HBO’s “Game of Thrones” naturally has to make some changes from the books when adapting them to a television show. That’s the nature of the medium.
However, as July and the hotly anticipated season seven approach, we’ve also rounded up 30 differences (in no particular order) that you might not have noticed unless you’ve really read the books carefully.
Warning: There are book and show spoilers in this post so read at your own risk.
Here are the differences between the “Game of Thrones” books and show you may not have noticed:
Everyone's favourite sellsword Daario Naharis looks way different in the books as opposed to the show.
In the the books Daario Naharis is much more flamboyant, taking after his Tyroshi roots. The Tyroshi are known for dyeing their hair bright colours and wearing bright clothes. Daario is described in the novel 'A Storm of Swords' as having a blue trident beard and bright blue, long hair, with a gold mustache and one gold tooth. While both Ed Skrein and Michiel Huisman have done an outstanding job of playing the character in seasons three and four through six, respectively, they aren't exactly what George R.R. Martin had in mind.
Missandei isn't having an almost-romance with Grey Worm any time soon in the books, because she's only 10!
Daenarys refers to Missandei often in the 'A Song of Ice and Fire' book series as her 'little scribe,' because the girl is so small. When she's introduced in the show during season three, she appears to be much older. Her age is unconfirmed in the show, but you can take your own guesses based on her picture here. Also the slavers of Astapor offer her with no prompting in the book 'A Storm of Swords.' In the show during season three, Daenerys demands they give her Missandei (as a gift).
Mance Rayder is still alive in the books, kind of, despite being burned alive on the show. Well, he's mostly alive. He was still burned at the stake.
In the book 'A Dance with Dragons' and in season five of the show, Mance Rayder is burned alive at the stake. But, in the book, Melisandre does some red-priestess magic to switch Mance Rayder and the Lord of Bones' (aka Rattleshirt's) body. You remember the Lord of Bones, right? He wore... bones... lots of them. Anyways, Stannis wanted to burn Mance Rayder, but Melisandre thought Mance Rayder would still be useful later on, so she wanted to keep his soul alive. She clearly didn't share the same thoughts about the Lord of Bones. It's really quite complicated and you should read 'A Dance with Dragons' to get a full description of it but for right now: Mance = alive, Rattleshirt = dead.
Ser Jorah Mormont also looks quite different in the books compared to the show. He's described as Daenerys' 'black bear' multiple times in 'A Game of Thrones,' in reference to his black (but balding) hair. His body is described as quite hairy as well.
A little different than Iain Glen, who plays him.
Oh, and Mormont never gets greyscale in the books like he does in the show during seasons five and six. The showrunners were basically combining his storyline with part of another character's, who hasn't appeared in the show: Jon Connington.
Jon Connington is supposed to be escorting young Aegon Targaryen, Rhaegar's son, who isn't dead, to see Daenerys and then over to Westeros during 'A Dance with Dragons.' He's been watching over Aegon since he fled King's Landing. But he gets greyscale while pulling Tyrion out of the water (just like Jorah did in season five). Jon hasn't appeared in the show and this may be a sign he won't.
Sansa Stark is nowhere near Winterfell in the books, hasn't met up with Jon, and was never married to Ramsey. Instead, her old friend Jeyne Poole was the one sent up North to marry Ramsey. The showrunners have basically switched their storylines.
This is a big bummer because Sansa is actually doing decently well in the books! In 'A Feast for Crows' and 'A Dance with Dragons,' it was Jeyne Poole, who is posing as Arya Stark, who gets married off to Ramsey. All the abuse is happening to her, and she escapes with Theon and the help of Mance Rayder during 'A Dance with Dragons.' Sansa, meanwhile, is chilling out at the Eyrie with Lord Petyr Baelish (aka Littlefinger).
Littlefinger has some big tricks up his sleeve for Sansa, and they're very different than in the show. For one, he isn't hoping to marry her.
Lord Petyr Baelish organised for Sansa to be married to Ser Harry Hardyng, also known as 'Harry the Heir,' in 'A Feast for Crows.' His nickname reflects the fact that Harry Hardyng is heir to the Eyrie behind Robin/Robert Arryn (we'll call him Robin, his show name, to make things easier). Littlefinger indicated to Sansa in 'A Feast for Crows' that sickly little boys like Robin Arryn die accidentally all the time, and if that were to happen, she and Harry Hardyng would take the Eyrie.
Harry isn't thrilled to be marrying her in 'The Winds of Winter.' This whole time she's been posing as Littlefinger's bastard daughter (not his niece as she's described in the show). He thinks he's above marrying a bastard and is annoyed he's pushed into it, but he'll probably perk up when he finds out that she's Sansa Stark.
The future is looking bright for Sansa, but not little Robin Arryn...
In season six, it appears that the Tyrell line is wiped out as Margaery, Loras, and Mace die in the Sept of Baelor. But in the books there are two other Tyrell sons who aren't dead.
The Tyrell line isn't over in the books! Willas Tyrell, the oldest born, is holding fort ruling at Highgarden as of 'A Dance with Dragons.' Garlan 'the Gallant' Tyrell has been seen in King's Landing with his wife, but as of 'A Feast for Crows' he was out taking back the Shield Islands from the Ironborn.
Olenna Tyrell briefly tried to marry Sansa Stark to Willas Tyrell in 'A Storm of Swords.' The show replaced this with Sansa being (almost) married to Loras Tyrell in season three instead, preventing Willas from making an appearance. In both cases, Sansa was married to Tyrion to prevent the union.
Targaryens are depicted as famously having violet eyes and silver-blond hair. They got the hair decently right with Daenerys and Viserys, but the producers didn't go for the violet eyes.
Targaryens have violet eyes and silver-blond hair due to their Valyrian roots, as these are the traits of the people of Valyria, according to 'A Game of Thrones.'
On the other hand, staring at violent eyes on TV could get distracting.
Khal Drogo doesn't have bells in his hair when he appears throughout season one, despite this being a pretty important cultural tradition for the Dothraki in 'A Game of Thrones.'
The hair length of Khal Drogo is about right according to what 'A Game of Thrones' describes, but the hair isn't braided as it is in the book, and it doesn't have bells. These are really important because in Dothraki culture whenever a man wins a battle, he adds a bell to his braid, and whenever he loses a battle, he cuts off his entire braid in shame, according to 'A Game of Thrones.' The book said that Khal Drogo has never cut his braid, meaning he has never lost a battle.
In the book 'A Game of Thrones,' though Daenerys didn't want to marry Drogo, it is explicitly explained that Drogo managed to seduce her. Most importantly, he blatantly asks permission to have sex, and she says yes (without lying -- it's a point-of-view chapter so there's no speculation and her thoughts are described). In the show in season one, Drogo rapes her. We see her cry while her clothes are ripped off and, yeah, it's rape.
However, it's worth noting that Daenerys is 13 years old in 'A Game of Thrones' and Khal Drogo is supposed to be in his late 20s. So even though she said yes, it would still be statutory rape because she's underage. In our world, at least. In Westeros, who knows what their statutory-rape laws are?
This one's such a small difference, you'd miss if it you blinked: Bran sees a three-eyed 'crow' in the 'Song of Ice and Fire' book series, but in the show it's a three-eyed 'raven.'
This could be because the men of the Night's Watch are called 'crows,' and TV producers may not have wanted to mix things up.
Arya Stark wargs a ton (aka goes into the body of an animal) during 'A Dance with Dragons,' but we don't see any of this in seasons five and six.
Remember when she was blind in the books and show? Well, during 'A Dance with Dragons' she can slip into the skin of an alley cat. It was really helpful to her in the book, letting her spy on other people while she was blind. She also dreamt through her wolf, Nymeria, a small sign of warging.
In the books Bronn doesn't help Jaime practice sword fighting -- it's Ilyn Payne who does that. And Jaime has a good reason for picking Payne.
In the book and show, Jaime trains up his left hand for sword fighting, but in the show in season four he trains with Bronn at King's Landing. In the book 'A Feast for Crows,' he trains with Ser Ilyn Payne, the king's justice (the guy who lopped off Ned Stark's head) while on his way to break the siege at Riverrun (which is broken in season six in the show, much later than in the book). Jaime picks Ilyn Payne because the man can't talk (he had his tongue cut out). Jaime's biggest fear is that his training partner will tell others that he's a bad fighter now, but he doesn't need to worry about that with Payne. It's a smart tactic.
Sam and Gilly go to Oldtown in the book as well as in the show, but they go with an alive Maester Aemon. Well, kind of alive. He dies, on the way. Very sad, as arguably everyone loved Maester Aemon.
Sam and Gilly still travel to Oldtown in the book 'A Feast for Crows,' but they go with a very old and still alive Maester Aemon, and with Mance Rayder's baby, not Gilly's baby. Yes, Mance Rayder had a son, but the boy's mother died and he's been living at Castle Black. Jon Snow switches the babies and demands Maester Aemon be sent away with them. He makes the decision because Melisandre is rushing to burn anyone with 'king's blood' to get Stannis on the throne, and he doesn't want Mance Rayder's baby (who has king's blood since Mance Rayder was a king) or Aemon (whose father and brother were kings) being burned alive. Maester Aemon dies during travel from old age, but Sam and Gilly and Mance's son make it to Oldtown.
Gendry on the show is given a bit of the story of Edric Storm, who doesn't appear on the HBO 'Game of Thrones.' Storm is a higher-born bastard son of Robert Baratheon. All that stuff about Gendry at Dragonstone doesn't happen to Gendry -- it happens to Edric Storm. Except the weird sex stuff with Melisandre, because Edric Storm is 12.
Edric Storm is the son of Robert Baratheon and Delena Florent (Stannis Baratheon's wife's cousin). Davos sneaks Storm away with the help of a few other men in 'A Storm of Swords' and 'A Feast for Crows' because Melisandre has gone crazy for king's blood again, just like how he helps Gendry in the show. As of 'A Dance with Dragons' Edric Storm is hiding in Lys. (Maybe Gendry is in Lys in the show? Who knows -- as of the show he's still rowing that little boat.) In the books, as of 'A Feast for Crows,' Gendry is working as a smith at the Inn at the Crossroads where he saves Brienne's life when a fight breaks out there.
Doran Martell has a lot more going on in the books. He still has bad gout, but it is revealed in 'A Feast for Crows' that he's been secretly plotting for years to marry his daughter Arianne (who doesn't appear in the show) to Viserys Targaryen.
When Viserys dies he plots to marry his second child, a son Quentyn, to Daenerys Targaryen. He ships Quentyn and a few other men all the way to Meereen in 'A Feast for Crows' and 'A Dance with Dragons' to have him beg Daenerys for his hand in marriage to retake Westeros. Unfortunately, Quentyn ultimately dies there during 'A Dance with Dragons' when he's burned alive by Daenerys' dragon Rhaegal. Don't feel too horrible for him -- it's kind of his fault. He goes into the dragon pit thinking he can tame the dragons due to his Targaryen blood (from generations ago). A smarter man would have avoided them.
During the show Doran Martell mostly sits around, betroths his only son Trystane to Myrcella Baratheon, and resists all pressure to go to war. No secret plotting. It's kind of a bummer since he's so much more exciting in the book.
Robb isn't in love with his wife in the book, and his wife isn't the Volantene Talisa he marries in season two of the show. Instead, he marries Jeyne Westerling in 'A Storm of Swords.' She's a girl from an ancient house in the Westerlands whose family is sworn to House Lannister.
He's staying with the Westerlings at their castle in 'A Storm of Swords' after suffering a wound in a battle there fighting Lannister armies, when Jeyne comforts him upon the news that his brothers Bran and Rickon had been killed by Theon Greyjoy (which isn't true, but Robb doesn't know that). Robb marries her because he's had sex with her and is ashamed, and really doesn't want a bastard to be born out of it, and in general thinks it's the right thing to do for her. The wedding is in secret, as it is in the show, and the Freys are pretty mad, like in the show. The Northerners lose a lot of respect for him, too, marrying the enemy and all.
In the show, Robb meets the Volantene Talisa in season two as she's tending to wounded men in the aftermath of a battle and they fall in love and marry in secret near the end of the season. Also, unlike Talisa who's killed at the Red Wedding in season three of the show, Jeyne Westerling is still alive and well. She never went to the Red Wedding to avoid insulting Lord Walder Frey. It's revealed in 'A Feast for Crows' that her mother has been secretly giving her potions to prevent her from conceiving a child with Robb. As of 'A Feast for Crows,' Jeyne is not pregnant and has been sent back to the Westerlands by Jaime Lannister after he broke the Riverrun siege.
Jon Snow creates House Thenn out of the leader of a wildling clan and Alys Karstark in 'A Dance With Dragons' to prevent Alys from being forced to marry her cousin, after she flees to Castle Black for safety. Melisandre performs the wedding between Alys and Sigorn Thenn. This is all left out of the show.
Technically Alys has a brother Harrion Karstark, but he's a captive in Maidenpool as of 'A Feast for Crows,' and it's revealed in 'A Dance With Dragons' that her uncle plans to ask King Stannis to allow Alys to inherit, skipping over her brother. Alys' cousin would inherit Karhold if she were married to him. By marrying Alys to Sigorn, Magnar of Thenn, Jon secures the castle for Alys (and the Thenns) should her brother Harrion die. (Magnar means 'lord' in the language of the First Men, which is still spoken by clans north of the Wall.)
It's worth noting that in the books, Thenns are not cannibals like they are in the show. Actually they're quite civilized. It's the Ice-river clans that are cannibals, but the show probably didn't feel like going over all the clans (there are too many to name) and just combined the two.
In the books, the dwarf joust at King Joffrey's wedding (between four dwarfs) in season four is actually between two dwarf jousters, a brother and sister, one impersonating Robb Stark and one impersonating Stannis Baratheon in 'A Feast for Crows.' Those two jousters are actually quite important for Tyrion's future, as he runs into the sister later in the books in 'A Dance with Dragons.' It was Littlefinger's idea and Joffrey was bored by the suggestion at first, until Littlefinger told him it would embarrass his uncle Tyrion.
The sister is furious at Tyrion because her beloved brother had been killed for being mistaken for Tyrion after Cersei offered a lordship to any man who brought her Tyrion's head. The two end up becoming almost friends and are sold as slaves together as a jousting act (with Jorah Mormont, who doesn't have greyscale, remember?) in 'A Dance With Dragons.'
Also, the jousters ride a dog and a pig in the books, and in the show they don't ride anything and just have animals made into their costumes so it appears they're riding something.
Remember that huge mob the Lannisters get into after sending Myrcella off in 'A Clash for Kings' and season two? Well Lollys Stokeworth was there and got raped, unfortunately. She gives birth to a bastard son in 'A Feast for Crows' and Bronn, who marries her in the book series but not in the show, names it Tyrion to anger Cersei and honour his friend Tyrion. Cersei is livid when she receives news of it but Jaime laughs it off. In the show Lollys is not pregnant and Bronn's engagement to her is broken off.
It actually makes more sense in the book why Lysa Arryn is so obsessed with her son and you really feel for her. The show doesn't go into it very much and she mostly comes off as nuts, but her past is really quite heartbreaking.
It's revealed in 'A Storm of Swords' that Lysa's father forced her to have an abortion after getting pregnant as a teenager from Petyr Baelish (who she had a huge crush on). She hoped her father would let her marry Petyr but Lord Hoster Tully believed Petyr too lowborn for his daughter and sent him away soon after the pregnancy. The abortion, brought on by 'moon tea,' was particularly traumatic, though, and Lysa nearly died from it. The need for abortion was a very embarrassing fact for Lord Hoster Tully and he was desperate to get his daughter married off before anyone found out the secret.
Jon Arryn had been trying to have an heir for years and was getting quite old. He was almost the same age as Hoster actually! Jon Arryn was looking for a healthy young bride proven to be fertile, since his other wives were unable to give him children. Lysa Arryn fit the bill and united the Tullys and Arryns in time for Robert's Rebellion, revealed in 'A Game of Thrones.'
It's revealed in 'A Storm of Swords' that Lysa had five miscarriages and two stillborn children with Jon Arryn before Robin Arryn came along. It makes sense at this point why she'd fiercely cling to Robin, who is a sickly boy. In addition to the paranoia she's going through (detailed in the books), Jon Arryn was making plans to have their son fostered on Dragonstone by Stannis Baratheon, because he wanted to strengthen the boy up. This was the last straw for Lysa, leading her to kill Jon Arryn to prevent her son from going to Dragonstone before the start of 'A Game of Thrones.' Robert Baratheon offered to send Robin Arryn to Casterly Rock to be fostered with Tywin Lannister after Jon Arryn's death, but Lysa fled King's Landing in 'A Game of Thrones' before it could happen.
Roose Bolton is known as the 'Leech Lord' in the books because he's really obsessed with leeches! Arya Stark on multiple occasions in 'A Clash for Kings' has to clean up leeches while serving him at Harrenhal and he's known to have pale skin due to the regular leechings.
When Roose Bolton takes over at Harrenhal he has Arya Stark as his cupbearer in 'A Clash for Kings.' (She never serves Tywin Lannister like she does in the show, but she's there at the same time as him doing other work.) Roose asks Arya how she feels about leeches, to which she indicates she doesn't care. After that we see Roose Bolton getting leeched, often. He believes it gets rid of the bad blood and on one occasion in 'A Clash for Kings' has a meeting with Freys where he is leeched while naked. The visual... it's not pretty.
Arya saves over a hundred Northern prisoners at Harrenhal with the help of Jaqen H'ghar in 'A Clash for Kings.' Arya uses the threat of his name to demand that he free all the northern prisoners at Harrenhal. H'ghar agrees after objecting at first, and they kill the guards in a funny chain of events involving a lot of hot soup from the kitchens. Her actions essentially take back the castle for Northerners.
Because she uses her name threat to save the Northerners in the books, and not to have Jaqen help her escape, as on the show, she has to escape all on her own. After she finds out Roose intends to leave her with the Brave Companions, led by Vargo Hoat (he's the guy who cuts off Jaime's hand but is named Locke in the show) at Harrenhal in 'A Clash for Kings,' Arya decides to escape with Hot Pie and Gendry. She steals a dagger and map from Bolton's chambers (the map part is really important), and then kills a gate guard, before the three of them ride out. Pretty clever for a girl who's supposed to be only 10.
There's a crazy rumour in the book 'A Clash for Kings' that Shireen Baratheon's father is Patchface, the family's half-mad court jester who doesn't appear in the show. Cersei, Tyrion, and Littlefinger launch the rumour in retaliation for Stannis Baratheon sending letters all over the seven kingdoms claiming Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen to be bastards of incest.
Cersei originally wants to deny the rumours and take the tongue of anyone heard spreading them in 'A Clash for Kings,' but Tyrion advises her not to. Tyrion says it would look like the rumours are true. Instead, the rumour of Shireen's parentage is agreed on and Littlefinger's whores along with Varys' network of spies spread the rumour through brothels and pubs.
We're still sad they killed Shireen off in the show since she's still alive in the book.
By the way, it's a huge bummer they never showed Patchface. He's actually a pretty interesting character. Remember the song 'It's Always Summer Under the Sea' that Shireen sings in season three? Well Patchface sang it in 'A Clash of Kings,' and it's a lot darker than it sounds. Patchface lost his wits after being drowned by a storm that killed 100 men, and his rhymes tend to be ominous and gloomy and some think they may be prophecies. Patchface is good friends with Shireen, though, so it's entirely possible she'd sing the song, too.
Xaro Xhoan Daxos is described as crying to Dany many times in the 'Song of Ice and Fire' series. It's said in 'A Clash for Kings' that in Qarth people who don't cry are uncivilized, so it's very common to be having a conversation with a Qartheen and they suddenly start crying over the drop of a hat.
Daenerys has to learn to ignore his tears to get on with her business, because seriously the guy cries at everything. She says she doesn't want to marry him, he sobs. You get the picture.
In the show in season two, Yoren gives Arya the idea of her death prayer, in which she recites the names of everyone she wants to kill. But the list is Arya's own idea in 'A Clash of Kings.' She recites the names to remind herself to kill them one day.
Arya's full death list in the book is different than in the show. In the book series her death list (roughly) is: Ser Amory Lorch, Cersei Lannister, Chiswyck, Dunsen, Gregor Clegane, Ilyn Payne, Joffrey Baratheon, Meryn Trant, Polliver, Raff the Sweetling, Sandor Clegane, The Tickler, and Weese.
In the show, her list (roughly) is: Joffrey Baratheon, Cersei Lannister, Walder Frey, Meryn Trant, Tywin Lannister, Melisandre, Beric Dondarrion, Thoros of Myr, Ilyn Payne, Gregor Clegane, and Sandor Clegane.
The list changes as people die and as she adds people to it, so there are multiple versions. Either way, Ser Amory Lorch, Chiswyck, Dunsen, Raff the Sweetling, and Weese never make it to the show list because they aren't characters in the show.
In the show we see Davos Seaworth's son Matthos die at the Battle of the Blackwater in season three, and it's really sad. But in the book series, he has seven sons. Four -- Dale, Allard, Matthos, and Maric -- die at the Battle of the Blackwater in 'A Clash for Kings.' But Devan, Stannis, and Steffon are still alive.
Stannis and Steffon live with their mother and Davos' wife, Marya, on land at Cape Wrath, where Davos was given a keep and lands when he was knighted by Stannis Baratheon. Devan is serving as a squire to King Stannis as of 'A Feast For Crows' and is setting up camp in Castle Black as of 'A Dance with Dragons.'
Cersei never slaps Joffrey in the books, like she does in the Great Hall scene in season two. In fact, Robert wants to beat Joffrey often in 'A Game of Thrones,' but Cersei always forbids him from laying a hand on any of the children.
Hizdahr Zo Loraq tries to kill Daenerys in 'A Dance with Dragons,' and a lot of people think he's 'the Harpy' (the guy controlling the 'Sons of the Harpy' movement). He's dead in the show, though, and never seemed to pose a threat to Daenerys while he was alive.
In the book 'A Dance with Dragons' a newly wed Hizdahr tries to poison Daenerys by encouraging her to eat spiced locusts multiple times but refusing to touch them himself. Daenerys is not exactly into locusts so she declines. A member of her court, Strong Belwas (who doesn't appear in the show), does have a taste for locusts so he eagerly eats a whole bunch. It's discovered later that the locusts were laced with poison. Belwas barely survives the locusts. It's theorised in the book that he survived the poison due to his large size, but if Daenerys had eaten them they likely would have killed her.
It's a good plan if you think about it, from Hizdahr's point of view. If Daenerys had died he would have been king of Meereen on his own and he could have reinstated slavery or whatever he wanted without her stopping him. Sadly (for him), it doesn't work. A lot of people think he's the Harpy, and I think so, too, but no one can say for sure because nowhere in the books does it say, 'Hizdahr is the Harpy.'
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