When you're adapting the written word to the screen, some things are just bound to be lost in translation. Names change, locations get altered, and perhaps most importantly, characters practically never end up being a perfect match for the actor portraying them in terms of looks.
Not that we blame anyone there, mind you. After all, literary authors don't really need to worry themselves over casting, makeup, wardrobe, special effects and the like. A few accuracy-related sacrifices are bound to be made for the sake of production, but sometimes the transition can be particularly jarring for the existing fan base.
There's no better case study for these book-to-screen character transformations than Game of Thrones. Thanks in no small part to George R. R. Martin's penchant for lavish detail, fans of the literary series had already painted fairly solid mental portraits of their favorite characters. So how many of them held up when it comes to the award-winning HBO series?
Well, it's our lucky day - because we're about to find out! Here are thirty-five of the series' chief characters compared to what they were originally supposed to look like. Be warned, some of them went through pretty drastic makeovers!
35 Daario Naharis
This dashing mercenary captain definitely had some of the most drastic alterations made to his appearance. He's still handsome, sure, but the colorful and outright excessive nature of his wardrobe were part and parcel to his flamboyant character.
Brace yourself, because this one gets a little wild. Daario's hair is dyed blue, along with a beard that he keeps divided into three individual prongs. If that's not enough, he also sports a pointed mustache that's been dyed gold. He often wore bright, loud colors and a golden tooth would peek out at you whenever he smiled. Needless to say, the show's rendition of Daario misses all of these marks.
34 Khal Drogo
When it comes to Khal Drogo, it looks like Jason Momoa was born for the role. From the copper-toned skin to the undefeated warrior's lengthy braid, it's hard to find much issue to take with his portrayal. But naturally, if you look hard enough, you'll find something to whine about.
Drogo's mentioned as hosting a drooping mustache, which we don't see the like of on Jason Momoa. His braid is also less decorative than its description in the book, lacking the small bells that are supposed to dot its length. I suppose the last one's understandable, as Drogo would probably seem a little less scary if he always sounded like Christmas was coming.
33 Davos Seaworth
The famed Onion Knight of Flea Bottom sees a rock solid and personable portrayal by Liam Cunningham, and all things considered, makes it through mostly intact apart from some fairly minor alterations.
Ser Davos is said to have thinning brown hair flecked with gray, so his all-grey look in the show definitely makes him seem a bit more aged. But, admittedly, that's a triviality, and the show cuts a fine Ser Davos, even managing to include his lucky knucklebones tucked away into a pouch hanging around his neck.
32 Bran Stark
Everyone's favorite awkward teenager and unfortunate castle spelunker was said to take more after his mother's Tully features than those of a Stark, with ruddy auburn hair and blue eyes.
It seems that the show opted for the opposite in their portrayal, noting the darker hair and eyes of his portrayal by Isaac Hempstead lean towards his Stark parentage. Whether or not that was a purposeful decision or a happy accident that just so happens to agree with the actor's existing features is anyone's guess, though.
31 Margaery Tyrell
Despite her absolutely stunning portrayal by Natalie Dormer, Margaery's appearance in the show versus her root description in the books is a bit of a mixed bag. Physically, apart from the idea that they're both quite beautiful, almost none of the boxes are ticked. Margaery is supposed to have curly brown hair and big, brown eyes.
What's particularly interesting to note is their attention to detail on her wardrobe. While the lady of a noble house is certainly expected to have an appreciation for the finer things, her specific sense of fashion concerning dresses and bodices is brought across remarkably well in the series.
When it comes to portraying the up-jumped sellsword and the hero of the Blackwater, I doubt that you could ask for better than Jerome Flynn without feeling like you're asking too much. He's a natural when it comes to communicating the brusque demeanor and roguish charm that the entirety of the character revolves around.
But while he possesses the wiry-but-weathered frame and stubbly beard, he certainly doesn't have the eyes. Bronn's eyes are said to be as dark as his hair, and there's just no hiding Flynn's piercing baby blues on screen.
29 Ramsay Bolton
The less than loved former Snow of the Dreadfort was not at all a handsome sort of man. He was big boned, broad-nosed, thick-lipped, and his uncharacteristically pale eyes were set too close together.
So we're obviously off to a bad start considering we're talking about Iwan Rheon, who is lithe, blue-eyed and has a comparatively handsome face with sharp features. Ramsay's hair was also lengthy where Iwan's is short and curly. It can't be said that he didn't manage to pull off Ramsay's reprehensible and psychotic tendencies, at least.
28 Yara Greyjoy
The first and most obvious note to tackle is that she was named Asha in the books, but became Yara when transitioning to the screen. Anyway, Gemma Whelan's portrayal of Yara certainly nailed down her strut and attitude, but takes a few key liberties with her appearance.
Yara, or Asha, if you please, had leaner features in the book, as well as short, dark hair and a sharp, pointed nose. As you can see, none of the above made it across into the series.
27 Catelyn Stark
You'd be hard pressed to level any terribly valid complaints at the casting of Michelle Fairley here, as she manages to bring the mother wolf's ferocity to life as well as she brings across her physical attributes.
Long, auburn colored hair? Check. The deep blue eyes of a Tully? Yep, they're there, as well as the high cheekbones that are supposed to rest just below them. I guess you could whinge about how they aged her up a bit, but that's a complaint that you could level at the entirety of the show, so it may be best to just take this one for a total win. So long as we ignore the fact that the series totally cut her Lady Stoneheart persona, anyway.
The beauty of the Red Priestess is well known, and Carice Van Houten doesn't disappoint in that regard. She doesn't really disappoint at all, actually. Wow. Really set that one up for absolutely nothing, didn't I?
Tall, slender, a narrow waist and pale skin beneath a cascade of fiery hair - there's honestly very little to complain about here, outside of the mismatched eye color, since the producers clearly have something against colored contacts. Anyway, she's a close fit except for that weird plot inconsistency with the magical amulet that allows her to retain her youthful vigor, but that's fodder for a different list.
25 Euron Greyjoy
The Greyjoys' absolute madman of an uncle certainly does bear a striking resemblance to both Theon and Yara's respective thespians, so much so that you could swear they were related outside of work. However, he's also the precise opposite of a dead ringer for his literary counterpart.
He's described as handsome, but with pallid skin, and dark blue lips owing to his affinity for the intoxicating shade of the evening. He's also got much darker hair. But perhaps most conspicuous is the absence of his eye patch, which seems to have been altogether left out of his wardrobe for the series.
24 Jaime Lannister
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was practically bullet proof casting here, to be frank. His hair could be a bit more curly, and he could swap his blue eyes for green contacts, but those are hardly pressing issues.
But if you really wanted to dig deep to get some good dirt, he doesn't exactly pass as a twin for Lena Headey's Cersei, as it's mentioned in the novels that they were practically identical as children - so much so that Tywin could hardly tell one from the other. But casting options for actual twins are, you know, probably a little bit slim.
23 Sansa Stark
Sophie Turner's Sansa is probably the best that we could hope for, and there are few enough issues to raise regarding her portrayal. Actually, are there any to raise at all?
Sansa's described as taking firmly after her mother's classical Tully features. She's tall, graceful, and adorned with the expected combination of auburn hair and blue eyes. Considering Sophie Turner hits all of these notes in fine fashion, I think we can comfortably accept the case for a remarkably accurate choice in actress.
22 Robert Baratheon
Robert's a big guy, made even bigger by many years of lavish feasting, drinking and otherwise having a pretty great time since he took the Iron Throne. Mark Addy's take on the role took this well into consideration, with his portrayal of portly King Robert managing to visibly convey his overt fondness for drink.
Robert's obviously aged up a bit, as with most of the show's characters, with his black hair given largely to shoots of grey. Apart from that, he falls pretty neatly within the lines. Now, if we ever get to see a young Robert circa the Rebellion put to screen, we'll check back in.
21 Theon Greyjoy
It's doubtless that we'd find something to complain about if we look at Theon's portrayal earlier on in the series, but we're going to get a lot more mileage if we start with his appearance after Ramsay Bolton... well, happened to him.
In the novels, Theon's said to have "aged forty years" owing to the trauma he'd experienced while kept as Ramsay's plaything. His hair's gone thin, wispy and white, and he's missing fingers and toes along with other parts of himself. He looks, to put things mildly, very unwell. And sure, some of this is portrayed in the show, but it doesn't even come close to the haunting visage the books put together for us.
20 Barristan Selmy
The stalwart Ser Barristan the Bold is described as emanating strength and being rather dashing for his age, and I'm not one to argue with how the show managed to bring that across. He's also mentioned as having a certain sadness reflected by his facial features, something that actor Ian McElhinney pulls off in fine fashion.
Ian's eyes are a fair bit darker than Barristan's pale blue, and by the time he's met up with Daenerys he's supposed to have grown out a pretty righteous beard, which is something I'd definitely have been down to see. Alas, we have to make do with our beardless Barristan in the screen adaptation.
19 Petyr Baelish
Aidan Gillen may have just been born to play Littlefinger, because as much as I'd like to find a problem here, there's not much of one to be had. Petyr is short, slender, sharp, and awfully well-kempt considering what an absolutely greasy little man he is.
Aidan's eyes are a few shades off from the grey-green that's described in the book, and he could stand to have his characteristically pointy beard being a little more pronounced. But apart from that, Aidan was certainly the man for the job when it comes to being Petyr.
18 Beric Dondarrion
Oh, good old uncle Donny. The Lord of Light's favorite devotee (considering the multiple resurrections) and aficionado of flaming blades lost out on a few key attributes when Richard Dormer took up his mantle, but earnestly, he didn't lose much.
He's vaguely described as handsome, dashing and in possession of a mop of red-gold hair atop his head. Most of which is pretty passable when we get to his portrayal in the show, though in the books he clings to his house's sigil - a purple lightning bolt, emblazoned on his breastplate and shield, which we never see. This is likely because it helps him to maintain the fading memories of who he was through his constant revivals.
17 Sandor "The Hound" Clegane
I'm just going to say this up front - The Hound's makeup and prosthetic scarring look absolutely phenomenal, and Rory McCann was spot on casting for the Hound's hefty, muscular build and gruff, fearsome presence.
The burn scarring on his face was toned down significantly, with the book sparing little in terms of detail. Blackened flesh, visible bone, and sores that continuously ooze are among just a few of the treats that we missed out, or perhaps dodged the bullet on.
16 Eddard Stark
Dear old Ned is very much the classical Stark, and Sean Bean met the task of portraying the honorable northern patriarch very well. Even if, you know, the casting of Sean Bean tends to be a less than subtle giveaway concerning the character's eventual fate.
Ned's hair is supposed to be brown, which is a few shades off from Sean Bean's reddish mane, though both are peppered with signs of aging. And of course, their eye colors don't quite match up, with Ned's being grey where the book mentions them.
15 Tywin Lannister
Saying that Charles Dance brought his A-game to the role of Tywin Lannister would be a sore understatement, as he successfully brought the Lannister-in-chief's commanding presence and bone-chilling glare to our living rooms and watch parties until his particularly unfortunate visit to the toilet.
His resemblance to the book's rendition of the character is astounding, barring a few details. For one, Tywin's kept his head shaved since he began balding, compensating for the lack of hair on his head by growing out a bushy set of gold-tinged sideburns.
14 Oberyn Martell
Alas, poor Oberyn, for he didn't get nearly enough screen time considering what a fantastic match Pedro Pascal was. Tall, athletic and otherwise conventionally Dornish in appearance, the Red Viper definitely lost a few features on his way over.
According to George R. R. Martin's pen, Oberyn's hair is streaked with silver and converges in a widow's peak, along with dark, almost black eyes resembling those of a snake. Pedro's features, as well as they work for the role, just aren't as sharp as mentioned in Oberyn's original description.
13 Joffrey Baratheon
There are a lot of things to be said concerning the sadistic and illegitimate crown prince, but is "inaccurately portrayed" among them? Well, yes and no. For the most part, actor Jack Gleeson ended up fitting the shoes pretty well.
Joffrey's described as somewhat feminine in appearance, with Jon Snow even asserting that he looks like a girl. And while his hair resembles the usual golden Lannister locks, it's described as a bit curly in the books, and his eyes are green rather than blue. But ignoring those minor details, we ended up with a pretty fantastic Joffrey.
12 Jon Snow
The King in the North (and apparently everywhere else in Westeros too, if you've been keeping up) is said to take more after the Stark side of his parentage than any of his other siblings, with his dark brown hair, grey eyes, and lean figure.
Kit Harrington matches up well, and definitely manages to bring across Jon's brooding and solemn nature. The nitpicks are, as you'd expect, pretty minor here. Kit's black hair could easily pass for Jon's dark brown lengths of hair, and his eyes are brown over Jon's grey. But seriously, do we really mind that much?
11 Tormund Giantsbane
Tormund's easily turned out to be a runaway fan favorite, between his outrageous sense of humor and his thoroughly rebuked romantic advances toward Brienne. Kristofer Hivju definitely brings out a quirky, jovial brand of savagery that has earned Tormund a place in our hearts, but he isn't anywhere near our wonderful and weird wildling's original appearance.
His literary version has a big, white beard, which we don't see the like of in the show. He's also described as having a huge belly, and while Tormund's depiction in the show has likely got a gut to rival most, he's far from portly.
10 Samwell Tarly
The affable and well read Samwell Tarly is practically the show's moral compass, and what he lacks in physical prowess is made up for with a brain that's sharp as any Valyrian steel blade.
Actor John Bradley matches the studious and portly man from the books almost word for word, with a few key differences. His eyes are darker than the original, and believe it or not, he's actually quite a bit heavier in the books - Jon estimates him to weigh nearly three hundred pounds, which is an incredibly considerable amount of heft.
9 Cersei Lannister
Lena Headey cuts a beautiful, and understandably intimidating figure as the feminine half of the Lannister twins. You get the distinct impression that you'd rather not get in her way before you even really get to know the character.
While we can raise the same complaint that we raise about Jaime - that they don't really look enough alike to pass for twins, she really seems to pull off the rest of the character's original description. From her emerald green eyes to the lengths of golden hair typical to her family name, Lena's portrayal of Cersei is a near perfect match.
8 Stannis Baratheon
The crotchety and stoic Stannis is certainly a hard man, his facial expressions seemingly set to a permanent and judgmental glower that actor Stephen Dillane adapted beautifully. Well, as beautiful as that can be, anyway.
The actor certainly has the shallow cheeks, thin lips and balding hair down, but doesn't seem to be as physically imposing as he was in the books - Stephen certainly isn't a small man by any stretch, but it's mentioned that he "towers" over Jon, indicating a considerable height difference. He also seems to have been aged up a bit, with his black hair given solidly to grey.
7 Lord Varys
The Master of Whispers, the Spider, call him what you will - the wily spymaster of King's Landing certainly got the full treatment when it comes to accuracy, thanks largely to the casting of Conleth Hill.
He's plump, bald, soft-skinned and possesses a deep appreciation for fine clothes of silk and velvet. Admittedly, there wasn't a great deal that they needed to actually get right here, but credit must be offered where it's plainly due.
6 Brienne of Tarth
"Brienne the Beauty" is supposed to be a hurtfully ironic title, but when applied to actress Gwendoline Christie it's more than a little difficult to see the irony. That said, she certainly brought Brienne's physical presence to life with her height and sturdy build.
All the basics are accounted for in that respect, alongside Brienne's big, blue eyes and light blonde hair. However, Brienne's face is made up of much broader features than Gwendoline's, with unsightly and crooked teeth, swollen lips and freckles dotting her skin.
5 Dolorous Edd
Mister Eddison Tollett, if you're all for proper names, definitely saw a significant shift in appearance from the novels to HBO. He was a thin, grey-haired man with a particular affection for dry wit, sarcasm and gallows humor.
His portrayal by Ben Crompton definitely kept his essentially witty banter well intact, but saw fit to discard virtually every other facet of his appearance, instead framing his gaunt facial features with reddish brown hair. His wiry and whip lean frame is still intact, though.
4 Arya Stark
It's strange to think that we've vicariously watched Maisie Williams blossom into a beautiful young woman via her now well renowned role as Arya Stark, and yet it's absolutely true. And though she's clearly a wonderful fit for the role, it could be said that she's almost a bit too pretty for it.
Skinny, athletic and ever the tomboy, Arya's looks are initially described as very plain and a bit long in the face, and they earn her the disparaging nickname "Arya Horseface" - which I don't think is a title that anyone in their right mind could level at Maisie.
3 Jorah Mormont
As would seem to be the running trend here, the Jorah we meet in the television series is quite a bit more handsome than his description in the books would have us believe. Our exiled and romantically challenged former knight is certainly described as a man that would come from a place called Bear Island.
Jorah the Andal is put across as a middle aged and balding, yet muscular man with dense body hair and a black beard. Ser Jorah also winds up with a gnarly face tattoo after acting up during his bout of enslavement. So while Iain Glen cuts near enough to the right figure, the rest is definitely a bit lacking if you go by the books.
2 Tyrion Lannister
He drinks, he knows things, and he got a serious glow up on his way from the novels to your television set. I mean seriously, Peter J. Dinklage is one handsome man, while the Halfman's portrayal in the books falls a few miles short of flattering.
He has mismatched eyes colored green and black, and his unruly mop of hair can't quite decide whether its blonde or black, so it opts to sprout shoots of booth. The most profound alteration is what happens to his face during the battle of the Blackwater, during which he actually loses half of his nose, as opposed to the simple scarring he suffers in the events of the show. This is actually given a subtle nod in a throwaway line spoken by Cersei when she comes to visit him after he's wounded.
1 Daenerys Targaryen
What kind of list would this be if we didn't include dragon mom? All things considered, Emilia Clarke fit into this role as if it were a glove tailored to her precise fit. Well, almost. Nothing's perfect, after all. Let's demonstrate!
The biggest omission would have to be the violet hue of her eyes, a common hallmark of her Targaryen bloodline. Daenerys' hair also gets quite a bit shorter as the novels carry on, since it realistically burns away when she decides to casually stroll through a blazing inferno. They decided to make her hair fireproof for the purposes of the televised series, likely to Emilia's relief.