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5 Major Differences From HBO’s ‘Game Of Thrones’ & George R. R. Martin’s Books

by Mark Cassidy
June 27, 2014 11:01 AM
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5 Major Differences From HBO’s ‘Game Of Thrones

Well, the brilliant “Game Of Thrones” is obviously over for another season, and we enter the long, tortuous wait for its return next year. Unfortunately for many fans, when it does return they probably won’t see a highly anticipated character (or more accurately, the resurrected version of a deceased one) make her debut. While speaking with Entertainment Weekly, actress Michelle Fairley revealed that we’re unlikely to see the character Lady Stoneheart make the transition from page to screen. Lady Who? What? Where? We’ll explain in a minute.

The news of the forthcoming absence of this major character got us thinking about the other differences between the novels and the TV show, and we've decided to address the top five major changes that the series has made to George R. R. Martin's text, in an attempt to see if we can understand the reasons behind them. Obviously some spoilers for those that haven’t read the books yet, and or haven’t finished this latest season.

Like any adaptation, HBO's small screen take on Martin's "Song Of Ice And Fire" saga was obviously never going to be completely faithful to its source material, but for its first couple of seasons it actually made a damn good stab at it. Sure, there were a few minor changes here and there, but it was really only in seasons 3 and 4 that the showrunners (David Benioff and Dan Weiss) began to take things way off the Westeros map... and consequently, of course, incurred the ire of the hardcore fans. As the show rapidly catches up to Martin's typing, changes were inevitable, and some of them arguably even improve on certain aspects of the story and keep the TV narrative flowing—however, some others are pretty baffling.

Game Of Thrones

1. The Event: Character deaths.
What Happened In The Show: Several minor characters still breathing in the books have been killed off in the show. Even one major character too. It began with one of Khal Drogo's "blood riders" named Mago meeting a grisly end in the first season, and since then we've had many more; most recently Night's Watch men Pyp and Gren, and in the season 4 finale, Bran Stark’s warg-seeing friend Jojen Reed.
What Happens In The Books: Well, they're all alive! After Mago's death, Martin commented that he still has plans for the character so we can expect the show to deviate significantly from the books in that respect. Can we expect the same of the others? It's very hard to believe that, at the very least, Jojen won't have another major role to play in the novel before checking out, if he even does.
Why The Changes: Probably just for added dramatic effect. When Mago was killed, the reason given was that Drogo never had a chance to show off his famed prowess in battle, and his disrespectful second-in-command seemed like the obvious choice for a demonstration. Another Dothraki horserider Rakharo was killed off simply because the actor scored a better gig elsewhere. By the same token, a couple of familiar faces (Pyp and Gren) meeting their fate during the attack on the wall in season 4's penultimate episode certainly added some weight to the battle. And Jojen? Well, we know that Weiss and Benioff are in constant contact with Martin, so he may well have given them the okay to off the young fella—don't be surprised if he's the first casualty of the upcoming book “The Winds Of Winter.” While chatting to EW, Benioff says that it made sense for Jojen to sacrifice himself to save Bran at that point in the story, and that “there are a lot of wights in that frozen field. It seemed pretty unlikely they wouldn’t score at least once.”

Game Of Thrones, Season 4 finale, The Children

2. The Event: Jamie helps Tyrion escape.
What Happened In The Show: Jamie Lannister springs his little brother Tyrion from his cell, and saves him from the same fate as poor dead Ned Stark. After a touching farewell, Tyrion lingers just long enough to murder both his ex-lover Shae and his scheming father Tywin before joining Varys on a ship to freedom.
What Happened In The Books: Things play out much the same in "A Storm Of Swords,” but for very different reasons, and the dynamic between the brothers is completely altered for the TV show too. Remember Tyrion's story back in season 1 about his wife Tysha? The Imp had thought her to be a whore, paid off by his father to pop his young son's cherry—but in the book, Jamie admits that Tysha was who she claimed to be, and had actually loved Tyrion. This means Tywin had her gang raped, and Jamie knew about it. Obviously Tyrion is devastated by the news: First he yells at Jamie that he did actually kill his "vile son" Joffrey, before killing a defenseless Shae (in the show she attacks him with a knife) and putting a couple of arrows in his own father. Varys then helps him escape, but does not accompany him on the ship.
Why the changes: Possibly so as not to vilify Tyrion too much. In the book the truth about Tysha really sets the character on a dark path, beginning with the cold-blooded murder of Shae. Sure, he has his reasons (she did lie about him at the trial, and sleep with his dear old Daddy), but the manner in which his ex-lover is dispatched does leave a bad taste in the mouth. Also, amid all the death and misery of the episode, it was probably felt that we could use a brief moment of tenderness between Jamie and Tyrion before the latter goes on his killing spree. Plus, they might not have counted on viewers to even remember all the Tysha stuff from way back in the first season—and that's a lot of ground to go back over in a show that doesn't use flashbacks.

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  • Andre | July 23, 2014 6:13 PMReply

    Applying modern social norms to a story (never mind that it's all fiction!) set in a Dark/Middle Age era is a joke. GoT & it's writers have done one thing above all else: They've ended all the romanticism associated with the Medieval era. There was good reason it was called The Dark Ages, after all! Drogo's "bedding" of Dany was by the era's standards fairly straight forward - She's his wife ergo his property. (Hell, you still see examples of THAT in this day & age..!) Luckily, Dany was tough enough (mentally & emotionally) to work the situation to her advantage. (Her only other option was suicide. She'd hardly have been the first woman to kill herself to escape such a predicament!)
    As for Cersei..? again, modern sensibilities don't apply. (also, all Cersei ~had~ to do, if she wasn't just reticent, was scream. Jamie would've been put to death.)
    It's a great story, but looking at it from a modern perspective..? reveals how ugly such times REALLY were. GRRM's mastery of the quill is the only thing that makes it palatable.

  • Tare | July 11, 2014 8:28 PMReply

    In our culture Dany was raped. In that world, and in our world in times past it was not rape. You are trying to apply our laws and morals to them and it does not work.

  • Crabbieappleton | July 23, 2014 3:04 PM

    True. And the American South didn't really practice slavery, since that was not in our world, since it was, like, over 100 years ago.

  • Carol | July 4, 2014 11:23 AMReply

    They changed Drogo and Dany first night it into a rape scene because they could not show ALL THE OTHER NIGHTS he raped her and all the time the wanted to KILL HERSELF because of it. HBO had to make things very quickly. She was abused, and there's no difference if it happened in the first or in the second night. Get over it, Drogo lovers.

  • JDW | July 2, 2014 1:57 PMReply

    Robb's wife being present at the Red Wedding and her and the baby in her belly being murdered added a whole new bit of dark depth to that scene. In the books she wasn't at the Red Wedding because Robb knew not to bring her around Walder Frey after breaking his promise of marrying one of his daughters.

  • Carol | July 4, 2014 11:29 AM

    Plus, her death makes us remember Dacey Mormont's death, getting an axe in the belly.

  • Gavin | June 30, 2014 4:46 AMReply

    No mention of Theon having his Manhood removed? o.0 That is a pretty big deviation from the main plot line.

  • Jen | July 3, 2014 8:49 AM

    It happens in the books as well.

  • sasha | June 29, 2014 7:15 PMReply

    Cold hands isn't mute in the books. Renly may not have actual gay sex in the books, but it's implied... my biggest missing piece is Strong Belwas! but as is said, the tv show will need to move forward probably before the next book comes out... there's a lot of history and talky exposition in a feast for crows and a dance w dragons. if they run out of books, a good suggestion my husband had was to do a prequel series like Spartacus did when their main guy died. that way, Benioff and Weiss can get all the history of Westeros in and give GRRM time to finish the books!

  • John Stone | June 28, 2014 6:02 PMReply

    It's a work of fiction. Get a life

  • JP | July 14, 2014 4:50 PM

    .. you know nothing John Stone ..

  • steve | June 29, 2014 5:26 AM

    yeah, get a life and comment on things that don't interest you.

  • kim | June 28, 2014 8:03 PM

    I know right...

  • Matt | June 28, 2014 3:57 PMReply

    How about the fact that Renly isn't gay in the books and there are no gay scenes. At all!

  • makesomedrinks | June 29, 2014 2:35 AM

    false lol. .. They were gay. It was just more subtle.

  • jakob dylan | June 27, 2014 2:07 PMReply

    it's a biiiig stretch to call drogo's sex encounter rape. it was his wife, and though he was rough it was his culture to do it that way. until at least danaerys learned to take control. wasn't rape.

  • JDW | July 2, 2014 2:05 PM

    It wasn't rape because she wanted it. You could totally tell. She was all like "I totally want to have my rape fantasy fulfilled by THAT dude!". Also, she never said "no". No means no. She didn't say it. Moreover, she groaned through the whole thing - sure, it sounded like she wasn't having a grand time but she was. Who falls in love with a rapist? Not Stormborn, certainly. She loved Khal Drogo because he took charge and gave her what she needed. And what she needed was Drogo'sPoon Hammer.

  • kyle | June 28, 2014 2:11 PM

    It is incredible that anybody needs to be told that forced sex is rape -- marriage status regardless.

  • Wut | June 27, 2014 4:17 PM

    it was the good type of rape, tho...

  • Mark | June 27, 2014 2:45 PM

    She didn't want to have sex with him, he had sex with her anyway =rape. I'm always a bit disgusted when I have to spell that out.

  • Zack | June 27, 2014 2:28 PM

    ...Jesus Christ.

  • jawnnn | June 27, 2014 12:47 PMReply

    Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie Jamie

  • MAL | June 27, 2014 11:48 AMReply

    The change I find most baffling is actually the one that has Brienne actually finding Arya! It makes no sense that Arya would just run away at that point and it rather destroys Brienne's credibility as "oathkeeper", as per her sword's name. I can live with all the other changes but this one stikes me as superfluous and ridiculous.

  • Glen | June 29, 2014 2:48 AM

    Of course Arya would run away. You saw her change her mind just when the Hound got Brienne to admit where her sword came from. The Hound may still officially be on her hit list, but Arya knows for a fact he ain't working for the Lannisters.

    Arya has excellent reasons to be suspicious of strangers.

  • moe | June 27, 2014 12:29 PM

    Arya doesn't know Brienne from anybody else. She just sees someone she doesn't entirely trust with a sword she says she got from Jaime Lannister. She doesn't want to go with Brienne. What's baffling?

  • mrs.issley | June 27, 2014 11:24 AMReply

    Another awful piece on Thrones. LS thing is not even confirmed and the whole 'oh misogyny' vibe is just embarrassing. Stop writing about things you people have 0 idea about

  • Zack | June 27, 2014 1:14 PM

    I know, people pointing out unnecessary, random scenes of gendered violence is just, like, SO annoying. Can't we just enjoy a rape scene without someone on the Internet asking if it's necessary to the plot? SO lame, yo.

  • Sean | June 27, 2014 11:16 AMReply

    In the first book Drogo is in his mid-to-late twenties when he "marries" the then thirteen year old Daenerys, so while she might've given what read like consent on the page, I think in most would consider that rape on one level or another. Was probably easier for the show runners to depict this more obviously since they couldn't really make Dany 13 in the show

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