Game of Thrones - Eight Ways the TV Series Differs from the Book

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HBO's epic series based on George R.R. Martin's first novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series concludes next month. I've been doing my best to sum up the adventures of the Starks, Lannisters and Targaryens each week in such a way that newcomers to the story wouldn't be overwhelmed by the sheer tonnage of characters and storylines weaving their way through the series.

But having read the books (several times) and receiving a convenient lead-in from last week's newbie observations entry from Rich Connelly, I thought I'd go the opposite route and look at some key differences between the series and the book it's based on. Because anal-retentive nitpicking is what we do. In America.

And unlike my show recaps, things are going to get fairly spoiler-y after the jump. If you're looking to avoid surprises for the rest of the season (and next, for that matter), you've been warned.

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1. Where Are the Goddamned Direwolves? You remember them, right? One for each trueborn child of Ned and Catelyn Stark, plus one for Ned's bastard Jon Snow.

They popped up here and there in the first few episodes (Sansa's wolf Lady was famously killed by Ned after Nymeria - Arya's wolf - gnawed on Joffrey). Ever since, the only one we've seen is Jon's (Ghost), even though Grey Wind (Robb's) and Summer (Bran's) supposedly played a key role in taking out the wildlings who attacked Bran last week. Instead, they were nowhere to be seen.

For all I know, this is a conscious strategy by Benioff and Weiss given the...somewhat diminished role the wolves play in later books. Still, they shouldn't be hard to incorporate at this stage, given that they're still only the size of your average German shepherd.

2. Ned's May Or May Not Be a Total Badass In the show, Ned squares off with Jaime in front of Littlefinger's brothel, giving as good as he gets before one of the Lannisters puts a spear though his leg. Jaime, the captain of the Kingsguard, is widely regarded as one of the finest swordsman in the Seven Kingdoms, and Ned fought him to a standstill.

I'm of two minds about this. In the book, Ned is a soldier when required, but doesn't live for it. Jaime Lannister, on the other hand, is mentioned in the same breath with Barristan the Bold and Ser Arthur Dayne (the "Sword of the Morning"). More to the point, Ned and Jaime never actually cross swords.

Then again, when Robert's Rebellion is discussed later in the series, it's pointed out that Ned was one of only two survivors of the fight in the Tower of Joy against Dayne and two other members of the Kingsguard (the other being Howland Reed, Lord of Greywater Watch). So...maybe he is as badass as they portrayed him. More likely it was just a way to get the two primary figures in the series to mix it up.

Gay? Sure, but maybe not *that* gay.
3. The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

It's (strongly) hinted in A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings that Renly and Loras were...putting from the rough, but neither was ever given a POV chapter and nothing like the manscaping scene happened in the books. Frankly, I don't think it radically alters things. To be honest, there was a hell of a lot of exposition to get through in the first half of the TV season, and it couldn't always be Robert and Ned bullshitting with each other.

Speaking of Renly, in the book he's described as a young Robert (tall and muscular), so I'm not buying the popinjay they have playing him now. But since we've most likely seen the last of him this season, it doesn't make much difference either way.

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Two things you are wrong about. Daenerys got mounted in the book on her wedding night just like on TV, and later she took lessons on how to be better in the bed just liken TV. She gradually gets more aggressive. HBO got that right.Also: Ros was NOT, I repeat WAS NOT a character in the book. Go back and reread the book.


I figured that there would be changes, but some of the changes they made are just terrible. I haven't watched much of the series, and I may not after reading your article. I'm sad to hear that the direwolves don't play a big part in the TV series. They are a major plot point in the series, so for them to be largely ignored is not good. As for Renly/Loras, I would have rather their relationship been kept more subtle, the way it was in the books. I have nothing at all against the relationship itself, but I feel like the way it was done in the books made more sense, especially since neither of them are PoV characters, as you said.  Just tossing a sex scene in for the sake of thrills is gratuitous. It cheapens the relationship between the two men to me. The scene is made even more disappointing by the bad casting choice made for Renly. Changing characters' looks and behavior from book to big or small screen is something that drives me crazy. Why try to "improve" a story and characters with changes? If the story was good enough to become a #1 bestseller, and to be made into a major television show, why change it? 

Also, sad as it is, some of the people in the books are said to be much better looking than those that portray them in the TV show, such as Renly (ESPECIALLY Renly), Jon Snow, Catelyn, King Robert, and Jamie Lannister. I'm not sure whether the casting director never really read the books, or they owed somebody a favor, but some of the casting is just off. Some of the casting is great, such as Danaerys, Ned, Khal Drogo, Joffry, Sansa, and Ser Loras. Renly has a small part, true, but he was supposed to be handsome, tall, and suave. He was not a silly-looking short guy with a crew cut. I just wish that the same amount of care was extended to all of the characters when it came to casting decisions. Some of these characters may have had small parts in the first book, but they have much larger parts later on. So we'll be stuck with the lousy casting jobs for a long time.

P Littlefinger27
P Littlefinger27

a few comments:People are always prettier in "Hollywood" than in books.I don't believe Jaime is Captain of the Kingsguard yet.Tyrion is could use at least some sore legs, as they are always mentioning the twisted things in the books.The battle of the Blackwater Rush should take care of Tyrion being too pretty.Khalasar should be MUCH more formiddable looking, you are correct.Ned Stark IS a BADASS.  He quenched the "Sword of the Morning" I believe, and they still sing of him in the songs. 

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