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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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