Here is something that has become evidently true as everyone and their mothers have fallen in love with Game of Thrones over the years: there are Game of Thrones fans who have read the books, and Game of Thrones fans who haven’t.
Initially, I was one of the latter, and definitely had some moments of serious resentment when my book-reading friends sat by idly while a little thing called The Red Wedding happened, leaving me to my horrified misery. Now that the books and the show have gone their relatively separate ways, there is less of a divide between book people and show people. However, as I learned more about the books themselves, I realized that there were a whole bunch of super fascinating characters and plot lines that the show, for stylistic or time-constraint reasons, left out. I felt like it was high time that show-exclusive Game of Thrones fans at least got to know about all the extra things the original, book-bound version of the story they love so much had to offer.
WARNING: If anyone is not all the way caught up with the show or the books, THERE BE SPOILERS!
15 Brynden Rivers/The-Three-Eyed Raven Has Much More To Him
We did see one version of the character Brynden Rivers in the Game of Thrones show: namely, as the Three-Eyed Raven, who helps Bron navigate his Greensight in order to allow his consciousness to travel back and forth through time. However, the character of Brynden Rivers in the show has much, much more to him in the books.
All we know about him in the show is that he’s an old man living with the last of the Children of The Forest beyond the wall, who helps Bran and then is eventually killed by the Night King’s icy blade. In the books, he’s actually a Targaryen bastard who was such a savvy manipulator of power and information that he was basically the Varys of his time.
However, unlike Varys, he was exiled to The Wall, where he used those same skills to rise through the ranks and become the Lord Commander. He is consistently described as a man of significant stature and history, with an amazingly colorful past that the show just kind of...never goes into.
14 No Willas Tyrell
In the Game of Thrones universe, the Tyrell family only has two inheritors: Loras, the oldest male and therefore the main heir, and Marjory, who is married to Renly Baratheon, then to Joffrey, and later to Tommen. We all know how that works out (badly, with all of them dead). However, in the books, Loras is actually not the oldest son: there’s another son, Willas, who is the oldest and therefore the heir to the Tyrell name. Willas is also a fascinating character: he was crippled in a tourney (more on that later), but is also described as studious, educated, and kind (the latter of which is pretty rare in this universe — that’s for sure). He is known for breeding the finest hawks, hounds, and horses in all of Westeros. The fact that he is still living (which, as of now, is true in the books), means that all of the leading family of Tyrells has not yet been wiped out.
The way he was crippled, and the ensuing drama, also explains a lot that gets lost in the Game of Thrones show; the man who crippled him was none other than Oberyn Martell, the Dornish sexy dude extraordinaire. During Willas’ first tourney, he was knocked from his horse by Oberyn, which sustained the injury to Willas’ leg. Willas and Oberyn actually stayed friends and exchanged letters, but, despite that fact, the incident fanned the flames of animosity between the Tyrells and the Martells. This adds another dimension to the pre-existing animosity between the Martells and both the Lannisters and the Baratheons, whom they hold responsible for the rape and murder of Obyron's sister and her children.
13 No Strong Belwas
One character who was cut out entirely (unless you count what *could* be a similar looking character in a few background shots, but that’s conjecture) is Strong Belwas. For many fans of the book series, this is a serious shame. Strong Belwas was a super colorful figure: he was an enormous, bald slave, trained in Meereen as a pit fighter. He claims to have never lost a fight, and has a signature move of letting his opponents cut him once before he kills them.
At a certain point, he is sent to find Dany by his owner, but when he gets there, he joins forces with her alongside Ser Barristan, and is an incredibly loyal, formidable member of her Queensguard. He’s witty, crass, funny AF, and serves as dark comic relief in a few really rough scenes. Another thing his character serves to do is to establish an earlier connection between Dany and Meereen, which makes her eventual arrival seem more justified. In any case, he’s a character I definitely wish had made his way into the show.
12 Where's Victarion Greyjoy?
For those currently watching the show, Euron Greyjoy (played by Pilou Asbaek) is currently royally messing stuff up for the Daenarys-led alliance. Euron killed his brother Balon (Theon and Yara’s father), and deposed him as the King of the Iron Islands. Euron then captured the Martell Sand Snakes, delivering them to Cersei Lannister, and, as of last episode, currently holds his niece, Yara Greyjoy, hostage. In the show, there is a struggle between Euron and Yara, the latter of whom feels she should be the heir to the Iron Islands.
In the books, there is a far more complicated conflict. There are actually two other Greyjoy siblings that yern for control of the Iron Islands after Balon’s death (which we learn that Euron is responsible for, though he did not personally murder his brother).
In addition to Euron, Victarion, the middle-child of the family, fights for the crown against Yara (who, in the books, is named Asha). Victarion is something of a perfect foil to the book’s Euron: whereas Euron is impulsive, reckless, and hedonistic. Victarion is a military man of strict discipline, who is extraordinarily by-the-books and traditional. The contrast between Victarion and Euron gives a little bit more depth to the complexities of Ironborn society and the power struggles therein; and it's actually Victarion, rather than Asha, who initially makes the pact with Daenarys.
If you’re asking me, I think it’s probably fine that they let Asha/Yara be the one to make the Dany alliance, but that’s just one person’s opinion.
11 Arienne Martell And Her Revenge Plot
Fans of the Sand Snakes—and of the Martells in general—will know some things about the Dornish, including Ellaria Sand’s desire for revenge for the death of her paramor, Oberyn (RIP), at the hand of The Mountain/The Lannisters. Prince Doran, Oberyn’s brother and the ruler of Dorne, instead attempts to make peace with the Lannisters, and demands that Ellaria comply. Obviously, Ellaria does no such thing, kills Myrcella Lannister, and then kills Doran.
In the books, a whole different set of circumstances occur. Arianne Martell, Doran’s oldest daughter and the heir to the Martell legacy (since heirs can be female in Dorne) is actually the leader behind the plot, which looks totally different from her point of view. As background, Arianne found out that her father was attempting to appoint her brother, Quentyn, as ruler of Dorne, which made Arianne feel that her father hated and did not value her. However, in reality, he arranged for Arianne to be secretly betrothed to Viserys Targaryen, which would make her Queen of the Seven Kingdoms. However, once Viserys is killed by Khal Drogo, those plans fall apart, and Doran attempts to marry Myrcella Lannister and Prince Trystane Martell as a power move instead.
Once Oberyn is killed, there is a huge uproar and demand for revenge, but Doran wants a peaceful way forward instead. He imprisons the Sand Snakes to appease the Lannisters and Arianne. But in order to free them, and avenge Oberyn and his sister Elia (whose death was also a cause of rivalry between the Martells and the Baratheons/Lannisters). They decide to start a war with the Baratheon/Lannisters by claiming that, by Dornish law, it is Myrcella, not Tommen, who is the heir to the Iron Throne. She hopes that the people will rally around this plan and allow her to replace her father as ruler of Dorne. Eventually, this plan fails, and Arianne actually makes up with her father once he reveals that he had lofty plans for her all along. To say that’s different than the show is an understatement.
10 Lots More LGBT Stuff
Game of Thrones, as a show, has actually had a number of same sex relationships and encounters between characters. Notable examples include the relationship between Renly Baratheon and Lorris Tyrell, the generalized pansexuality of Oberyn Martell and Ellaria Sand, and the implied bisexuality of Yara Greyjoy, among other various scenes in brothels.
In the books, however, there is a whole lot more when it comes to examples of normalized same-sex relationships, which range from one-time encounters to lasting love affairs. There are a number of additional LGBTQ characters, including Bokkoko (a sellsword of the Second Sons and a famous axman); Prince Daeron Targaryen (who broke his betrothal to a woman at the age of 18, because he was in love with Ser Jeremy Norridge); Ser Laenor Velaryon, Ser Lyn Corbray, Lady Sabitha Vypren (Lord Forrest Frey’s wife, who preferred women), Nymeria Sand (who slept with both Jeyne and Jennelyn Fowler), and Xaro Xhoan Daxos, a merchant Prince of Qarth.
There are also several characters who are portrayed as straight in the shows that have same-sex encounters and relationships in the books. Daenerys, for instance, has an ongoing sexual relationship with Irri, her handmaiden. Also, Cersei Lannister has a sexual encounter with Taena of Myr.
9 Old Griff, Young Griff, and A Possible Extra Targaryen
In the universe of Game of Thrones—the show—all the Targaryen’s except Daeny are gone (except for Jon Snow, possibly). However, in the books, though everyone initially thought all the Targaryens (but Daenerys) were gone, this soon becomes challenged.
On his way to Meereen, Tyrion Lannister encounters a man known as Old Griff, who was one of the few surviving generals of Robert’s Rebellion. As it turns out later in the books, Old Griff (aka Jon Connington) was actually a close friend of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, and worked with Varys to fake the death of Aegon Targaryen, the son of Rhaegar and Elia Martell. What’s even more shocking is that Connington actually took Aegon Targaryen under his wing as “Young Griff,” dying his hair blue to avoid discovery, and training him in secret as a mentor. Even more shocking than THAT is the fact that Connington is preparing Young Griff for a triumphant return to Westeros to reclaim the Iron Throne. This stands to have quite a few repercussions for Dany. Technically, if Young Griff *is* Aegon, his claim to the Iron Throne supersedes hers.
However, at this point in the books, we are still not sure if the story Old Griff tells is true, and if Young Griff is actually Aegon or is, instead, an imposter.
8 People Are Way More Disfigured
In the world of Game of Thrones, both in the show and in the books, people come into some really nasty physical altercations that leave them worse for wear. However, whereas the TV show generally stays pretty lenient with how disfigured characters can get (with the exception of characters, like The Hound, who started out disfigured), the books...well, the books are not so kind.
Three characters in particular are far, far more disfigured in the books than they are on the show.
For one, Tyrion. During the Battle of Blackwater, Tyrion sustains injuries that, in the show, leave him with a sexy scar across his face that, if anything, adds to his appeal. In the books, the wound basically meant that his entire nose was gone, leaving him startlingly disfigured to the extent that it actually disquiets people he meets.
Then there is Brienne. While Brienne and Podrick are looking for the Stark girls, they run into Rorge and Biter (who, in the show, are the two people locked up along with Jaqen H’Ghar). In the books, however, Bite—-a weird cannibal ogre with sharp, terrifying teeth—attacks Brienne and literally eats half her face off. Though she is saved by Gendry before Biter kills her outright, she is left with a totally messed up, chewed on horror show of a face.
Then, of course, there is Theon, aka Reek. We do get some of the disfigurement that Theon endures at the hands of Ramsay Snow in the show, it’s really not anywhere near how much he is totally messed up by the Sadistic Snow in the books. Poor book Theon loses enough fingers and toes so as not to be able to run properly or use a bow. He is left with only a few teeth (as Ramsay broke most of them). His hair has turned completely white and brittle, and he looks as if he had aged 50 years. To be fair, you would, too, if you had to deal with all that...
7 Ramsay Is WAY WORSE
Any Game of Thrones watcher knows that Ramsay Snow/Bolton surpassed even Joffrey Baratheon as the Worst. Person. Ever. In the show, he’s an absolute sadist, behaving so cruelly and with such wanton evil that it seems shocking that he could be any worse.
However, though it may be surprising, in the books, Ramsay is, indeed, worse. He is a bastard to his father, Roose Bolton, which is something he obviously fixates on quite a bit. However, in the books, he acts on this, killing any legitimate highborn sons Roose has. Eventually, Roose (who is, if I’m being quite honest, almost as bad) just accepts that Ramsay is simply going to kill all the other sons, and it’s logistically better for him to just keep Ramsay, who is full grown. Then there is the issue of his brides.
In the show, Sansa Stark is married to, and brutalized by, Ramsay. However, in the show, it is actually Sansa’s childhood best friend, Jeyne Poole, who is presented to Ramsay by Littlefinger, under the guise that she is actually Arya. She is then raped repeatedly by Ramsay, by both himself and, it seems, his dogs. Jeyne is not the only woman forced to marry Ramsay: his first wife, Lady Donella Hornwood, did not consent to marry him, and the marriage was an act of war. He then locks her away in a tower and refuses to feed her, so that she starved to death. She is eventually found dead with her mouth bloody and her fingers chewed off as a last ditch attempt to stave off hunger. You thought Ramsay couldn’t get worse? Well, you thought wrong...and I didn’t even tell you everything. I am definitely loving his death scene right about now.
6 Qyburn Is Way More Of An Insane Mad Scientist
Game of Thrones fans know Qyburn as that creepy little dude who now hangs around Cersei as her new Master of Whispers. They may also know him as the creator of the insane monster pile of zombie muscles that is the reincarnation of The Mountain. But what show-watchers miss out on is the fact that Qyburn is actually a crazy evil genius (emphasis, dear readers, on evil) who has a long history of human experimentation that is indulged by Cersei.
In the books, Qyburn is a former maester of The Citadel who was actually stripped of his maester-hood by the Archmaesters for doing a little too much freaky deaky human experimentation — specifically, vivisection, or cutting people up while they’re still alive to poke around in their bits. He then gains a reputation for kidnapping people and performing horrible experiments on them while they’re alive and conscious in the name of “science,” often if not always resulting in their deaths.
When Qyburn comes into Cersei’s good graces, he doesn’t really have to kidnap people anymore, because she provides him with ample fodder for his crazy sick experimentation. One example was Falyse Stokeworth (Bronn’s sister-in-law), who dared to transgress against Cersei by not killing her brother-in-law, as Cersei had demanded. Cersei gives Falyse to Qyburn to do with as he will (aka, insane medical experimentation). Later, when Cersei thinks up a use for Falyse and tries to get Qyburn to give her back up, he says that would be pretty impossible, seeing that she is in no shape “even to feed herself.” Uh. Okay.
5 Loras Tyrell Is Way More Than Just A Gay Stereotype
I will give the Game of Thrones show *some* credit for actually having a same sex romance on screen — namely, the one between Loras Tyrell and Renly Baratheon. That is something that not even shows set in the modern day often manage, and it’s worth noting. However, when you compare Loras Tyrell in the books to Loras Tyrell in the show, there is a lot to criticize in terms of what was omitted.
In the show, Loras is basically a gay stereotype, a pretty boy who flits around and sleeps with guys, his favorite of whom is Renly. He is basically just, “that gay Tyrell Ser.” However, in the books, Loras is a badass in his own right, a skilled rider and swordsman and a brave fighter. In addition, his relationship with Renly Baratheon is actually a real, deep, and true love. When Renly gets murdered by a crazy ghost child that The Red Woman gave birth to, Loras seems sad in the show, but quickly moves on to hook up with Olyvar, a male prostitute. In the books, he is totally crushed. When asked about the possibility of moving on and finding other lovers, Loras says that “When the sun has set, no candle can replace it.”
Even, Jane Johnson, one of R.R. Martin’s own editors, realizes that the discrepancy between show Loras and book Loras is serious. “I’ve never been happy that they made him a gay cartoon in the TV series,” she told Salon. “The characterization is much more nuanced in the books.”
4 Jaime Lannister Isn't A Rapist
Season four, episode three of Game of Thrones may stand out to viewers for a number of reasons, but one of the main ones is the infamous scene where Jaime basically rapes Cersei in the Church room where the corpse of their dead son Joffrey is laid in state. There is, unfortunately, a good deal of rape on Game of Thrones, but this one stood out for a number of reasons (twin-cest, the dead kid, the church, etc). One of the main reasons it stood out, however, is that it seemed so out of character for Jaime and Cersei, because, twin-cest or not, their relationship always seemed very well intentioned and truly passionate. At this point in his character arc, Jaime had transformed from arrogant self-centered macho dude, to level-headed, compassionate but ideal-holding lover. So it kind of seems really weird and out of place for him to violently rape his sister-wife in front of their dead kid.
Well, there’s a reason for that feeling. Namely, the same scene happens in the books, but it is definitely not rape. How do I know? Well, here’s an excerpt:
"'Hurry," she was whispering now, "quickly, quickly, now, do it now, do me now. Jaime Jaime Jaime." Her hands helped guide him. "Yes," Cersei said as he thrust, "my brother, sweet brother, yes, like that, yes, I have you, you're home now, you're home now, you're home." She kissed his ear and stroked his short bristly hair. Jaime lost himself in her flesh. He could feel Cersei's heart beating in time with his own .”
That doesn’t sound like rape to me. Twin-cest, fine, but not rape. I think making it a rape actually did a huge disservice to the show and to the character, but that’s just me.
3 Cat Stark Becomes A Revenge Zombie
It’s hard to forget how Cat Stark went down on Game of Thrones. (As I write this, The Rains of Castamere is playing in my head and I am having some serious Red Wedding flashbacks.) For those of you living under some sort of rock, Cat Stark is killed, along with her son Robb, his wife Talisa, and their unborn child, at the hands of the Lannisters, the Freys, and the Boltons. In the show, that is the end of Cat. However, this is definitively not so in the books.
In maybe the biggest change of course from the books to the show, the books have something altogether different in store for Cat after her throat is slashed at The Red Wedding. After she is killed, her body is thrown into the river from the twins. It is found by Beric Dondarrion, the immortal servant of the Lord of Light, who then sacrifices his own immortality to bring her back to life. However, the resurrected Cat is entirely different than the Cat who lived before: she is a horrific zombie monster, cold and ruthless, and intent only on killing the Freys, the Boltons, the Lannisters, and all those who were responsible for killing her son. She seizes control of the Brotherhood without Banners, and uses them to get her revenge. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a totally badass plot, and I am super bummed that the show didn’t go for it.
2 Jon Snow And Arya Stark Are Wargs
Bran Stark has come through this season on Game of Thrones all Warg-ed out. Along with his ability to move back and forth through time, he is also able to enter the minds of animals and control their actions. This started way back when once he was able to enter the body of his direwolf, Summer, but his skills amped all the way up once he met Jojen Reed and they had their adventures beyond The Wall.
In the show, Bran seems to be one of the only people possessed of the power to be a Warg, but this is not the case in the books. Two of his siblings, Arya Stark and Jon Snow, also have Warg abilities. Jon Snow, though untrained in the use of his skills, can enter the body of his direwolf, Ghost. Arya Stark, on her end, can enter the body of her direworlf, Nymeria (you know, the one who kind of winds up abandoning her in the show in, like, the saddest scene ever). It’s hard to imagine Arya Stark being any more badass, but this sort of does it, miraculously.
1 Daenarys And Khal Drogo Have A Consensual Wedding Night
To fans of Game of Thrones, one of the greatest love affairs in the show’s history was between Daenerys Targaryen and Khal Drogo. Dany was married to Khal Drogo through a deal brokered by Illyrio in exchange for Drogo giving Viserys Targaryen an army of 10,000 men to reclaim the Iron Throne. That doesn’t seem very romantic, but their relationship wound up flowering into something beautiful and simpatico. However, in the show, this first introduction wasn’t just not very romantic — it was straight up rape.
Viewers will remember the wedding night of Dany and Khal Drogo, and it looked, well, entirely non-consensual and very painful on Dany’s part. It kind of seems hard to believe that anything that started so traumatically would ever become a genuinely loving relationship. In the books, however (as was the case with Jaime, see above), the act that was depicted as rape in the show was actually far more consensual. Whereas in the show, Khal Drogo just kind of...goes for it, in the books, he realizes his new bride is extremely nervous and scared, and refuses to do anything unless she tells him it’s okay (which is pretty remarkable for a Dothraki guy). Though Dany has technically been sold to Drogo—making any ideas about consent kind of dubious—there’s definitely a different, much less rapey feel in the books than in the show.