How Does What Happens In Game Of Thrones The Books Compare To What Happens In Game Of Thrones The Series?

As the TV series takes over the books, we take a look at how similar the two really are.

How Does What Happens In Game Of Thrones The Books Compare To What Happens In Game Of Thrones The Series?

by Jess Commons |
Published on

In April, after much posturing about what a lack of a hair cut might mean, a heap of ‘SHAME’ parodies and a kajillion fan theories, Game of Thrones returns to our screens to finally put to bed at least one plot point and then open up at least 400 more.

This time though, you won’t have your more studious pals leaning over your shoulder threatening to give away what happens since they’ve read the bloody books because the TV show has finally taken over the timeline currently covered by The Song Of Fire And Ice series of fantasy novels.

We’re in unchartered territory for the first time, and you better believe here be monsters. But what has HBO’s jewel in the crown missed from George R.R. Martin’s books and what have they added? If you haven’t watched the series yet, or read any of the books then it might be best to stop reading now. But seriously, why did you even get this far?

Jon Snow’s parentage


Fan theories about the true Mom and Pop of Jon Snow abound online, drawing reference points from the books and the shadowy nature of Ned Stark’s bastard son’s conception and upbringing. The beauty of Martin’s prose is that all chapters are told from a single character’s perspective so Ned’s thoughts often drift to his sister who died seemingly at the hands of Rhaegar Targaryan (Daenerys’ eldest brother) and caused the battle that saw Robert Baratheon become King dropping subtle hints as to who the mama (and indeed papa might be).

There were some mutterings of this in the first series and Ned even promises that when he returns from his duties in the south he will fill Jon Snow in on who his mother was. One headless hand later and the mystery continues to swirl. Almost forgotten in the TV show this may well be about to U-turn with casting calls out for a young Sean Bean to possibly fill in some of the blanks left after his death at the end of Season 1/Book 1.

A Redder Wedding

A water(blood)shed moment for the series both on screen and page, this was much more graphic on television, and not just because this writer has a distinct lack of imagination. Though it is true that Robb of the doomed House Stark was betrayed by the Boltons and Walder Frey for jilting the latter’s daughter(s) the manner in which his wife was killed was frankly a little much. The stab to a pregnant belly was enough to make even the most battle hardened wince.

In the book, the courting of Robb and his wife is lighter in details (Robb never gets his own chapter), just that his mother doesn’t approve (his wife in the books is Jeyne Westerling, a family with close ties to House Lannister) and that Jeyne’s own mother also isn’t too keen on the King in the North, so much so that she slips her moon tea (Westeros’ version of the pill) to stop Robb from siring a child.

A Stark Ressurrection

This may yet come to pass, but in the books, Catelyn Stark’s body is recovered after the events of the Red Wedding and given new life by the apparently immortal Beric Dondarrion (seen in the show wearing an eye patch and knocking around with Dennis Pennis), who gives his immortality for hers. She then wanders the land lynching anyone who’s even heard of the Freys or the Lannisters. Though this is an unnecessary departure in the books it may have paved the way a little more for the resurrection that is sure to come from the death of Jon Snow. Though we think it might be best left to rest. Catelyn’s been through enough bless her.

Jaime and Cersei sitting in a tree, messing up their ancestry

Though both Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Lena Headey have been excellent in their portrayals of the incestuous Lannister twins there have been moments when the writers have made odd decisions about their relationship. None more so than in episode 3 of season 4 when Jaime essentially rapes his sister undoing the redemption he had gone through thanks to his friendship with Brienne of Tarth. Not only did this not happen in the books, the writers of the TV series seem to turn to stories of rape all too quickly when wondering what to do with their female characters. Case in point being the recent marital bed scene after Sansa’s wedding of Ramsey Snow/Bolton.

Barristan Selmy’s death

Another character killed off before his time, except this one doesn’t follow the timeline of the books at all. In fact Ser Barristan is still walking around doing his best to protect the mother of dragons Daenerys. This death was a strange decision to make for show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss as Selmy’s history with many of the key players in Westeros make him invaluable to filling in the plot points they may have skimmed over.

The Secret Targaryan

As the television series has raced to take over the books it has missed out on a fair few key plot points, but none larger than that of Aegon Targaryen, the young son of Prince Rhaeger thought murdered by the Mountain (and one of the reason for Oberyn’s deathmatch with the giant Clegane brother towards the end of season 4).

Said to be secreted away by Varys and raised by the exiled Lord Jon Connington and taught how to rule he will play a critical role in the power struggle enveloping Westeros. Technically Daenerys’ nephew his claim to the throne is just as legitimate since he is the male heir (medieval fantasy worlds, am I right?) but it is still unclear if he is truly the secret son of Rhaegar.

Stannis’ death

Oh Stannis Baratheon with his face like a stone bollock. In the final episode of the 5th season we saw Brienne finally take revenge on Stannis for the death of her first liege lord (and Stannis’ brother) Renley Baratheon after the bloody battle for Winterfell between Stannis’ men and the Boltons. In the books this land war is yet to happen and by the looks of things Stannis looks set to win that battle. HBO’s version also differs in the build up to this fight, the eldest Baratheon sealing his fate by having his daughter sacrificed (something that hasn’t come to pass in Martin’s literary version) and, well, once you off your daughter (albeit a dead annoying one) for glory you can’t really expect to remain around as a fan favourite.

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Follow John on Twitter @Johnwinsagain

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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