HBO’s Game of Thrones and the differences between the books and the series

The fifth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones is the clearest sign yet of the changes that are happening to the story as it moves from book to small screen especially as the series approaches the point where it catches up with George R.R. Martin’s published output.

Alterations with regard to any novel are inevitable in any adaptation, especially so with a book series as mammoth as GOT. Showrunners Benioff and Weiss have never shied away from making changes but are being forced to become increasingly bolder with their plot structure as the series moves further forward.

With that in mind we present a run down of major differences between the books and the series. Bear in mind then that this is a spoiler filled look for both book and series fans.


The Red Wedding

In the books: The wife of Robb, Jeyne Westerling, stays in Aguasdulces to avoid tensions during the wedding of Edmure Tully and Roslyn Frey. After the events of the bloody red wedding, Jeyne languishes for two years guarded by soldiers to make sure she doesn’t give birth to an heir of Robb. (Clearly the gestation period is longer in the Seven Kingdoms)

In the series: Robb marries Volantis born Talisa Maegyr. Talisa is not only pregnant and accompanies Rob to the wedding but dies along with him and the rest of the guests at the wedding.

Lady Stoneheart

In the books: After her death, Catelyn Stark comes to life zombie style under the name Lady Stoneheart she is consumed by thoughts of revenge.

In the series: The matriarch of the Stark family has so far simply died and since we are half way through the fifth season we don’t see that changing anytime soon.

The False Arya

In the books: Jeyne Poole, one of Sansa’s best friends in Winterfell is used by Jamie Lannister to secure his alliance with the Bolton clan. She pretends to be Arya and marries Ramsay Bolton.

In the series: To simplify things Sansa is promised to Ramsay and we are expecting something not good to happen as the fifth season reaches its climax.


The Fate of Mance Rayder

In the books: Stannis plans to kill Mance Rayder after the refusal of the leader of the Wildlings to kneel before him. But, Melisandre and Mance use trickery to put someone else in his place. Mance Rayder then embarks on a rescue mission to save Jeyne from the clutches of Ramsay.

In the series: Mance is executed by order of Stannis. Burned alive at the stake he is put out of his misery by Jon Snow.

The Fate of Sir Barristan Selmy

In the books: Sir Barristan doesn’t die and remains in charge of the city of Meereen when Daenerys departs on the back of Drogon, one of her dragons.

In the series: Sir Barristan dies murdered in the streets of Meereen, after a hard fight against the children of the Harpy, a secret society that is opposed to Daenerys.


Ser Jorah and Daeneys

In the books: Jorah Mormont is a spy for the Lannisters, and just like in the series falls in love with Daenerys. Although in the book Song of Ice and Fire he tries to kiss her and even asks for her hand in marriage. In addition to rejecting him, the mother of dragons also sends him on a dangerous mission in Meereen before being sent into exile.

In the series: The fate of Ser Jorah is the same, but not the path that leads him into exile. In the HBO series his feelings for Daenerys are made implicit but his love remains unrequited. It’s purely his treachery that sends him into exile.

Xaro Xhoan Daxos trick

In the books: Xaro proposes marriage to Daenerys when this visit Qarth, but she learns of his homosexual inclinations and leaves the city after rejecting his offer. Later the merchant sends 13 boats in the direction of Meereen to force her to leave the city. If she refuses, Qarth plans to declares war on Meereen.

In the series: Xaro also proposes marriage but mainly so he can steal her dragons.

The Escape of Tyrion

In the books: Tyrion escapes from King’s landing, after murdering his father, but without the help of Varys. It is Illyrio Mopatis, a rich merchant from Penthus linked to the Targaryens who helps him. He does head to Meereen though where we are introduced to wnew characters, among them Aegon Targaryen, Daenerys’s nephew and son of Rhaegar Targaryen.

In the series: There is no evidence that Aegon Targaryen is alive in the series or will make an appearance especially given that Ser Jorah is the one who has kidnapped Tyrion and is taking him to Meereen.

The Mission of Jamie Lannister

In the books: Cersei sends Jamie to end the siege of Aguasdulces after the events of the red wedding. After learning to fight with one hand thanks to the help of Ilyn Payne he ends the siege and meets up with Brienne of Tarth.

In the series: Jamie embarks on a secret mission to rescue his niece – and daughter Myrcella from the Kingdom of Dorne and return her to King’s landing. He does so accompanied by Bronn, the mercenary who served his brother Tyrion and taught Jamie to fight with his one good hand.


The Fate of Bronn

In the books: The latest book, Dance of Dragons does not mention anything about Bronn’s fate. Previously, he had left Tyrion for a prominent marriage arranged by Cersei. Later though, the Queen Mother tries to kill him because she suspects he is still loyal to Tyrion.

In the series: Bronn replaced Ilyn Payne as Jamie’s sparring partner and Cersei’s brother also uses him when he embarks on the mission to retrieve Myrcella Baratheon.

The arrest of Loras Tyrell

In the books: The popularity of the Knight in King’s landing and his skill with the sword makes Cersei consider him a danger and feels the need to get him away from the Court. She sends him on a suicidal mission in Rocadragon where he is is fatally wounded.

In the series: The High Sparrows arrest him for his homosexuality. This sexual inclination in the books is hinted, but never made as explicit as in the scenes of the series.


The Reasons of Jon Snow

In the books: The bastard of the Stark clan rejects Stannis and leaves The Nights Watch for religious reasons and in doing so turns his back on the chance of being named as Ned Starks legitimate son.

In the series: Jon rejects the proposition of Stannis alluding to his oath and commitment with The Night’s Watch. The refusal occurs before being elected Lord Commander, unlike the books.

Jon Snow legitimate son

In the books: Before his death Robb recognizes Jon as the legitimate son of Eddard Stark to prevent the Lannisters exercising any control over the North. A measure of his desperation because by that time Sansa was married to Tyrion and it was believed that Bran and Rickon were dead.

In the series: Robb suggests to his mother the idea of legitimizing Jon but Catelyn is opposed outright. In the fifth season Jon is still a bastard, though has received – and rejected – the offer from Stannis to make him legitimate.

The Fate of The Hound

In the series: Sandor Clegane aka The Hound kidnaps Arya and tries to take her to the Starks in order to claim a reward Along the way they encounter Brienne and she ends up severly wounding The Hound. He tell Arya that she should kill him and end his suffering, but she refuses and walks away leaving him to a slow death.

In the books: The Hound is injured in the leg after his fight with Brienne but Arya still walks away and leave him to die.


The Greyjoy Family

In the books: After the death of Balon, the three children of the family vie for power. Euron Greyjoy, Asha Greyjoy and Victarion Greyjoy. Victarion goes to find Daenerys and ask for her hand marriage, while Asha leaves the Iron Islands and is captured by Stannis.

In the series: We haven’t seen much of the Greyjoys outside of the incessant torturing of Theon by Ramsay Bolton and a failed rescue attempt by Asha. No bad thing as they are a bit glum these Iron Islanders!

There are five episodes left in the fifth season and rumours include the death of a major character with the most likely candidate being Sansa after getting married to Ramsay but that is mere fan conjecture at the moment. There is a general feeling of things coming together though. As to how much more of a divergence we will see from series to books from now on, well only Martin, Weiss and Benioff know and they are not saying.

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