Game of Thrones Books vs Show – 12 Main Differences

game of thrones books vs show

If you ask just about anybody if they’ve seen the popular television series, Game of Thrones, the majority of them will reply with a resounding “yes”. When it comes to the books vs show, far less have dedicated themselves to reading the novels, a feat reserved for only the most die-hard fans. The television series does indeed do a good job of recapping the novels, but there are some pretty interesting differences between the two.

In a series that moves a lot quicker than George R.R. Martin’s books, it’s only natural to leave many details out. From entire characters that have been erased, to plot lines that have been completely scrapped, here are 12 differences between the Game of Thrones books and TV show…

1. Jon Snow and Aegon Targaryen

A recent difference between the Game of Thrones’ book and show is how Jon Snow becomes the amalgamation of two different characters on-screen. In the season seven finale, Bran reveals that Jon’s real name is actually Aegon Targaryen, the son of Rhaegar, and rightful heir to the throne. His name however, has many book-readers scratching their heads.

In both the novels and series, it’s well-known that Rhaegar’s second child (from his first wife Elia Martell) was named Aegon. He, along with his sister, Rhaenys were said to have successfully been killed by The Mountain (our infographic explains this clearly).

Unlike the series, the book leaves reason to believe that the true Aegon still lives, under the name Young Griff, making him the rightful heir, instead of the bastard Jon Snow. In the novels, this character plans on marrying Daenerys and ruling the Seven Kingdoms alongside her.

Of course, Young Griff is not present on the TV show. Show-runners decided to ignore Martin’s original plot and merge this character with Jon Snow, instead.

The upcoming books may take a completely different turn and not reveal Jon as the true heir, or even as a Targaryen after-all. Martin may perhaps continue the plot with the notion that Young Griff is fact the true king of Westeros. Will Jon’s destiny on the show ring true in the novels as well?

2. The Three-Headed Dragon Theory

Book-readers are well-aware of the Three-Headed Dragon theory which was revealed to Daenerys  during one of her visions in the House of the Undying. There, she saw her brother Rhaegar saying, “The dragon has three heads”. The theory claims that three Targaryens will ride Daenerys’ dragons, Rhaegal, Viserion and Drogon. Up until now, all three dragons are alive in the novels. As mentioned previously, it’s believed that Aegon Targaryen is alive, which constitutes that he will be the third-dragon rider alongside Dany and Jon (if Jon is revealed to be a Targaryen in the books, too).

However, on the TV show, we saw Viserion turn into an ice dragon and be ridden by the Night King. The ice dragon discounts the three-headed dragon theory in the television show, which insinuates that Targaryen blood is not a quality required for a dragon-rider.

3. Joffrey’s Death

In A Storm of Swords, Joffrey’s demise was much more gruesome than the Game of Thrones death we watched. The poisoning scene in the show was fairly traumatic; seeing his purple face gasping for air is hard to forget. In the books however, King Joffrey’s death made readers feel nauseous. As the poison hit him, Joffrey claws at his throat for air, while his skin breaks and reveals tightly constricted muscles. Although I’m sure HBO had the budget to recreate the scene verbatim, I am personally happy they did not reenact the disturbingly detailed scene from the book.

4. Sons of the Harpy

The Sons of The Harpy made several appearances in season five of the show. In the books, the disguised killers were in fact never seen at all and were not said to have worn masks. Instead of leaving behind a mask like they do in the series, in the novels, the former slavers paint a Harpy in their victim’s blood.

4. Tyrion’s, Targaryen’s & Daario’s Appearances

Matching character descriptions in a TV show based on a book can be difficult – especially in the case of a fantasy series where characters have purple colored eyes or are urm, dragons! Tyrion Lannister, for example is said to have two different colored eyes while the Targaryens, including Dany is depicted with violet eyes and silver-blond hair. At least the show got the hair right…

Daario on the other hand looks completely different in the television show. Daenery’s ex-lover is described as having a blue beard and bright blue, long hair, with a gold mustache and a gold tooth.

5. Catelyn and Ned Stark

After Eddard Stark was asked to be the hand of the king by Robert, Catelyn Stark is fearful for him and begs him not to accept the offer. Perhaps she had a dreadful feeling of things to come. In the books, however, Cat is excited and urges Ed to accept.

5. Talisa and the Red Wedding

One of the most unforgettable Game of Thrones scenes in both the books and on-screen was The Red Wedding. It’s difficult to forget watching Robb and his very pregnant wife, Talisa get murdered. In the books, Robb was wise enough to keep his wife from attending the deadly event. Apparently the TV-version wasn’t so lucky. The added drama to the HBO series was extremely traumatic and one of the most iconic episodes to date.

Not just that. Robb’s wife isn’t even named Talisa in the novels. He ends up marrying a woman called Jeyne Westerling who also doesn’t even fall pregnant. Wow, the producers of the show really wanted to rip our hearts into pieces…

Have you seen what the GoT actors look like outside the show? Check out our gallery of the Game of Thrones cast in real life!

6. Catelyn Stark and Lady Stoneheart

In both the books and on-screen, Catelyn Stark dies at The Red Wedding. The book, however continues her story after her horrible death. Catelyn is brought back to life by Beric Dondarrion, a disciple of the Lord of Light in the form of a zombie-like creature. The resurrected Lady Stark who’s now known as “Lady Stoneheart” leads a band of outlaws, seeking vengeance on her enemies. This character remains unmentioned in the TV show, even though her character plays a major role on paper.

7. Sansa Stark and Jayne Poole

One of the major Game of Thrones’ book differences is the fate of Sansa Stark. In A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons, Sansa’s childhood friend Jeyne Poole, who was disguised as Arya Stark, was later married off to Ramsay Bolton. Jeyne was sent to endure the cruelty of the Bolton bastard in Arya’s place. The TV show combined the story of Jeyne and Sansa, choosing to give our favorite red-head a much darker and horrid experience. In the novels, she’s busy hanging out at the Eyrie with Littlefinger while poor Poole suffers Ramsay’s torture. Turns out, that disturbing rape scene was totally unnecessary!

8. Missandei and Grey Worm

Missandei and Grey Worm aren’t hooking up in the novels. Why? Urm, maybe because she’s underage! Believe it or not, Missandei is only 10-years-old in the books. Daenerys often refers to her personal adviser as her “little scribe,” because she’s so small. Clearly, she’s a lot older in the television series.

9. Jorah’s Greyscale

Jorah isn’t as unlucky in the novels – thankfully, he doesn’t get infected by greyscale. Instead the disease strikes another character called Jon Connington who hasn’t surfaced on the TV show. The show-runners thought it’d be a good idea to combine both characters. Plus, it helped convince Daenerys forgive him after he was caught spying on her.

10. The Tyrells

We do miss the occasional Tyrell appearing on our television screens – especially the badass Olenna. Surprisingly, the Tyrell line hasn’t been completely wiped out in the novels. We may have seen the remaining Tyrell family members burn to death in the season six finale but in the books, the oldest son, Willas Tyrell is ruling at Highgarden while Garlan “the Gallant” Tyrell has also been mentioned in A Feast for Crows. Too bad we didn’t meet the additional family members on the show.

11. Jon Snow and Arya Stark’s Warg Abilities

It’s a family thing! Bran isn’t the only Stark who can warg. Jon Snow and Arya can too! In the novels only, of course. Jon wargs into Ghost several times in the books while Arya is also believed to have the special ability to do so as well. However, Bran is the only Stark that is able to warg consciously. His brother and sister both warg their wolves subconsciously in their dreams. Clearly, this trait wasn’t as important to the plot because it was totally left out in the television series. I think Jon and Arya have enough special abilities up their sleeves!

12. Gendry and Edric Storm

Gendry does indeed exist in the Game of Thrones books but on the show, his character is merged with a certain “Edric Storm”. Edric is yet another bastard son of Robert Baratheon who goes through similar events as Gendry on the show. He too is wanted by Melisandre in the books but she doesn’t sexually assault him – probably because he’s only 12-years-old.

There you have it, all the major GoT show and book differences, for your brain to feed on. The TV show may be based on George R.R Martin’s books, but where did the author gain inspiration for his stories and characters? Believe it or not, Game of Thrones is based on real-life events and characters. Have a look at the many historical inspirations the books were inspired by.

Also a fan of The Walking Dead? Check out the differences between the show and comic in our post!



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Tale Teller
Zoey Baker

Zoey Baker

Zoey Baker is a movie addict with a BFA in Video Production. She is also a contributing editor to Streaming Movie List where she materializes her passion for blogging, by writing about her favorite movies and TV series.