills them.
The scene in the show in which Daario fights the horsed champion of Meereen was actually accomplished by Strong Belwas in the book. He is often the source of comic relief in Dany’s storyline, but he earns Dany’s respect enough to be on her Queensguard.
In the show, a riot breaks out as the Sons of the Harpy try to assassinate Dany at the fighting pit. In the book, however, the assassination attempt is by poison as Hizdahr zo Loraq offers her a bowl of poisoned locusts. The assassination attempt fails because Dany isn’t interested in the locusts and Belwas eats the whole bowl. He becomes severely ill, indicating that the locusts were poisoned. Belwas is strong, however, and he’s able to survive the poison.
15. Barristan Selmy
Barristan Selmy was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, before heading over the narrow sea into Essos, where he began protecting Dany as part of her Queensguard. All of that happens in both the book and the show, but there are some differences between the two depictions.
In the book, Selmy disguises himself as Arstan Whitebeard when he finds Daenerys. As Whitebeard, Selmy pretends to be Strong Belwas’ elderly squire. He carries around a staff and is noted as being impressively agile and strong for an old man. It is a surprising reveal when he unveils his true identity, so it makes sense that this plot line was axed for the show as the audience would be able to immediately recognize the actor.
Selmy is also still alive and kicking in the book. At least so far. He actually becomes a POV character in the fifth book and is left to govern Meereen after Dany flies away on Drogon.
14. Davos and Rickon Stark
Davos has one of the most changed storylines in the show. His background is the same, but he completely deviates after the Battle of the Blackwater. In the show, he rejoins Stannis and helps him mount an army. He even helps Stannis get funding from the Iron Bank of Braavos (another thing that doesn’t happen in the book), but in the show he is sent from the Wall to try and gain armies for Stannis from Lord Wylis Manderly at White Harbour.
After some rough sailing, Davos is washed up on shore and is eventually imprisoned by Lord Manderly. Manderly is a cunning man who is playing his own game, even though he’s feigning allegiance to the Lannisters. Lord Manderly executes a look alike prisoner to convince the Lannisters that he is loyal to the throne, but he discovers Rickon Stark’s location. He tells Davos that he will give Stannis his armies if Davos is able to retrieve Rickon from Skagos.
13. Prince Quentyn Martell
I’m still not certain what Quentyn’s role was meant to be in the story, but he was a POV character, so I feel he at least bears mentioning.
Quentyn is the second child and eldest son of Prince Doran Martell. Prince Doran planned on sending Quentyn to Essos, so he could become betrothed to Daenerys and they could claim the Iron Throne together. He’s described as a plain looking and solemn young man.
He has some adventures, but eventually makes it to meet with Dany in her throne room where he reveals this father’s plan. Dany politely turns him down, and flies away on a dragon shortly thereafter.
So Quentyn thinks it’s a good idea to try and steal a dragon, but he fails and gets burned to a crisp and dies. It does result in the dragons escaping, so there’s that…
12. The Wall, The Wildlings, and the Red Woman
There are a variety of changes that happen on the wall, the most important being how they dealt with Mance Rayder. In the show, Melisandre showed little interest in the wildlings, but in the book she takes a direct interest in the wildlings and the politics of the wall.
The Wall is said to have special magics in the ice, and because of this, Melisandre notices that her powers are more potent on the wall. While there, she saves Mance Rayder by placing a disguising spell on him. She is able to see more accurate visions and even warns Jon about his assassination before it happens.
There’s also a baby switcheroo! In the book, Mance has a wife named Val, and they have a baby. Jon recognizes Melisandre’s desire to acquire king’s blood so he orchestrates a plan to send Sam and Gilly to Oldtown with Mance’s baby – while leaving Gilly’s baby with Val. It’s easy to see while they decided to leave this convoluted plot in the book.
11. Varys doesn’t leave King’s Landing
Varys helps Tyrion Lannister escape prison in both the book and the show; the difference is in the show, he decides to travel with Tyrion on the boat, while he decides to stay in King’s Landing in the book. In the show, it seems like it’s common knowledge that Varys helped Tyrion escape, but in the book he is able to avoid being persecuted.
Even though he doesn’t travel to Essos, it still becomes clear that Varys’ prerogative is to bring back the Targaryen dynasty to the throne. This is best exemplified with Kevan Lannister.
Kevan is probably one of those characters in the show whose names you don’t know, but he’s Tywin’s younger brother (Jaime, Cersei, and Tyrion’s uncle) who is the current acting Hand to the King. In the show, he’s still around telling Tommen what to do, but in the books Varys corners him in his bedchambers and kills him with the help of his little birds. For the record, that’s the very last thing to happen in the most recent book.
10. Dany in Qarth
Okay, one of few times on this list where I’m going to fail to be objective.
Daenerys has a lot of, “I’m a super badass dragon fire queen,” moments throughout Game of Thrones, but the one time the show seemed to miss the mark was at the end of season two. In case you forgot, a warlock planned on tying her up beside her dragons to keep her there forever so his magic would be better, or something. Well, the warlock seemed to conveniently forget that dragons breathe fire.
This took place in The House of the Undying in Qarth and before Dany meets the warlock; she has some visions including walking through a dilapidated throne room in King’s Landing, and seeing Khal Drogo holding their unborn child.
This touches on what Dany experienced in the book, but the book was much more symbolic and… well, trippy. Before Dany walks through The House of the Undying she drinks a potion called the shade of the evening. Then she has a series of cryptic visions, one of which predicts The Red Wedding. She also encounters floating blue hearts which tell her: A) That there are three heads of the dragon, and she must find the third, and B) she will be betrayed three times, once for love, once for gold, and once for blood.
9. The Greyjoys and the Iron Islands
The Ironborn are the seafaring raiders who come from the Iron Islands. They did not make an appearance in season five, but their story has been picked back up in season six. The creators only have 10 hours a season to tell the expansive story that is Game of Thrones, so the Greyjoys’ story was compressed and changed in many ways.
In the book, Yara is named Asha. The change was because there was already a character named Osha and it was believed it would create confusion between the two characters. She does enter in the Kingsmoot, but is running against her uncle Victarion, who was omitted from the show. Victarion is a stoic man and a capable commander. He is also a POV character.
This season, we saw Euron Greyjoy appear. In the book, he wears an eye patch and has blue lips when he appears for the Kingsmoot. The blue lips indicate that he’s likely been drinking the shade of the evening. He also claims that he’s come from Old Valyria and he has a magic horn, which he claims he can use to control dragons, so pretty big stuff. He wins the Kingsmoot and has Victarion travel across The Narrow Sea to meet Daenerys so they can join forces.
8. Jon Connington
Jon Connington is a POV character who was introduced in the most recent book, A Dance with Dragons. He was one of Rhaegar Targaryen’s close friends, and served as Hand of the King for King Aerys II during Robert’s Rebellion. Connington was charged with finding Robert Baratheon in a small town called Stony Sept, but failed to do so even though his army checked every building in town. Ned, Hoster Tully, and Jon Arryn (so many Jons) arrived with an army before Connington could locate Robert, and they defeated him in what became known as The Battle of the Bells.
King Aerys II blamed Connington for losing the Battle of the Bells and failing to find Robert. Aerys expected Connington to burn the whole town to the ground, a measure he was unable to take. Connington was exiled and is now travelling across Essos under the pseudonym Griff.
Also, you know how Jorah gets Greyscale in the show? That’s a storyline borrowed from Jon Connington in the books. He has Greyscale but is hiding it. From whom is he hiding it from? Keep reading to find out!
7. Tyrion in Essos
Much of what Tyrion encounters while he’s in Westeros matches the book pretty closely, with the notable exceptions of being much uglier than the dashing Peter Dinklage, and Jaime being complicit in falsely convincing Tyrion that his first wife Tysha was a w**re. His story does begin to deviate once he leaves Westeros.
The Coles Notes version of Tyrion’s Essos experiences in the show are he was accompanied by Varys (who we already established never made the trip in the book) until he was kidnapped by Jorah Mormont, and then he talked himself into being one of Dany’s advisors and eventually was left to govern Meereen.
In the book, Tyrion arrives in Pentos and stays with Illyrio Mopatis, who you may remember as the dignitary who sheltered Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen for many years. He convinces Tyrion to travel with Griff (who is actually Jon Connington) and his son Young Griff to Meereen to help Dany regain her rightful throne. He is kidnapped by Jorah, and they are eventually captured by slavers. Tyrion almost reveals himself we he’s forced to perform for Dany, but he thinks better of it when he sees Barristan Selmy. After that he and Jorah join a group of sellswords called the Second Sons and he convinces them to fight for Dany.
6. Sansa Never Marries Ramsay
The scene after Sansa and Ramsay’s wedding is one of the hardest scenes to watch in all of Game of Thrones, but you’ll be happy to know that it never happens in the book. Rather than marry Sansa, Roose Bolton claims to have tracked down Arya Stark, but it is of course an impersonator. The girl is actually Jeyne Poole, Sansa’s childhood friend, and that’s who Theon helps escape at the end of the fifth book.
In the book, Petyr Baelish is keeping Sansa safe in the Eyrie. She is still assuming the disguise of Alayne Stone, Petyr’s bastard niece. Petyr has Sansa tag along to most council meetings and takes great interest in tutoring her to the finer points of court intrigue. Petyr plans on marrying Sansa off to a handsome knight named Harrold Hardyng, the heir apparent to the Eyrie after Robin Arryn. His plan is to consolidate the power of both the Vale and the North through Sansa.
5. Jaime and Cersei Lannister
Jaime and Cersei Lannister are the incest wonder-twins of Game of Thrones, and in the show, Jaime recently promised that they would work together to get everything back and that he loves her. But in the books, their relationship has become a little more stilted.
Throughout the course of events that happened in season five, Cersei actually behaved far more erratically in the book. Besides trying to gain more power for herself and condoning the creation of a giant golem who she can command, she names an incapable man as Hand of the King, and sleeps with pretty much everything that moves.
As in the show, Jaime heads to Riverrun, but he never goes to Dorne beforehand. While in Riverrun he is able to diplomatically take back to castle without and bloodshed. While there he receives a letter from Cersei asking him to be his champion in a trial by combat, but Jaime burns the letter, showing that he is growing apart from his sister. That’s when Brienne of Tarth shows up and tells him she found Sansa Stark, but circumstances are quite different in the book… keep reading!
Coldhands is a mysterious figure from beyond the wall who helps out Sam and Gilly, and Bran, Jojen, Meera and Hodor on separate occasions. He has black hands that have pooled congealed blood, wears a scarf covering his face, has black eyes, and rides a giant elk like a boss.
There has always been speculation that Coldhands is actually Benjen Stark who went missing, and this theory seems to have been confirmed in season 6, episode 8. It is important to note that even with the reappearance of Benjen, that he did not play the same role that Coldhands played in the books.
Coldhands was the reason Sam and Gilly were able to get back to the wall, and he guides Bran and company to the Three-Eyed-Raven in the North. It is also mentioned that he is unable to cross The Wall. This indicates that the magics in The Wall prevent him from crossing it.
Where do I begin?
In the show, all of the Dornish strings are being pulled by Oberyn’s paramour, Ellaria. Ellaria, along with the Sand Snakes, kill Princess Myrcella Baratheon for revenge. They also kill Prince Doran Martell, and I guess they rule Dorne now?
In the show, things are orchestrated by Princess Arianne Martell, a POV character. Instead of poisoning Myrcella, Arianne plans on legitimizing her by invoking Dornish law that women are equal to men in the line of succession. This means Myrcella should be queen because she is older than Tommen.
She does this by seducing Arys Oakheart, the Kingsguard responsible for guarding Myrcella. Arys eventually goes along with the plan, but gets killed by Doran’s personal guard, Areo Hotah. Who’s that? You know that big dude who didn’t do anything in the show and died when a tiny knife stabbed him once? In the book, he’s a badass who kills Oakheart buy cutting him in half with one swing of his poleaxe.
Anyway, rather than get murdered, Doran affirms that he is planning on marching on King’s Landing, but that they must be patient.
2. Prince Aegon
So we already know that Griff is Jon Connington in disguise. What about his son Young Griff? Young Griff is actually Prince Aegon Targaryen, Rhaegar Targaryen’s son, Daenerys’ nephew, and rightful heir to the throne.
It is believed throughout Westeros that Prince Aegon was murdered as a baby in The Sack of King’s Landing when Ser Gregor Clegane smashed his head against a wall.
It is still unclear if the claims that this boy is Aegon Targaryen are true, but he does have the signature lavender eyes and silver hair of the Targaryen bloodline (although his hair is dyed blue for disguise). Tyrion was ferried to Essos in part to help Aegon meet with Daenerys so they could fight together.
The fact that Prince Aegon was omitted from the show lends to further speculation about his claims.
1. Lady Stoneheart
So if you’ve made it this far, you’re undoubtedly familiar with The Red Wedding. That chapter is told through Catelyn Stark’s point of view, and when she gets her throat slit, she also has her face torn up by ravens.
Catelyn’s corpse is found by Arya’s direwolf Nymeria three days later and she comes back to life, because magic. Her skin has become grey and loose and her eyes are ice blue. Because of the deep gash in her throat she can’t speak unless she covers her wound, and even then it’s a harsh rasp.
She dons the name Lady Stoneheart, and through unseen circumstances becomes the leader of The Brotherhood Without Banners. Her motive is to kill anyone she sees as complicit in the Red Wedding, which includes Brienne of Tarth. Lady Stoneheart and the Brotherhood discover Brienne and threaten to hang her and Podrick Payne unless Brienne can bring them Jaime Lannister. Brienne wasn’t going to do it, but she didn’t want to be responsible for Pod’s death. Brienne finds Jaime in Riverrun and we can only assume she’s leading him to Lady Stoneheart… but we won’t know until the next book.