Game of Thrones is heading towards its Swan Song. With only two episodes left, we’ll soon find out who (if anyone) will end up on the Iron Throne. There are, however, two entire books left before George R.R Martin concludes the series in his own way.
The TV series has been ahead of the books for some time now, which means apart from a rough guide of where they are heading, the show runners have gone rogue and are doing things their own way.
There are many interesting differences between the books and the show…but just how different. Here we explore the seven biggest differences from the source material that will make you think ‘huh, why did they do that?’
18. The Night King doesn’t exist in the books
Quite surprisingly, one of the TV show’s biggest ‘villains,’ the Night King, is nowhere to be seen in the books.
There is no ‘King’ of the White Walkers, and no character (yet) that seemingly leads them.
The closest thing to the Night King, is the ‘Night’s King,’ a mythical character who was supposed to be a Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
He is said to have found a cold woman with bright blue eyes in the Haunted Forest, and took her to the other side of the Wall and declared himself the “Night’s King.”
For thirteen years, the two ruled over the brothers of the Night’s Watch and performed human sacrifices, bending his followers’ wills to his way using sorcery.
He was eventually defeated by the Free Folk who rallied under the banner of a ‘King Beyond The Wall.’ They marched against him and eventually overthrew him with the aid of House Stark.
17. A bunch of characters are still alive
One of the biggest differences between the books (so far, there are still two to go) and the TV show, is that a bunch of characters are still alive in the books. Let’s take a look at some of the biggest ones…
Talisa/Jeyne Westerling (Robb Stark’s wife.)
In the TV show, Robb Stark did the very unwise thing of taking his new and pregnant wife, Talisa (who is called Jeyne in the books) to the wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey. Originally it was Robb was supposed to marry Roslin, a pact made by his mother Catelyn.
Of course, this made the Freys very unhappy and they ended up slaughtering the Starks in attendance, including Talisa. In the books, Talisa (Jeyne,) is safely out of the way. In the books, Jaime sends Jeyne back to her father after a peaceful end to the siege of Riverrun, with instruction to kill her is she attempts escape.
Jojen, along with his sister Meera, aid Bran on his journey North to meet the Three-eyed Raven. In the books, Jojen delivers Bran safely to the caves without loosing his own life.
In the TV show, Jojen meets an untimely demise when they are attacked by Whites outside the cave.
Ser Barristan Selmy
Ser Barristan Selmy was a formidable member of the Kingsguard, and considered to be one of the best swordsmen in the Seven Kingdoms. When he is unceremoniously dismissed by Joffrey, Barristan sets sail for Essos to lend his services to Daenerys Targaryen.
In the books, Barristan nobly protects Daenerys from the threat of The Sons of the Harpy and assumes position of Hand of the Queen. In the show, Barristan meets his demise when he is attacked in the street.
16. The entirety of Dorne
Now it’s pretty difficult to sum this up in a few paragraphs. There are only a few things that the TV show got right about Dorne. We all know how it went down in the show.
A brief recap, Jaime, along with Bronn, head to Dorne to take back Myrcella (Cersei and Jaime’s daughter who is there on a marriage pact to Prince Trystane) after The Mountain kills Oberyn Martell in a trial by combat.
Fearing her safety, they plan to bring her back to Kings Landing. Long story short, Oberyn’s Paramour and daughters aren’t happy, they end up poisoning Myrcella and killing Doran, the current Prince of Dorne, and Trystane.
They eventually team with the Tyrells in order to bring down Cersei, but all are eventually killed or imprisoned.
In the books, Jaime and Bronn never venture to Dorne to rescue Myrcella. The Sandsnake’s plan is to crown Myrcella in Dorne as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
Their plan is scuppered by Doran who imprisons them all.
He eventually explains that he is attempting to form an alliance with Daenerys Targaryen by sending his son, Quentyn Martell, to Meereen to form a marriage pact between Quentyn and Daenerys. She refuses, being already promised to Hizdahr.
Being over-confident, Quentyn tries to get on side with her dragons, but is killed by Rhaegal.
The long and short of it is, Dorne is very much a strong player in the books and the Sand Snakes nor Ellaria Sand would never consider homicide.
15. Sansa never marries Ramsey Bolton
One of the most controversial things to ever happen on Game of Thrones was the marriage (and rape) of Sansa Stark to the wickedly evil Ramsey Bolton.
Truth is, in the books, Sansa is still happily ferried away in the Vale going about as Alayne Stone
Ramsey does end up marrying a Stark, but it’s a fake one. Basically, when Sansa headed down to the capital all the way back in Season One, she took a friend with her called Jeyne Poole.
After Ned’s death, Arya flees, Sansa is married to Tyrion, Robb and Caetlyn are offed during the Red Wedding and Bran and Rickon are assumed dead after Theon sacked Winterfell.
To unite the Northern Houses to the Bolton’s claims to the North, Sansa’s friend, Jeyne Poole, is disguised as Arya and married to Roose Bolton in order to placate the Northern Lords that a Stark is still in Winterfell.
Theon eventually rescues her and they both jump off Winterfell’s wall to escape…just as Sansa and Theon did in the show.
14. Mance Rayder’s death is faked
So Mance Rayder’s death is pretty much how you see it on the show.
He is burned at the stake and put out of his misery by the mercy of Jon’s arrow. However, in the book, it isn’t really Mance Rayder who is killed.
It is the Wildling general Rattleshirt, disguised through a glamour as Mance Rayder.
Mance heads to Winterfell disguised as a singer along with six spear-wives. His mission is to rescue Arya, who is really Jeyne Poole, but nobody in at the Wall knows this yet.
In a letter later sent by Ramsay to Jon, he claims that Mance has been discovered and has been put in the cage exposed to the elements.
We do not yet know if this is true. It may be a ruse from Stannis in order to get Jon to join his forces to his in taking back Winterfell.
13. Some missing characters
There are some amazing characters in the books that never made it into the show. I’ll give you a little rundown of a few of them.
Strong Belwas is an ex-fighter who fought in the pits of Meereen. He was later sold to Ilyrio Mopatis, the Magister who fosters Daenerys and Viserys before Daenerys is betrothed to the Dothraki Horse Lord, Kahl Drogo. He is sent to find Daenerys and becomes one of her bodyguards.
When Daenerys besieges Meereen, Oznak zo Pahl rides out to challenge a Champion selected by Daenerys. In the show, this role is taken by Daario Naharis. In the books, Strong Belwas is her Champion and he defeats Oznak, defecating towards the city in celebration.
Patchface was once a famed jester, known up and down the Seven Kingdoms. The fool was on his way to Dragonstone to entertain the young Baratheon children when he ship broke up and all on board were killed, except for him.
He washed up on shore having gone mad, babbling about undead creatures and ancient evils that live in the waters. He accompanies Shireen Baratheon, who still finds humour in his ravings.
We’ll talk more in-depth about the Greyjoy plot in just a while, but Victarion Greyjoy is definitely worth a mention in the list of missing characters.
After the death of Balon Greyjoy, a Kingsmoot is declared to decide who will be the next King of the Iron Islands. In the books, Balon has three brothers…Victarion, Aeron and Euron. Victarion is the strongest of them all, a natural leader and an excellent warrior. He wears a Kraken helmet and his preferred weapon of choice is an axe.
This leads us nicely on to…
12. The Greyjoy Storyline
In the TV series, the Greyjoy storyline has been extremely reduced, with some very interesting characters not making the jump across.
Everything is pretty much the same until Balon Greyjoy ‘falls’ from a bridge and is killed during a violent storm. In the TV show, we see it is Euron that kills him, and this is implied also within the books.
This is where things get different. In the books, Balon has two other brothers. Victarion, as we have discussed above, and Aeron.
The two are very opposite, with Vicatarion being a famed warrior and Aeron being a priest of the Drowned God, known as the Damphair.
To decide the next King of the Iron Islands, a ‘Kingsmoot’ is held amongst the bones of Naga, a mythical dead sea creature. Euron comes out victorious, and tasks Victarion with sailing to Daenerys and making a marriage pact with her. Victarion agrees out of loyalty, but is very wary of his brother and plans to woo Daenerys for himself.
Euron imprisons Aeron on his ship and ties him to the front of his mast as he prepares to fight the Redwyne fleet as he attacks the Arbour.
11. Lady Stoneheart
And now we have perhaps the biggest omission from the books…the inclusion of ‘Lady Stoneheart,’ aka an undead Catelyn Stark.
After the Red Wedding, Catelyn’s body is thrown into the river and is later found by Arya’s direwolf Nymeria, three days later. Soon after, the Brotherhood without Banners find the corpse.
Catelyn is resurrected by Beric Dondarrion, who gives his life for hers through the last kiss of R’hllor (in the TV show, Beric meets his maker during the Battle of Winterfell.)
Catelyn’s mutilated body emerges as a vengeful, undead person. She becomes known as Lady Stoneheart and assumes leadership of the Brotherhood without Banners.
She is less gracious and forgiving than in life and is consumed with a desire for vengeance on anyone she thinks betrayed her and her son, Robb.
She hunts down and hangs anyone she considers a Frey or Lannister collaborator.
She hangs any men associated with the Freys, Boltons, or Lannisters, even if they had nothing to do with the “Red Wedding.”
In the books, Brienne and Jaime are about to be hanged by Lady Stoneheart after she believes Brienne to be aiding Jaime, even though Brienne swore an oath to protect her children.
George R.R. Martin has already said Lady Stoneheart will play an important role in the books to come, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out considering her omission from the show.
10. The other Targaryen
So a brief history of recent Targaryens. Before Robert Baratheon became King, Aerys Targaryen II sat on the Iron Throne. His son, Rhaegar Targaryen, had two children with his wife Elia Martel. These were Aegon and Rhaenys Targaryen.
During the sacking of Kings Landing, King Aerys was killed by Jaime Lannister and Prince Rhaegar was killed alongside his wife by The Mountain. It was said that The Mountain also dashed the children against the wall, killing them.
Skip forward to Tyrion escaping Kings Landing and arriving in Essos. In the TV series, Tyrion travels towards Meereen with Varys until he is captured by Jorah Mormont.
In the books, Tyrion is accompanied by a sell-sword called Griff and his son, “Young Griff” up until his capture. It later transpired that “Young Griff” is Aegon Targayen in disguise. It goes that he was actually saved during the sack of Kings Landing and was secretly brought up to one day reclaim the throne.
In the books, Aegon and his forces have just landed in Westeros to begin their campaign.
There is some debate as to wether this Young Griff really is a Targaryen, or just someone Varys and other conspirators have put in place, moulded him to be a good King and given him the name ‘Targaryen.’
9. Missandei and Grey Worm’s relationship
This is something totally fabricated for the TV show. This is because in the books, Missandei is only ten years old.
She and her brothers were born on the island of Naath. They were eventually captured by raiders from the Basilisk Isles and sold into slavery in Astapor.
Three of her brothers became Unsullied soldiers. One was killed in training and only Marselen and Mossador remain.
She remembers Mossador teaching her how to climb trees.
The youngster has a gift of easily learning languages and as such the Masters chose to train her as a scribe.
Missandei is given to Daenerys willingly when she visits Astapor to purchase some Unsullied soldiers.
In the TV show, Daenerys demands Missandei as a gift as a mark of respect for a bargain well struck.
8. Jorah Mormont never gets Greyscale
In the TV show, Jorah catches Greyscale when he rescues Tyrion from the Rhoyne after they are attacked by Stone Men.
He is eventually healed by Samwell Tarly during his time studying to be a Maester in Old Town.
In the books, it is a character called Jon Connington (Griff) who catches the Greyscale.
Jon is one of the characters accompanying Tyrion and Young Griff to Meereen.
Once Tyrion is captured and they learn that Daenerys has no plans on leaving Meereen to invade Westeros anytime soon, Jon and Aegon decide to head to Westeros themselves along with The Golden Company (who in the TV show are currently in the service of Cersei.)
Jon hopes he is able to live long enough to see Aegon on the Iron Throne.
7. The Tyrells are still going strong
In the show, the Tyrells are essentially all wiped out after Cersei blows up the Sept of Baelor containing Mace, Margaery and Loras.
Olenna is offed later on when Jaime and the Lannister’s sack High Garden and she is offered a painless death through poisoned berries, but not before confessing it was her who killed Joffrey.
In the books, there are a couple of more Tyrells who don’t make an appearance in the show.
There is Willas Tyrell, the oldest born to Mace Tyrell, and he is holding fort at Highgarden whilst the rest are busy in Kings Landing.
There is also a fella named Garlan “the Gallant” Tyrell, who is currently taking back the Shield Islands from the Ironborn.
Also Loras is busy taking Dragonstone from Baratheon forces, and the last we heard of him is that he is mortally wounded.
He’s definitely not being all religious and getting blown up in a sept.
6. Arya can Warg in the books
This skill has been seen on the show. Bran is able to ‘warg’ into the bodies of other animals and other people.
However, Bran isn’t the only Stark who is able to warg.
In the books, Arya also has the skill of warging. When she goes blind during her training in the House of Black and White, Arya was able to slip into the skin of an alley cat.
This was really helpful to her in the book, as it meant she was able to spy on other people whilst she was blind.
She is also able to dream through her wolf, Nymeria, and she isn’t the only Stark to be able to live through her Direwolf.
In the books, Jon also imagines he is Ghost from time to time, and can see him out hunting.
5. Gendry is not as important in the books
In the TV series, Gendry is taken by Melisandre because he is a bastard of Robert Baratheon.
She wants to use his Royal blood in order to perform blood-magic in order to help Stannis Baratheon win the War of the Five Kings.
In the books, this happens to a character named Edric Storm. He is the son of Robert Baratheon and Delena Florent (Selyse Baratheon’s cousin.)
Melisandre wants Stannis to burn Edric in order to wake stone Dragons to help Stannis win the war.
Fearing for his life, Davos sneaks Edric away with the help of a few others, just as he did with Gendry.
As of “A Dance with Dragons,” Edric Storm is hiding in Lys. The character of Gendry in the books is working as a smith at the Inn at the Crossroads where he saves the life of Brienne of Tarth.
If you’re a fan of the show and haven’t yet read the books, I would strongly recommend it.
There are plenty of other differences that haven’t been discussed here which makes the books a whole lot richer and more in-depth than you can possibly imagine!
4. Tyrion has a love interest in the books
Part of this plot is briefly seen on the show, but nothing more comes of it.
During the wedding of Joffrey and Margaery, part of the entertainment is a troupe of dwarves who joust each other dressed as Robb Stark and the other false Kings of Westeros.
Two of these dwarves are called Penny and her brother Oppo. Penny rides a pig (Pretty Pig) and Oppo rides a dog (Crunch.)
After Tyrion escapes Kings Landing following the wedding, Cersei puts a price on his head and says she will reward anyone handsomely if they bring her his head. This leads to a spate of dwarf killing, with people hoping they have killed Tyrion Lannister.
One of the dwarves to be killed is Oppo, Penny’s brother, by Westerosi sailors. When Penny bumps into Tyrion when he is a captive of Jorah Mormont, she attacks him and blames him for the death of Oppo.
Penny is made to accompany them when they sail for Meereen. Tyrion takes pity on her for what happened to her brother, and Penny eventually reacher Tyrion how to joust whilst mounted on the pig.
After being captured by slavers, they are all sold at auction and Tyrion and Penny are made to entertain the crowds in the fighting pits the day that they are reopened.
3. Bronn names Lollys Stokeworth’s Bastard
So after Myrcella is sent off to Dorne, the Lannister are involved in a huge mob.
During that mob, the character of Lollys Stokeworth is unfortunately raped.
From this rape she produces a bastard son. In the show, we do see Lollys Stokeworth and Bronn together just before Jaime arrives to whisk him off to Dorne.
In the book, Bronn names this bastard son ‘Tyrion’ in order to anger Cersei and honour his friend Tyrion.
Cersei is naturally livid when she hears this news, but Jaime laughs it off and finds it funny.
In the show, Lollys is not pregnant and Bronn’s engagement to her is broken off.
2. Davos’ secret mission
We all know by now that the show has far surpassed the books in terms of timeline. One plot that is substantially different in the books is that of Davos Seaworth’s, everyone’s favourite Onion Knight.
In the books, Stannis is still very much alive and moving against the Boltons in trying to reclaim Winterfell. He tasks Ser Davos with travelling to the Northern town of White Harbour, in order to recruit Wyman Maderly to his cause.
There’s one problem, however. The Freys have reached the Maderly’s first and the Manderly’s have already seemingly made a pact with the Freys. Davos learns that the Lannister’s have Wyman’s son, Wylis, hostage.
Davos eventually seeks an audience with Wyman in private, but he is brought before the entire court to try and get the Maderly’s on board.
He is thrown in prison to be executed…but it is all a rouse. Wyman Manderly executes a look-a-like prisoner instead, and this act causes Cersei to send Wylis back to White Harbour.
Wyman then meets with Davos to apologise about his treatment, saying it had to be done in order to get his son back and trick Cersei. Wyman tells him that Bran and Rickon are still alive, and that he knows where Rickon is. He tasks Davos with retrieving Rickon and says he will swear his allegiance to Stannis if he is successful.
1. Brienne never fights the Hound
In the show, we get an epic showdown between Brienne of Tarth and the Hound after Brienne attempts to rescue Arya from him.
Basically, Brienne swore to Catelyn Stark that she would protect her children.
After delivering Jaime safely to Kings Landing, Jaime gives Brienne a sword which he names “Oathkeeper.” He tells Brienne to honour her promise and go and protect the remaining Stark children.
He gives her Podrick Payne to squire on her journey to find them. In the books, Arya and the Hound seek shelter at the Inn at the Crossroads where they encounter two of Gregor Clegagne’s men and their squire. They come to blows, with Sandor coming out of it mortally wounded.
Arya and the Hound continue their journey to a place called Saltpans, but Sandor’s wounds become infected during the journey. Arya refuses Sandor the gift of mercy and leaves him to die.
Brienne and Pod later encounter a group of broken men at the Inn, led by a character called Rorge. Rorge is wearing the Hound’s helmet. Brienne slays him and they later head to a monastery on a Holy Island where the priests tell Brienne they found the Hound’s body washed up and dug a grave for him there. They placed his helmet upon the grave, but it was stolen.
Brienne sees a gravedigger who fits the description of the Hound, and it is speculated that it is actually Sandor.