Things On 'Game of Thrones' That Are Different In The Books

Voting Rules

Vote up the most important differences between the HBO's Game of Thrones and the book series.

SPOILERS for purist book readers and show-watchers alike! Proceed with caution.   

If we recounted all of the Game of Thrones show and book differences, we’d type more words than George R.R. Martin needs to finish The Winds of Winter, so we’ll stick to the most major changes Game of Thrones made from the books.   

Why all of the changes? It’s a huge series with hundreds of thousands of pages of details that only the bold and brave could adapt to the screen, given budget and time. Hats and helms off to Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss for not only tackling the adaptation but also doing a hell of a job.  

Just don't ask Martin's editor, Jane Johnson. She's hated on many ways the show has handled the book material, including its treatment of Loras. And don't get her started on what happened to Ser Barriston Selmy.

Johnson is definitely not alone, either. There are fans out there that will grouse about this and that, but overall, the show was a hit, right? It’s simply not possible to include every storyline and character across George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire unless the series ran for over a decade. The show had to make some decisions on what stayed in, what got melded together, and what was created out of whole cloth to demonstrate aspects of the books that the POV chapters can’t convey on-screen.    

Still, diehards despised the way the show went many times. But what was Martin to do? Considering that Weiss and Benioff worked closely with Martin, it’s not like they were off on their own recklessly spitballing... right? Martin has made it clear that he’ll do what he pleases with the coming books while he also consulted on many of the storylines the show has put forth (although he had said that the showrunners are way more bloodthirsty than he is).   

What do you think of the differences between Game of Thrones and the books? Hate, love, or meh?

Photo: HBO

  • 1
    173 votes

    The Dorne Storyline Is Completely Altered

    The Dorne Storyline Is Completely Altered
    Photo: HBO

    Arianne Martell is a character from the books that makes Dorne make sense. She is the daughter of the Prince of Dorne, Doran Martell. She seeks revenge for the death of Oberyn Martell, who was killed by the Mountain. Oberyn sought vengeance for the rape and death of his sister Elia Martell and her children.

    Arianne plots to set up Myrcella Baratheon as queen of the Seven Kingdoms in order to take on the Lannisters. It’s a whole thing. And it goes horribly awry. Myrcella loses an ear. Arianne is locked away in a tower by her father. She goes on a hunger strike. He reveals his plans to support Daenerys in order to shore up the Martells.

    Ellaria Sand takes up a piece of the Arianne Martell story as mother to the Sand Snakes. Ellaria is not about the violence in the books, but she’s all about it on the show, stabbing Doran right in the heart. 

  • 2
    143 votes

    More Characters Are Alive (So Far)

    More Characters Are Alive (So Far)
    Photo: HBO

    Mance Rayder: Dead on the show when he refuses to bend the knee. Jon Snow mercy-kills him with an arrow before he can burn at the stake. In the books, Melisandre glamors Rattleshirt to look like Mance and the wilding is burnt at the stake, instead of Mance.

    Barristan Selmy: The knight is Daenerys Targaryen's Hand of the Queen in the books and is holding down the fort in Meereen as she finds her way back. On the show, Ser Barristan is killed in an attack of the Sons of the Harpy.

    Myrcella Baratheon: Alive in the books, sans one ear. In the show, she dies as a result of a poison kiss from Ellaria Sand shortly after telling Jaime Lannister that she knows he is her father. And… scene.

    Doran and Trystane Martell: Both alive in the books, with Doran trying to play neutral while also aligning with Daenerys. On the show? Doran is killed by Ellaria. Trystane is killed by his cousin Obara.

    Shireen and Selsye: Stannis Baratheon hasn’t gotten around to burning Shireen at the stake and we haven’t read that his wife hung herself from grief and guilt, as happened on the show. But the books seem to be headed there.

    Stannis Baratheon: He’s not in a good position by the end of A Dance with Dragons, but at least Stannis Targaryen isn't dead by Brienne’s Oathkeeper as he is on the show. Yet.

    Roose Bolton and Walda Frey: Still kicking it in the books. Ramsay Bolton killed both of them on the show. He stabbed Roose Bolton in the heart after Roose learned from the maester that Walda had given birth to a child. Ramsay lured Walda, carrying his newborn stepbrother, to the kennels and set his dogs on them.

    Jeyne Westerling: Robb Stark’s wife was not at the Red Wedding in the books. Robb’s wife Talisa got stabbed multiple times on the show.

    Pyp and Grenn: These two Snow pals died in “The Watchers on the Wall” to make the audience feel feelings. The duo is still very much alive in the books.

    Rakharo and Irri: They’re out searching for Daenerys Targaryen in A Dance with Dragons. On the show, Rakharo was killed off-screen and his body desecrated. Irri was strangled.

    Pyat Pree, Hizdahr zo Loraq, and Xaro Xhoan Daxo: All are alive in the books as of Dance. All dead on the show.

    Meryn Trant: Alive in the books. Killed in a Braavosi brothel by Arya Stark on the show, looking to finally avenge Ned Stark and Syrio. 

    Jojen Reed: While Jojen Reed hasn't been confirmed dead in the books, there are theories that he’s been turned into a paste to jump-start Bran Stark’s greenseerness. On the show, a wight injures Jojen, his sister cuts his throat to mercy-kill him, and then the Children of the Forest blow him up to make sure he doesn’t turn.

  • 3
    276 votes

    Catelyn Returns As Lady Stoneheart

    Catelyn Returns As Lady Stoneheart
    Photo: HBO

    Catelyn Stark is much more interesting as the gurgling resurrected vengeance queen we know and love in the books. She rolls with her Brotherhood Without Banners and has a kill chart that makes Arya Stark’s look like a grocery list in Flea Bottom.

    Despite fans' wishes, Lady Stoneheart never made it to the screen.

  • 4
    172 votes

    There's Another Aegon Targaryen: Young Griff

    There's Another Aegon Targaryen: Young Griff
    Photo: HBO

    Tyrion Lannister is smuggled out of King’s Landing after killing Tywin Lannister and Shae. He goes to Illyrio’s spot to rest up before heading on to Meereen. Instead of traveling with Varys, as he does in the show, he makes the journey with Griff and Young Griff or Aegon Targaryen. Aegon is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys Targaryen’s nephew and perhaps Jon Snow's father. Varys and Illyrio had a hand in spiriting the child away before the Mountain could kill him.

    This Aegon never made an appearance on the show. However, his name was given to another character: Jon Snow.

  • 5
    130 votes

    Jeyne Poole’s Story Is Transferred To Sansa

    Jeyne Poole’s Story Is Transferred To Sansa
    Photo: HBO

    In the books, Jeyne Poole is a friend of Sansa Stark’s who is married to Ramsay Bolton. Roose Bolton believes Jeyne to be Arya Stark and needs the marriage to shore up the Boltons' control over the North. Ramsay is just as terrible in the books and Jeyne is subjected to his cruelty.

    Jeyne doesn’t appear in the show and her storyline is given to Sansa, who has to endure Ramsay.

  • 6
    119 votes

    Hardhome Isn't Described Firsthand

    Hardhome Isn't Described Firsthand
    Photo: HBO

    Since the book series uses only the POV of each character, and there isn't a character amidst the action at Hardhome, readers only hear about it after the fact. On the show, viewers get a close-up look at the horror of the Night King and his power to raise a wight army from the dead. They also get to see Jon Snow in action, wielding the Valyrian sword Longclaw and making pellet ice out of a White Walker.