Have you ever wondered if the actors chosen by the Game of Thrones staff actually reflect the original vision that George R.R. Martin had in his original books? The author himself has never shown pictures of the characters in the books, few (if any) authors ever do. However, he did leave clues everywhere in the novels about how these characters looked in the author’s mind. Someone a couple of years back had the same question, and unlike the rest of us, actually did some work to find the answer.
A young lady by the name of Magali Villeneuve, decided to use her artistic talents to recreate the characters in the novel. The huge fan of the books and show, went to great lengths to get the detailed physical descriptions of these characters. Some of her results can be seen in this article. To see the rest of the pictures, and to find out more about the artist, one can always visit her blog in order to obtain the detailed sketches of every character in the books. Judge for yourselves if the directors and producers of the show picked actors who accurately represented George R.R. Martin’s vision. The list is in alphabetical order by first name.
15. Bran Stark
Bran is played by Isaac Hempstead Wright, a 17 year old actor. When the show first started the actor was 10 years old, exactly his age on the show and slightly older than the seven year old child introduced in the first book, called Game of Thrones in 1996. Most people believe that around three and a half years have passed in the books, making bran 10 in the books and 13 on the show. Pretty soon the young actor won’t look so cute. Martin describes Bran as favoring his mother in appearance, having the thick auburn hair and deep blue eyes of the Tully family. The blue eyes are definitely not there.
For the author, Bran is the character that got everyone hooked in the books and perhaps the show. This is a quote from the author himself: ”I’ve had a million people tell me that was the moment that hooked them, where they said, “Well, this is just not the same story I read a million times before.” Bran is the first viewpoint character. In the back of their heads, people are thinking Bran is the hero of the story. He’s young King Arthur. We’re going to follow this young boy–and then, boom: You don’t expect something like that to happen to him. So that was successful [laughs]”. The moment he is describing is when Jamie Lannister grabs the young man by the throat and then pushes him to his likely death.
The author considers Bran the hardest character to write. After all he is a child who is a central character. It is difficult to make a child believable and then to instill him with magical powers and make those powers believable at the same time. This is one character that has not veered too much from the books for good reason. People loved his original storyline.
14. Cersei Lannister
The books describe the power hungry Queen as having the classic appearance of her family name, The Lannisters. Cersei is seen as strikingly beautiful with green eyes, golden blonde hair, a slender figure and fair skin. In one of the later books, A Feast For Crows she has begun to gain weight as a result of alcohol abuse. Something you do not see on the show, as the actress who plays Cersei, Lena Headey, is amazingly fit and in great shape. One thing is for sure, the plot will definitely thicken now that Cersei has finally gained the power she always craved, and has lost the three children that gave her a little humanity.
13. Daenerys Targaryen
The role of Daenerys was originally played by Tamzin Merchant in the pilot, but the first episode was re-shot with Emilia Clarke. In the books the Mother Of Dragons has purple eyes and silver gold hair. Supposedly, everyone in her family bloodline had these features. Give Emelia credit though, her hair is not naturally blonde, but she pulls it off well. Alas it is really hard to have purple eyes in real-life, so we’ll give the producers the benefit of the doubt on that one. Daenerys is a teenager (probably around 17) at the start of the books, and very slender. Emelia is 29 years old now, so about 23 when the show started. She definitely looked like the scared, unsure teenager that turned into a self confident ruler as described by Martin.
Hodor is over seven feet tall with brown eyes and a brown beard. He is also very slow of wits. The artist sketch does not necessarily demonstrate the beard but it does demonstrate the other characteristics. Kristian Nairn, the actor that portrays Hodor, does not have brown hair or brown eyes. He is from Northern Ireland after all, and those features are not what the land is known for. He is 6’11” though, one inch away from 7 feet tall. One might assume that the talent search could not find a dark haired man that fit the bill, but a little dye and hair coloring would have done the trick just fine. Regardless, Kristian was great as Hodor.
11. Jaime Lannister
Jaime Lannister was actually a minor character in the first two books. Eventually the character became a fan favorite. At the beginning of the Game of Thrones books, Jaime has a lot of regrets in life, towards his younger brother and others. He has done some bad things and later seeks redemption to clear his mind.
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine in 2014, George R.R Martin had some very interesting viewpoints on the character. When speaking about saving Brienne from the bear, he stated: ”One of the things I wanted to explore with Jaime, and with so many of the characters, is the whole issue of redemption. When can we be redeemed? Is redemption even possible? … When do we forgive people? … Our society is full of people who have fallen in one way or another … How many good acts make up for a bad act? … I don’t know the answer, but these are questions worth thinking about. I want there to be a possibility of redemption for us, because we all do terrible things. We should be able to be forgiven. Because if there is no possibility of redemption, what’s the answer then?”
In the same interview he had some very interesting things to say about the attempted murder of a young Bran Stark: ”[What] Jaime did [to Bran] is interesting… Remember, Jaime isn’t just trying to kill Bran because he’s an annoying little kid. Bran has seen something that is basically a death sentence for Jaime, for Cersei, and their children… So I’ve asked people who do have children, Well, what would you do in Jaime’s situation? They say, Well, I’m not a bad guy—I wouldn’t kill. Are you sure? Never? If Bran tells King Robert, he’s going to kill you and your sister-lover, and your three children… Then many of them hesitate. Probably more people than not would say, Yeah, I would kill someone else’s child to save my own child, even if that other child was innocent. These are the difficult decisions people make, and they’re worth examining.” In all fairness though, the television show did not show this level of thinking. It just demonstrated some mean SOB that couldn’t give a damn about anyone but himself. Nevertheless, these are interesting things to think about.
10. Joffrey Baratheon
The character is not a point of view person in the books. In other words, he is always in the background and his actions are never seen, but just retold by others through their own eyes. This is not necessarily so on the TV show. As for looks, the books describe Joffrey as tall for a boy his age, with blond, curly hair. He has bright green eyes, pouty lips and an evil sneer. All these features prompt Jon Snow to think that Joffrey looks like a girl. The picture on the left is quite accurate in its portrayal. How does Jack Gleeson, the Irish actor who portrays the young man, compare? His eyes are green and his stare is evil. His hair is not curly and his lips are definitely not pouty. He is short, not tall, at 5′ 7”, and he might not necessarily have all of the feminine features as described by Jon Snow himself.
9. Jon Snow
George R.R. Martin describes Jon as someone who looks more like a Stark than any one of his brothers, with a lean build, dark brown hair and grey eyes so dark they border on black. He is graceful and quick. Tyrion Lannister notes that Jon has a traditional Stark face in everything but name. The dwarf remarks that Jon must have inherited little from his mother in terms of appearance. Out of all of his siblings, Jon resembles Arya the most and can always be seen in the black garb of the Night’s Watch. He has no coat of arms in the books, although the author instructed the company Valyrian Steel (manufacturers of the show’s ironwork), to use the reverse Stark colors on the sword’s plaque.
Does Kit Harington, the actor that plays the now king, match the description? The answer is yes in everything but the curly hair. However, he looks nothing like Ned Stark or Arya on the show, so perhaps those characters were miscast.
8. Margaery Tyrell
Look for yourself, do you see a difference? At the start of the first novel, she is 16 years old with large brown eyes, thick curly brown hair and is slender, yet very shapely. Cersei is jealous of her looks, saying that no one could possibly think that Margaery is more attractive than her. Even Jaime will not disagree with his sister, claiming Margaery’s beauty is all due to her youth.
Natalie Dormer, the actress who played the princess, is definitely not 16. She is 34, making her roughly 28 when the show started. Her eyes are green, not brown but they are definitely large and her figure is oh, so shapely. Her looks have definitely remained with her, despite her age, unlike what Jaime said. Is she more attractive than Cersei, though?
The author describes Melisandre as a great beauty. Her hair is long and not necessarily red but the color of burnished copper. She has pale and unblemished skin. She is slender and graceful, and very tall, taller than most knights. She has full breasts, a narrow waist, and a heart-shaped face. She always wears red clothing made of silk and a red gold choker around her neck. When she works magic, the ruby setting in the choker glows with power and it may be able to burn her if the magic worked is particularly demanding. She is also old, as she has practiced her magic ”years beyond count”.
Does Carice Van Houten fit the bill? We have all seen her breasts countless times on the show as she flashes them at will, so the answer to that one is: yes. She is 5’7”, perhaps tall for a thousand years ago, but not today. She is pale, her skin is seemingly unblemished and she is slender. The executives did a good job on this one.
6. Ned Stark
Ned Stark is in his mid-thirties. His face is long, his hair is dark and his eyes are grey, as is his beard. His beard makes him look a little older. His enemies believe that he has cold eyes reflecting his frozen heart. Even his wife thinks that he is less handsome than his very own brother. Ouch!
Sean Bean looks older than 30, because he is. In fact, he is in his late fifties. His beard is actually not grey and his hair and eyes are not that dark. His face is round and pudgy as opposed to slender. Some people might say that the show missed the boat a little on this particular character.
5. Ramsey Bolton
Ramsey is butt ugly, even uglier than his personality. He has big bones indicative of a man destined to be fat in his 30s. He has sloped, not broad shoulders. His skin is pink and blotchy, a sight not to be seen. His mouth is small, but his lips are wide. His eyes are small, close set and oddly pale. How is Iwan Rheon when compared to the character he portrays? Well, he is definitely not this horrible sight to see. What actor would want to play that role without heavy makeup? So luckily for Iwan, the show wasn’t even close on this one, as such he can breathe a sigh of relief.
4. Samwell Tarly
Samwell Tarly is very fat, this we know. His hair is dark and his eyes are very pale with a face kind of resembling a full moon. Jon Snow estimates Samwell to weigh 20 stone (this equals to about 127 kg/280 lbs). A jolly man (as many overweight people are portrayed), he is fond of books and music. He is not made to wear armor as he fears violence. John Bradley West portrays the character on the show. The actor weighs in at a measly 240 lbs, but with all that northern clothing on him, he looks like a much heftier man. Also, his eyes are dark, not pale.
3. The Hound
The Hound, or Sandor Clegane, has a savage nature, who is unquestionably obedient to his masters. The scars on his face came about because his old brother, Gregor, slammed his face into something hot. As such the Hound has always hated knights, his brother and fire. The man is huge and extremely muscular. His nose is large, with a slight hook. There is a huge amount of scarring around his good left eye. His flesh is packed with craters that ooze red. The bone shows on his jaw. Basically don’t mess with this guy, he is angry at being disfigured and strong.
How does Rory McCann, the actor portraying The Hound, compare? The 47 year old is a man’s man, having broken several bones in a near fatal rock climbing accident. So you know he’s strong and muscular. The makeup job is accurate, except for the bone fragments that are not visible on his jaw. Rory is not a bad looking guy, but his nose is definitely large. Luckily he has no craters on his skin.
2. Tyrion Lannister
He is definitely a dwarf in the books. A scary looking man with a stare that makes people look uncomfortable. He has stubby legs, mismatched eyes of green and black. His hair is an amalgam of colors, mostly blonde and black. He has a jutting forehead. This is one ugly vertically challenged human being that the Lannisters have on their hands. Combine this with the fact that his mother died during his birth and you may understand why his father and sister hate him this much.
In real life Peter Dinklage has two things in common with Tyrion; stubby legs and dwarfism. He does have the battle scar that kind of makes him look menacing. His eyes are green alone and thankfully for the actor, he has none of the other characteristics that George R.R. Martin created for this one ugly dude in the books.
Ygritte is a young eighteen year old when Jon Snow finds her. She is short, skinny but muscular as one would expect from a warrior. Her hands are small and her face is round. Her teeth are crooked and she has a pug nose. Her blue-grey eyes are set far apart. She does have that fiery red hair though, which her clan deems lucky. Despite these unconventional features, Jon Snow sees her as beautiful. Even the artist’s rendition doesn’t come close to the description in the books.
How does Rose Leslie compare? Not even close except for the red hair. She is presently 29 or about 24 when she was introduced on the show. Rose is not unconventionally beautiful, she just is beautiful. I guess the show did not believe audiences would buy into the fact that Jon Snow could fall in love with someone like who the author envisioned.