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 changes Game of Thrones made from the books that pertain to the most relevant events of this season.
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 calling the depiction of Loras's sexuality "cartoonish." 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 has been 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 has had to make some decisions on what stays in, what gets melded together, and what is created out of whole cloth to demonstrate aspects of the books that the POV chapters can’t convey on-screen.
Still, diehards despise the way the show goes many times. But what is Martin to do? Considering that Weiss and Benioff work closely with Martin, it’s not like they’re 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 consults 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? Vote for your favorite GoT show vs. books changes.
Hardhome Is Seen on the Show
Since the book series uses only the POV of each character, we don’t have a character amidst the action at Hardhome. We only hear about it after the fact. On the show, we get a close-up look at the horror of the Night King and his power to raise a wight army from the dead. We also get to see Jon Snow in action, wielding the Valyrian sword Longclaw and making pellet ice out of a White Walker.
More Characters Alive in the Books (So Far)
Mance Rayder: Dead on the show when he refuses to bend the knee. Jon 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 Dany’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 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 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 are headed there.
Others vs. White Walkers
In the books, the undead leaders of the wight army are called the Others. The show calls them White Walkers. In the books, Old Nan calls the frozen undead folks White Walkers. The show adopted that term across the board because it was less confusing.
Night’s King vs. Night King
Even we have been making this (possible) mistake. The Night King on the show is the leader of the White Walkers. The Night’s King in the books is specifically the 13th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch who turned evil when he married an Other lady and ruled the sworn brothers with sorcery and brutality.
Many argue that the Night King is NOT the Night’s King. The Children sacrificed a man at the sacred weirwood tree to become the first White Walker. That man could have been Brandon the Bloody Blade, a Stark who murdered many of the Children, or someone else entirely, who became the Night’s King later. But is he also the Night King in the series? Two different characters? Same guy? Does it matter? He can bring winter and darkness by raising his arms, guys! We’ll ask for ID later.