Differences between books and TV series

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This article is about major plot differences between the novels of A Song of Ice and Fire and the television adaptation Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones

  • Point of View: Since the plot in the novels is told from the viewpoints of the principal characters (Eddard, Bran, Daenerys, Arya, Sansa, Tyrion, Jon, Catelyn), the TV show mimics similar structure fleshing out certain key scenes but adding others that are either absent from the book, implied, or talked about in other chapters to provide backstory and try to confirm certain suspicions of the book readers. The exception is the prologue, which sets up the novel from a character-independent perspective.
  • Character appearance: Certain characters within the series have been played by actors who do not share the same physical traits as the said characters. D. B. Weiss explained that the actor who plays Asha (renamed Yara to avoid confusion with Osha), for instance, looks nothing like the description in the books, but captured the role so perfectly that he could not imagine anyone else playing it. Additionally, many of the children have been aged several years in order to match the forced aging of Daenerys, who was aged due to her sexual relationship with Khal Drogo. (Indeed, the producers of the comic book adaptation expressed concern about running afowl of child pornography laws in adapting the scenes between Daenerys and Drogo.)
  • Others / White Walkers: Although there are a few references to the name "white walkers" in the books, most notably from Old Nan's stories, these characters are more commonly referred to as "Others" in A Song of Ice and Fire. The term "Others" is not used in the show. In the audio commentary for "Winter Is Coming", producers David Benioff and D. B. Weiss explained that the change was made to avoid confusion that may arise between references to the race known as the Others and "others" meaning other groups or people within the show. The appearance of the Others are also modified -- instead of the very fey, ethereal description they are given in the books, HBO's Others/White Walkers are noticeably more ghoulish and bestial. Their appearances have fluctuated from the first season to the second.

First season

These differences can be found between the first season of the television series and the first book, "A Game of Thrones.

The timeline and events of the TV series are seventeen years after Robert's Rebellion instead of fourteen years as in the books. The main reason in adding the two years was to allows the younger characters to be aged-up, while not affecting the timeline too much beyond the immediate past.

  • The Stark children Robb and Jon are 17 instead of 15. Bran is 10 instead of 7 and Rickon's age is increased from 3 to 6. Sansa 13 instead of 11 and Arya is 11 instead of 9.
  • The Royal children are older: Joffrey is 16 instead of 13, Myrcella is 12 instead of 8 and Tommen is 10 instead of 6. Daenerys is 16 instead of 13.

Winter is Coming

Extra scenes were added to give some backstory
  • ​A sex scene, between Ros and Tyrion, to introduce Tyrion directly. He is far more handsome than how he is described in the book i.e. Deformed Dwarf, with mismatched eyes and hair that is both blonde and black.
  • A scene introducing Daenerys, Drogo and Ser Jorah Mormont, including their wedding scene. In the book, she is introduced after Eddard Stark gets the news about Jon Arryn's death.
  • A scene introducing Sansa with Lady Catelyn. In the book, Sansa is introduced as a point of view character on their way to Kings landing.
Misc
  • The Prologue: Ser Waymar Royce is killed in a suprise attack, while in the books, he has a duel with Others. Also it is Will who escapes the encounter and later executed by Eddard Stark for desertion instead of Gared.
  • Arya is shown to be an accurate archer, while in the books, she doesn't know how to fire a bow and wishes she could learn.
  • Jon Snow doesn't attend the feast, avoiding the shame, meets his uncle Benjen Stark outside, when he is practising with a sword instead.
  • Upon receiving Lysa's message about Jon Arryn's death Catelyn argues with Ned against accepting King Robert's request to become the King's Hand, while in the book, she encourages him to go to King's Landing.
  • In the book Cersei and Jaime are both naked when Bran finds them in the tower. In the series, they are both dressed.
  • Ros is not named in the book. She is probably the mentioned "red haired whore."

The Kingsroad

Extra scenes were added to give some backstory
  • A scene, where Cersei visits Catelyn in Bran's bedroom and speaks about her first child. In the book, this scene did not take place and there is no evidence of this child being born to Cersei and Robert. Presumably it was added to make Cersei a bit more human and sympathetic.
  • A scene, where Catelyn searches the old tower and finds a golden hair, leading her to suspect the Lannisters involvement in Bran's accident, before the Valyrian dagger is identified.
  • ​A scene, between Ser Jorah and Prince Viserys Targaryen, speaking about slavery.
  • A scene, which shows the making of the sword Needle and a conversation between Jaime and Jon Snow about the Night's Watch.
Misc
  • The questioning scene following Joffrey being attacked by Arya's direwolf happened at the Crossroads Inn, instead of Castle Darry as in the books.

Lord Snow

Extra scenes were added to give some backstory
  • A scene, between Eddard and Ser Jaime, at the Red keep, where Jaime explains why he is called the Kingslayer.
  • A scene, between Queen Cersei and Prince Joffrey, about what it will mean when he is a king.
  • A scene providing a lot of background info on Robert with Barristan and Jaime.
Misc
  • Tyrion rescues Jon from a beat down at the hands of his fellow recruits. In the book, Castle Black blacksmith Donal Noye is the one who sets Jon straight.
  • Catelyn and Ser Rodrik Cassel arrive to King's Landing riding down the Kingsroad. In the book, Catelyn and Ser Rodrik arrive by ship from White Harbor arriving before Eddard.

Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things

Extra scenes were added to give some backstory
  • A scene between Viserys and Doreah taking a bath together where Viserys tells Doreah about dragons. Most of the dragon names are not mentioned in the books, except for the three great dragons of Aegon I Targaryen and his sisters.
  • A scene between Septa Mordane and Sansa about Sansa's future, Prince Joffrey and the iron throne.
  • A scene where Bran was introduced to the three eyes at the entrance to the tombs in Winterfell.
  • A scene between Ned and Cersei. Cersei attempts to nudge Eddard towards leaving, and tries to explain that her actions with the direwolves is because of her extreme devotion to the safety of her children.
Misc
  • The Hand's tourney is shorter in the series.
  • Littlefinger tells Sansa the story about the Clegane brothers. In the book, the story is told by Sandor Clegane himself, which many fans consider the first step in their special relationship.
  • Gendry's character is aged like the stark kids, he is 20 instead of 16.
  • Ser Alliser often calls Sam 'Lady Piggy' instead of 'Ser Piggy'. Used once in the book.

The Wolf and the Lion

Extra scenes were added to give some backstory
Misc
  • Robert Arryn is renamed Robin Arryn, probably to avoid confusion with King Robert Baratheon, but has some precedent in his nickname "Sweetrobin".
  • Chataya, the owner of the brothel in which many events take place, was not cast. The brothel belongs to Littlefinger instead.
  • Ned and Jaime cross swords (probably because it is more exciting to have these two face-off at least once), instead of Ned falling from the horse as in the books.

A Golden Crown

Extra scenes were added to give some backstory
  • A scene involving Syrio Forel and Arya, coining the phrase "Not today".
  • A scene involving Viserys and Jorah. Viserys tries to steal Dany's dragon eggs, until Jorah stops him. Viserys suggests that Jorah is in love with Daenerys, a fact that is never discussed or considered by Dany prior to the second novel.

You Win or Die

  • Tomard, one of the guards at Winterfell, is sent to Dragonstone with a letter informing Stannis Baratheon that his brother has no rightful heirs, making him next in the line of succession. In the books, Eddard attempted to send a letter to Lord Stannis, but the letter never leaves King's Landing. Stannis sends his letters based on his investigation with Jon Arryn.

The Pointy End

Extra scenes were added to give some backstory
  • A scene in which the wights are burned. Also with some new information and events that possibly could have happened in the books but never did.

Baelor

Extra scenes were added to give some backstory
  • A scene in which Tyrion plays games with Shae and Bronn. Providing us background info on all of them.
Misc
  • Shae is not common-born and was made more subtle and mysterious character.
  • In the books, when Ser Barristan Selmy is dismissed from the Kingsguard he announces that he will search for the rightful heir. He later kills two members of the city watch when they attempt to detain him for questioning.
  • In the books, Robb sent to the Green Fork approximately 16,000 men against the Lannister 20,000. Instead, in the show, Robb sends 2,000 against 30,000.
  • In the books, Robb captures Ser Jaime unawares, with a small detachment, in the whispering wood. Robb then continues to hit the main Lannister force split between three camps. In the show Robb defeats Ser Jaime's, and the majority of the Lannister, host in open battle.

Fire and Blood

Extra scenes were added to give some backstory
  • A scene between Catelyn and Robb, following the news of Eddard’s death, showing them grieving.
  • A scene between Littlefinger and Varys, to show their animosity toward each other.
  • A sex scene between Pycelle and Ros, providing information about past kings.
  • Catelyn Stark becomes a dutiful supporter of her son, and thirsts for vengeance. In the books, she plays the role of the mother, thinking first of her daughters suffering the emotional cost in silence.
  • Marillion loses his tongue after performing before King Joffrey, in the book, it was an unnamed singer and Marillion continues to appear in the rest of the series. It's unlikely that he will make appearance in the show again.
  • Daenerys is naked as in the novel, although her hair isn't burnt away. Presumably to make her prettier for the camera.

Second season

These differences can be found between the second season of the television series and the second book, A Clash of Kings.

Characters
  • Neither Robb Stark, nor Jaime Lannister, are point of view characters in A Clash of Kings.
  • Asha Greyjoy, sister to Theon, had been renamed Yara Greyjoy to reduce confusion with Osha, the wildling captured in Season 1.
  • Salladhor Saan has had a race change from being described as "tan", in the books, to black.
  • The Spice King is not in the books.

The North Remembers

Extra scenes were added to give some backstory
  • A scene between Robb and Jaime, just before he dictates terms to the Lannisters.
Misc
  • In the books, after greeting Joffrey at the joust, Tyrion inspects the walls of King's Landing where Joffrey has mounted the heads of Eddard Stark and his household. Tyrion's first act as Hand is to order them taken down.
  • Tyrion replaces Janos Slynt with Bronn, instead of Ser Jacelyn Bywater, as in the books, to simplify the plot.
  • In the book, Ser Dontos the Red was indeed drunk, but it was joust, not melee. He was chasing his horse, wearing only his breastplate and helm, with his "manhood" flopping around.
  • Alton Lannister replaces Cleos Frey as a cousin of Jaime's to prevent possible confusion due to the Frey's allegiance with House Stark in the first season.
In the books
  • Daenerys leads her khalasar into The Red Waste to avoid the remnants of Drogo's khalasar. In the book, she follows the red comet. Her horse the Silver dies in the show, but lives in the book long past this point.
  • Melisandre and Stannis' physical relationship is never shown/discussed in A Clash of Kings, though it is suggested in A Dance With Dragons. Stannis's wife Selyse Florent and daughter Shireen do not appear until the third series. Her fool Patchface seems to have been dropped. Edric Storm's role is taken over by Gendry in the third series, while Ser Cortnay Penrose is not mentioned, though his role is implied.
  • The Great Ranging starts with the Night's Watch arrival at Craster's Keep, skipping a few events from the books.
  • Both Barra and her mother (Mhaegen in the series) are killed in the books, as opposed to the sparing of the mother in the TV series.

The Night Lands

What Is Dead May Never Die

  • The Tickler's role is greatly reduced. In the show, Arya chooses the Tickler as Jaqen H'ghar's first victim. In the novel, Arya kills him herself at a later point in the story.
  • Shae poses as handmaiden much later in the books, while in the show she is introduced in this episode.

Garden of Bones

The Ghost of Harrenhal

The Old Gods and the New

  • In the novel, Jon Snow cannot bring himself to kill the wildling Ygritte. He lowers his sword and lets her go. In the show, he swings the sword but misses her on purpose she then tangles with him and escapes. Jon follows her and recaptures her, but they somehow manage to get separated from the other Rangers.
  • The two Reed children do not appear until the third series.
  • In the show, Daenerys' dragons are taken from her in Qarth and many of her followers are killed. In the books, she goes to the House of the Undying to learn about her fate, not to look for her dragons.
  • In the show, Osha comes to Theon's bed chamber and seduces him; while in the books, she impresses him with her skills by disarming one of his men and wielding a spear (she is a spearwife).

A Man Without Honor

Extra scenes were added to give some backstory
  • A scene between Tyrion and Cersei, where Cersei confides in Tyrion about her worries about her son's personality and sanity. Tyrion feels bad for his sister in a rare moment of truth and honesty. In the books, Cersei confiding in Tyrion is not a very likely event.

The Prince of Winterfell

Blackwater

Valar Morghulis

Third season

These differences can be found between the third season of the television series and the third book, A Storm of Swords.

Valar Dohaeris

  • Ser Barristan Selmy introduces himself to Daenerys under different circunstances than those of the book. He uses no false identity (presumably because the viewers would recognise him instantly) and only meets Daenerys after the first talk with the slavemaster of Astapor. Strong Belwas hasn't been introduced so far, and it is not yet revealed if he made contact with Illyrio Mopatis before finding Daenerys.
  • Harrenhal has been relieved by forces led by Robb Stark himself, although Roose Bolton is still present. Qyburn is freed by them, with no mention of Vargo Hoat or the Brave Companions. Talisa and Catelyn are also present.
  • Also in Harrenhal we learn of the death of Jeremy Mallister, a new character that hasn't been mentioned in the books and a bannerman to House Tully. House Mallister are the lords of Seagard.
  • Ros seems to have risen to the favor of Petyr Baelish, acting as a protect or councilor of some sort. Her attitude and clothing indicate an apparent raise in social status.
  • Stannis' storyline has been significantly changed. Edric Storm's role is taken over by Gendry, and there is no mention of either Alester Florent nor of Ser Axell Florent. Davos is only arrested after meeting both Melisandre and Stannis, and by direct decision from Stannis. On the other hand, Shireen and Selyse have both been cast for the season.

Dark Wings, Dark Words

  • Jojen Reed and his sister Meera Reed meet Bran, Rickon, Hodor, Osha, Summer and Shaggydog in this episode for the first time. Howland Reed is mentioned.
  • In a conversation with Talisa, Catelyn Stark reveals complex feelings for Jon Snow that were not hinted at in the books.
  • Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth are captured by men from House Bolton in this episode, in somewhat different circunstances than those of the books. The main difference is that they never passed through Harrenhal, nor met Roose Bolton or the Brave Companions.
  • Renly Baratheon's homosexuality is spoken of in no uncertain terms by Jaime during the time he spends being escorted by Brienne.
  • Samwell Tarly failed to send the ravens warning of the return of the White Walkers, instead releasing them with no messages.

Walk of Punishment

Many storylines are simplified.

  • Theon Greyjoy's first meeting with Ramsay Snow happens under different circumstances, involving a rescue after an escape attempt.
  • Brynden Tully seems to have not worked for Lysa Arryn, but is still a close advisor to Robb Stark.
  • Stannis Baratheon is explicitly aware of his role in the conception of the shadow that killed Renly, and there is no doubt that he is attracted to Melisandre.
  • Podrick Payne is shown as somewhat more light-hearted a character than in the books.
  • Brienne and Jaime meet Bolton men instead of the Brave Companions (who are never mentioned). It happens with similar results as in the books, but does not involve Harrenhal.

And Now His Watch is Ended

Kissed by Fire

  • Olenna's unsuccessful plot to wed Sansa Stark to her grandson happens differently. In the book, she intends for Sansa to marry Willas, not Loras. The plan begins to unravel when Sansa unwisely talks about it with Dontos Hollard, who supposedly shares the information with Petyr Baelish. In the TV series, Loras shares the information with a squire, who, unbeknownst to Loras, is a spy for Baelish. In both versions, Baelish foils the plot by telling Tywin Lannister about it. Tywin then tells his daughter, Cersei, that he intends for Loras to marry her instead; in the book, it is Willas, not Loras.
  • In the TV series, after losing the support of the Karstarks, Robb plans an attack on Casterly Rock. His reason for going to The Twins is to recover the forces that abandoned him earlier when he broke his marriage pact. In the books, Robb marches to The Twins intending to return to the North and reclaim his territory from the ironborn. He needs Walder Frey's cooperation in order to gain passage for his army back across the Trident, not for an assault on Casterly Rock.

The Climb

  • Tormund Giantsbane does not climb the wall in the book.
  • In the book, part of the wall does break off, but it kills many of the Wildlings including Jarl. This event does not endanger Jon Snow or Ygritte.
  • It appears that neither Willas nor Garlan Tyrell exist in the TV series, and that Loras is the Tyrells' only son and heir. When Tywin meets Olenna to discuss having Loras marry Cersei, he threatens to make Loras a knight of the Kingsguard if Olenna does not consent to the marriage. He goes on to say that this would force Loras to renounce his inheritance and remain unwed, and that lordship over Highgarden would pass to Joffrey and Margaery's children. Margaery had also stated in the previous episode that Sansa would be Lady of Highgarden were she to marry Loras. In the books, Loras is the youngest of three brothers and is already on the Kingsguard by this point.

The Bear and the Maiden Fair

  • In the book, before leaving Harrenhal, Brienne bites off part of Vargo Hoat's ear (Vargo is represented in the series by Locke). This does not occur in the TV series.

Second Sons

  • The politics involving the mercenaries are greatly simplified.
  • In the books, Daario Naharis is not a member of the Second Sons, he is a member of the Storm Crows, who are not present.
  • In the books, The Titan's Bastard (Mero) is not killed before the Battle of Yunkai. He is killed by Arstan Whitebeard some time after the battle is won.
  • In the books, Daario is not able to sneak into Daenerys' tent unnoticed. He is caught by the Unsullied and pledges allegiance in a similar manner.
  • Daario's appearance is dramatically different.

The Rains of Castamere

  • In the books, Balon Greyjoy has already died at this point. In the TV series, nothing is mentioned of his death during this season.
  • In the series, Robb Stark's wife was present at the Red Wedding, whereas in the book she is not present. She was killed by being stabbed in the stomach multiple times. This did not happen in the book, where Robb's wife's fate, and that of any unborn child, is unclear.
  • In the series, Grey Wind was killed while in the stable. In the books, Grey Wind managed to escape and put up a fight before eventually succumbing to crossbow wounds.
  • In the series, Catelyn Stark kills Lord Walder Frey's wife in an attempt to have Robb's life spared. In the book, Aegon Frey is the one she kills.
  • In the book, upon seeing the dead body of her son, Catelyn rips her face apart by pressing her nails down on her skin and tearing downward. In the series this is omitted.

Mhysa

  • In the series, Daenerys' army is inexplicably outside the walls of her newly conquered city when the freed slaves come out and greet her with open arms.
  • In the series, Arya and The Hound are leaving The Twins when they come across a group of four men, one of whom is bragging about having sewn Grey Wind's head onto Robb Stark's body. Arya kills this man with a knife she has taken from The Hound without his knowledge. When the three other men attack Arya, The Hound steps in and kills the rest of them. In the book this scene does not take place.
  • In the series, after killing the man that desecrated Robb's body, Arya states that this is the first man she has killed. In the books, she has either directly killed or been complicit in the deaths of several people at this point in her journey.
  • In the series, Ygritte has somehow managed to catch up to Jon Snow after he fled the Wildling party they had been travelling with. She confronts him and he tells her that he must "go home now". Ygritte fires three arrows at Jon, striking him each time. Jon escapes on horseback. In the books this scene does not occur. In the book, while escaping the Wildling party, Jon is shot in the leg by an arrow and discovers that the arrow is one of Ygritte's.

Fifth Season

References and Notes

See also westeros analysis of the Episodes.

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